Rockefeller Brothers Fund Timeline

1940s: Beginning at the Brink of War

In its first decade, the Fund’s largest combined giving was to war relief and reconstruction worldwide.

The day after incorporating the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the five sons of philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr.—John 3rd, Nelson, Laurance, Winthrop, and David—gathered at the family home in Pocantico Hills, New York.

RBF gifts to United Service to China, a consortium of eight American agencies created to secure funds for relief and rehabilitation in China, followed naturally from the family’s long connection to the country.

The Riverside Church has had a strong presence in social justice campaigns including the anti-war, anti-death penalty, and immigrants’ rights movements. It has served as a speaking forum for Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, Desmond Tutu, and Nelson Mandela.

RBF gave regularly to the church from the 1940s through the 1970s, in some years contributing almost half of its operating budget.

Not only did all five brothers serve the war effort, together they recognized that its devastation would have far-reaching effects, and that postwar reconstruction needs would be enormous.

The Fund began giving to the YMCA and YWCA in 1941 and continued through the 1980s.

U.S. Entry into World War II

The Fund’s relationship with the The National Urban League began in 1941, when the organization specialized in industrial relations.

In 1942, when Sanger’s Birth Control Federation of America joined the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the RBF began its own support for the organization.

The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) began in 1944 as an interracial organization for the joint benefit of twenty-seven private African American colleges.

End of World War II—Nuclear Weapons First Used

The RBF began supporting Memorial Hospital in 1946, just as the Sloan Kettering Institute, dedicated to biomedical research on cancer, was established next door.

Housed since 1899 in the Bronx through an agreement with the City of New York, the New York Zoological Park, known as the “Bronx Zoo,” remains one of the largest and most-visited wildlife conservation parks in the world.

The American Council on Race Relations played a crucial role in promoting equality in the United States after World War II. The RBF supported the Council from 1946 until it closed its doors in 1950.

All five Rockefeller brothers served in the war. While the Fund made some grants during the war years, its work became more robust after 1946, when the brothers returned to their offices at Room 5600, 30 Rockefeller Center in New York City.

After World War II, the Cold War prompted the Fund to focus on democratic education in areas of strategic importance. Support for the Near East College Association, Inc., began in 1946 and continued into the mid-1950s.

New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) opened in 1929 through the efforts of three women, including Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, mother of the five founding RBF trustees.

Formation of NATO