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A Real Companion and Friend:
The diary of William Lyon Mackenzie King

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Behind the Diary

A King's Who's Who Biographies

John Davison Rockefeller, Jr. (1874-1960)

John Davison Rockefeller, Jr. with Mackenzie King, 1915


John Davison Rockefeller, Jr. with Mackenzie King, 1915

When King was hired to work for the Rockefeller Foundation in 1914, he soon got to know John D. Rockefeller, Jr., son and namesake of the famous industrialist. King and John D., Jr., shared a strong religious faith and a deep sense of social responsibility, and they became good friends. When King retired in 1948, John D., Jr., gave him a gift of about $100,000 in shares and the Rockefeller Foundation contributed $100,000 towards the writing of King's memoirs. This photograph of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (right) and Mackenzie King is from King's personal collection.

John D. Rockefeller, Jr. was the fifth child and only son of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., the famous American industrialist. John D., Jr. was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and was educated at Brown University, then went to work with his father.

In September 1913, a strike began at the Colorado Fuel and Iron Co., in which the Rockefellers were large shareholders. Issues in the strike included wages, hours of work, housing, union recognition, and all aspects of labour-management relations. During this bitter and violent strike, which lasted 15 months, more than 40 people were killed.

While the strike was still going on, in August 1914, the Rockefeller Foundation hired Mackenzie King to conduct research and develop a plan for better relations between capital and labour. King also became head of a newly created Department of Industrial Relations within the Rockefeller Foundation.

In the course of his work, King got to know John D., Jr. very well and the two men liked and admired one another greatly. They were the same age, both born in 1874. Their early circumstances were very different. John D., Jr. had been in an extremely wealthy family whereas King's family had had constant financial worries. But both had strong religious faith and a deep sense of social responsibility.

"I see in Mr. R. precisely the same mistakes which I have heard others complain of in myself," King wrote, "a too great seriousness about the work in hand and too slavish adherence to a multitude of details, losing often the larger outlook." (Rockefeller Foundation Diary, March 4, 1915)

King's work for the Rockefeller Foundation ended in 1918, but he and John D., Jr. remained very good friends. Many years later, after Prime Minister King retired, John D., Jr. gave him a personal gift of about $100,000 in shares for his 74th birthday on December 17, 1948. In 1949, the Rockefeller Foundation gave King a grant of $100,000 to assist him in the preparation of his memoirs.

Rockefeller's biographer, Raymond B. Fosdick, described King as "the closest friend" John D., Jr. ever had.

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