Who Wants to Be a Billionaire? | History | Smithsonian
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Who Wants to Be a Billionaire?

A Rockefeller's rules for raising responsible children

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John D. Rockefeller Jr., the son of Standard Oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, made philanthropy his life's work. He saw himself as the steward—not the owner—of the vast fortune his father had made, distributing more than half a billion dollars for the public good over the course of his career. Among his benefactions were the restoration of Versailles and of the Rheims Cathedral, the creation of Acadia and Grand Teton national parks, the donation of land for the United Nations headquarters, and the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg. Here, in a letter dated May 1, 1920, the 46-year-old John Jr. lays out the financial expectations for 14-year-old John D. Rockefeller III, who went on to become chairman of the board of the Rockefeller Foundation.

Memorandum between PAPA and JOHN. Regarding an Allowance.

1. Beginning with May 1st, John's allowance is to be at the rate of One dollar and fifty cents ($1.50) per week.

2. At the end of each week during which John has kept his accounts accurately and to Papa's satisfaction, the allowance for the succeeding week will be increased ten cents (10¢) over the week just ended, up to but not beyond a total per week of two dollars ($2.00).

3. At the end of each week during which John has not kept his accounts accurately and to Papa's satisfaction, the allowance for the succeeding week shall be reduced ten cents (10¢) from the week just ended.

4. During any week when there have been no receipts or expenditures to record the allowance shall continue at the same rate as in the preceding week.

5. During any week when the account has been correctly kept but the writing and figuring are not satisfactory the allowance shall continue at the same rate as in the preceding week.

6. Papa shall be the sole judge as to whether an increase or a decrease is to be made.

7. It is understood that at least Twenty Per cent (20%) of the allowance shall be used for benevolences.

8. It is understood that at least Twenty Per cent (20%) of the allowance shall be saved.

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