Biographical / Historical
Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller was born in Bar Harbour, Maine on July 8, 1908 to John D. Rockefeller Jr. and Abigail Greene Aldrich, respectively the children of John. D Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil and wealthiest man in the US, and Nelson Aldrich, a US senator from Rhode Island from 1881 to 1911. Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller graduated from Dartmouth College in 1930 with an economics degree and spent the next ten years working for various companies owned or affiliated with his family. In 1940, he joined Franklin Delano Roosevelt's administration as the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs for the State Department and then became the Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American affairs. After a few years in charitable work, he rejoined the federal government as the Undersecretary of Health, Education, and Welfare in the Eisenhower administration from 1953-1954. In 1958, he became the Governor of New York, a position he held until 1973. During that time, he ran unsuccessfully for President three times before being appointed Vice President to Gerald Ford from 1974-1977 following Richard Nixon's resignation of the presidency. Rockefeller then retired and spent the rest of his life focusing on philanthropy and art. He married twice, first to Mary Todhunter Clark in 1930, with whom he had five children. They divorced in 1962. Rockefeller married his second wife, Margaretta Large "Happy" Fitler in 1963, with whom he had another two children. They remained married until his death on January 26, 1979 from a heart attack.
Rockefeller had a lifelong interest in art. He was an avid collector of modern art as well as Asian, African, Oceanic, and Latin American art. He travelled widely, including Africa, Korea, and Iran. While there, he toured and photographed various historical sites including the city of Isfahan, Iran. As well as being an avid collector of art, he was an active member of the Museum of Modern Art's board from 1932-1979 and acted in numerous positions, including Chairman of the Board. He founded the Museum of Primitive Art when the Metropolitan Museum of Art refused to allow Pre-Columbian art into their collection. It opened its doors in 1957, ultimately merging with the Met in 1974.