Legendary industrialist and entrepreneur John D. Rockefeller is a worldwide household name. But despite his immense celebrity, precious little is known about his humble origins, and even less about the man who gave him his name--his father, William Rockefeller.
William "Big Bill" Rockefeller's personal and professional life were shrouded in mystery. What is known is rather unsavory, and his son, after achieving global recognition for his economic success, did all he could to suppress the truth about his father's seedy (verging on criminal) behavior. One of the few sources of information on Big Bill is Joshua: A Man of the Finger Lakes Region. Written in 1927, it is a thinly veiled roman A clef detailing William Rockefeller's exploits as a bigamist and snake-oil salesman who lied, cheated, and stole his way through life.
The tales Charles Brutcher sets forth in Joshua come to us from Melvin Rosekrans, whose father, Joshua, tangled with Big Bill in the 1840s. And though the wise reader will take the information presented here with a grain of salt (for it is almost certain that lore and hyperbole are woven between the facts), enough details line up with established historical sources to lend the stories in this book far more than the mere patina of authenticity. Furthermore, it is said that one of the reasons--perhaps the sole reason--that original editions of this book are so rare, is that the esteemed founder of Standard Oil himself actively suppressed its publication, perhaps fearing that the truth about his father would tarnish his reputation.
Must reading for anyone interested in the Rockefeller family, this book was expensive and hard to find until this newly released affordable edition was published. Joshua: A Man of the Finger Lakes Region sheds light on the beginnings of one of the world's wealthiest humans.