John D. Rockefeller: A Character Study

A two-part write-around of the world’s only billionaire.

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He was a silent boy — a silent young man. With years the habit of silence became the habit of concealment. It was not long after the Standard Oil Company was founded, before it was said in Cleveland that its offices were the most difficult in the town to enter, Mr. Rockefeller the most difficult man to see. If a stranger got in to see any one he was anxious. "Who is that man?" he asked an associate nervously one day, calling him away when the latter was chatting with a stranger. "An old friend, Mr. Rockefeller." "What does he want here? Be careful. Don't let him find out anything." "But he is my friend, Mr. Rockefeller. He does not want to know anything. He has come to see me." "You never can tell. Be very careful, very careful." This caution gradually developed into a Chinese wall of seclusion. This suspicion extended, not only to all outsiders but most insiders. Nobody in the Standard Oil Company was allowed to know any more than was necessary for him to know to do his business. Men who have been officers in the Standard Oil Company say that they have been told, when asking for information about the condition of the business, "You'd better not know. If you know nothing you can tell nothing."

Killing the Colorado

An investigation into why the West is running out of water.

  1. Holy Crop

    The labyrinth of policies that reward Arizona farmers for growing cotton, which uses six times as much water as lettuce and 60 percent more than wheat.

  2. The ‘Water Witch’

    The woman who found the water to keep Las Vegas growing, for better or worse.

  3. Use It or Lose It

    How a century-old water deal is encouraging waste and worsening the drought.

  4. End of the Miracle Machines

    How the achievement of moving water comes at an enormous cost to the environment.

  5. Less Than Zero

    Ground water and surface water stores are interconnected. But we count them twice.