This Colorized Photo Will Change How You Look At John D. Rockefeller

Though he did not start out rich, John D. Rockefeller eventually became America's first billionaire (via Forbes). Born into a modest family in 1839, PBS states that Rockefeller's mother instilled in him to work hard, save, and give back. He took these values to heart, and before he turned 20, Rockefeller partnered with a neighbor and started a business as a commission merchant. According to Biography, the company made nearly half a million dollars in its first year.

In 1863, Rockefeller decided to invest in oil production and established a refinery near Cleveland. Within two years, it was the largest in the area, and in 1870, he formed Standard Oil (per History). A decade later, Rockefeller controlled 90% of the United States' refineries and pipelines. Though Standard Oil was found to be violating antitrust laws and ordered to disband in 1911, this didn't financially hurt Rockefeller, who was worth billions by then (via the New York Daily News). Despite his absurd wealth, Rockefeller was devoutly religious and deeply generous. According to Learning to Give, he believed that giving was not a duty, but a privilege.

Rockefeller was big on philanthropy

Taken in 1885, the colorized photo above shows a clean-cut and well-dressed man. Even as a billionaire in a tailored suit, he does not present himself as ostentatious. In fact, it appears that he's quite the opposite — Rockefeller's relaxed stance exudes a humble aura. There is no smile on his face, hinting that he is perhaps a serious man who is all about business. Nonetheless, one gets the sense that Rockefeller doesn't let his power or money consume him; it's part of him, but not the only thing that he should be praised for. As he has hair, it can be assumed this was taken before Rockefeller developed alopecia or wore a wig (via History).

According to the Rockefeller Archive Center, he retired from Standard Oil in 1896 and put his focus into philanthropy. Even as a child, Rockefeller donated what little money he had to his church. Biography states that his wealth helped create the University of Chicago, Rockefeller University, and the Rockefeller Foundation. Per Philanthropy Roundtable, Rockefeller also contributed to higher education institutions for African Americans, including Spelman College (which bears his wife's maiden name) and others. Rockefeller died at the age of 97. In his lifetime, he gave away over half a billion dollars, making him the biggest philanthropist to ever live (per Smithsonian Magazine).