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Tycoon John D. Rockefeller Couldn't Hide His Father's Con Man Past

June 14, 2019 in History

By Erin Blakemore

When he was a child, John D. Rockefeller watched his father count his money—huge wads of which he refused to keep in a bank and lovingly stacked in front of his impressionable son. “He made a practice of never carrying less than $1,000,” the oil baron recalled later in life, “and he kept it in his pocket. He was able to take care of himself, and was not afraid to carry his money.”

William Avery Rockefeller’s son would go on to become one of the richest men of all time. Famously money-hungry, John D. spoke admiringly of his father’s piles of cash long after he had made a fortune that would have surpassed his father’s wildest dreams. But though the head of Standard Oil was proud to tell the world where he had gotten his own appreciation for cold hard cash, he always excluded a detail: where his father’s cash came from.

In fact, William’s money had come from a slew of shady business ventures, from pretending to be a deaf and blind peddler to posing as a doctor to hawk patent medicines. But after his stratospheric rise to the heights of Gilded Age business, John D. Rockefeller did everything he could to downplay the exploits of his parent. He was in his sixties before accusations about his father’s unethical business practices and possible criminal behavior came back to haunt him—accusations that sparked a race to find out the truth about Rockefeller’s father.

The accusations came courtesy of Ida Tarbell, the muckraking journalist who exposed Standard Oil’s secretive business practices, which included cutting secret deals to squelch its competitors. As the capstone to her multi-part exposé in McClure’s magazine, she published a two-part character study of John D. Rockefeller in 1905.

Ida M Tarbell was a leading muckraker and well-known writer of the Progressive era of the early 1900s.

The articles painted a portrait of a man obsessed with money—an intimidating, secretive figure whose personality was warped by ambition. But just as shocking as her portrait of one of the United States’ most famous men was what she wrote about his father. Tarbell accused William Avery Rockefeller of posing as a physician and exploiting others for financial gain, and brought to light allegations of rape and horse thievery against him.

During John D.’s childhood, she wrote, his father had been “the leader in all that was reckless and …read more


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Which Countries Were Players in the Vietnam War?

June 14, 2019 in History

By Jesse Greenspan

How eight countries got involved in the Vietnam War’s Cold War proxy battle.

The during the war with the French, and continued to do so during the war with the U.S. by providing weapons, expertise and manpower.

Despite being in bad economic shape at the time, newly Communist China aided Ho during the war with the French, and did so again during the war with the Americans, providing weapons, expertise, and manpower. All told, the Chinese claimed to have spent over $20 billion in support of North Vietnam and deployed 320,000 military personnel, more than 4,000 of whom died.

Poster entitled “Support Vietnam People,” circa 1969, showing China’s support of the Communist cause in Vietnam.

For the most part, the Chinese stayed in the background, rebuilding areas destroyed by U.S. bombs and manning anti-aircraft batteries. But perhaps their biggest role was preemptive: They made it clear that if U.S. ground troops invaded North Vietnam, then they would respond in kind.

Unlike during the Korean War, the United States yielded to this threat. “Their function is as a tripwire,” Moise says, “a warning to the Americans: ‘Don’t go too far… or you’ll be fighting us.’”

China and the Soviet Union didn’t have to do as much as the Americans, Moise explains, because they were buttressing the stronger side. Nonetheless, “if there had been no Chinese or Soviet support, the North Vietnamese could not have won,” he says, pointing out that the U.S. military budget was roughly 30 times greater than the entire gross national product of North Vietnam.

Soviet Union

As the original communist state, the Soviet Union aided North Vietnam, with increasing support in the late 1960s. While the U.S.S.R. supplied some troops, their biggest contribution was in weaponry.

Though it originally took little interest in the Vietnam War, the Soviet Union secretly ramped up its aid to North Vietnam following Nikita Khrushchev’s fall from power. The Soviets wanted to “make life difficult for the United States,” McAllister says, “but they didn’t want to do it in a way that got them in a conflict with the United States.”

Soviet involvement in the war increased in the late 1960s, just as China’s influence was lessening. (The two countries were undergoing a bitter split at the time.)

A Cold War-era billboard in Moscow showing bombs raining down on Uncle Sam reading, ‘Aggressors out of Vietnam!’ in 1968.

Among other …read more