- John Jacob Astor
"For other pages relating to Astor, see
John Jacob Astor (disambiguation)Infobox Person
name = John Jacob Astor
caption = Detail from oil painting by
Gilbert Stuart, 1794
birth_name = Johann Jakob Astor or Johann Jacob Astor
birth_date = birth date|1763|7|17
death_date = death date and age|1848|3|29|1763|7|7
Manhattan, New York, USA
Trinity Churchyard Cemetery, Manhattan, New York City
known_for = first Multi-millionaire in the United States
networth = profit
$115.0 billion, according to
Wealthy historical figures 2008, based on infomation from Forbes- February 2008.
William Backhouse Astor, Sr.
Henry Astor, his brother
John Jacob Astor (born Johann Jakob or Johann Jacob Astor) (
July 17, 1763– March 29, 1848) was the first prominent member of the Astor familyand the first multi- millionairein the United States. He was the creator of the first trust in America, from which he made his fortune in fur trading, real estate, and opium. [In 1816, John Jacob Astor of New York City joined the opium smuggling trade. His American Fur Company purchased ten tons of Turkish opium, then shipped the contraband item to Canton on the Packet Ship "Macedonian". Astor would later leave the China opium trade and sell solely to England. [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/heroin/etc/history.html] ]
From humble origins in
Germany, he emigrated to Londonand then to America following the American Revolutionary War. He built a fur-trading empire that extended to the Great Lakesregion and Canada, and later expanded into the American West and Pacific coast. In the early 1800s he diversified into New York Cityreal estate and later became a famed patron of the arts.
At the time of his death in 1848, Astor was the wealthiest person in the United States, leaving an estate estimated to be worth at least 20 million dollars; according to the latest
Forbesrankings, he would be worth $115 billion in 2007 U.S. dollars, making him the fourth wealthiest person in American history. [ [http://www.forbes.com/home/business/2007/09/14/richest-americans-alltime-biz_cx_pw_as_0914ialltime_slide_5.html?thisSpeed=30000 The All-Time Richest Americans - Forbes.com ] ]
John Jacob Astor's ancestors were
Waldensianrefugees from Savoy. He was born in Walldorf, near Heidelbergin the old Palatinate which became part of Badenduring the 19th century, Germany (currently in the Rhein-Neckar district). His father (Johann Jacob Astor) was a butcher. The son John Jacob Astor learned English in Londonwhile working for his brother, George Astor, manufacturing musical instruments.
Astor arrived in the United States in March 1784, just after the end of the Revolutionary War. He traded furs with Indians and then he started a fur goods shop in
New York Cityin the late 1780s.
He married Sarah Todd and once said of her that she had the best business sense of anyone he knew.
Fortune from fur trade
Astor took advantage of the
Jay Treatybetween Great Britain and the United States in 1794 which opened new markets in Canadaand the Great Lakes region. By 1800 he had amassed almost a quarter of a million dollars, and had become one of the leading figures in the fur trade. In 1800, following the example of the "Empress of China", the first American trading vessel to China, Astor traded furs, teas and sandalwoodwith Canton in China, and greatly benefited from it. The Embargo Act from Thomas Jeffersonin 1807, however, disrupted his import/export business. With the permission of President Jefferson, Astor established the American Fur Companyon April 6, 1808. He later formed subsidiaries: the Pacific Fur Company, and the Southwest Fur Company(in which Canadians had a part), in order to control fur trading in the Columbia Riverand Great Lakesarea.
The Columbia River trading post at
Fort Astoria(established in April 1811) was the first United States community on the Pacific coast. He financed the overland Astor Expeditionin 1810–12 to reach the outpost. Members of the expedition were to discover South Passthrough which hundreds of thousands settlers on the Oregon, California and Mormon trails passed through the Rocky Mountains.
His fur trading ventures were disrupted once again when the British captured his trading posts during the
War of 1812, but rebounded in 1817 after the U.S. Congress passed a protectionist law that barred foreign traders from U.S. Territories. The American Fur Company once again came to dominate trading in the area around the Great Lakes. In 1822, Astor established the Astor Houseon Mackinac Islandas headquarters for the reformed American Fur Company, making the island a metropolis of the fur trade. A lengthy description based on documents, diaries etc. was given by Washington Irvingin his travelogue "Astoria".
In 1804, Astor purchased from
Aaron Burrwhat remained of a ninety-nine year lease on property in Manhattan. At the time, Burr was serving as vice presidentunder Thomas Jeffersonand desperately needed the purchase price of $62,500. The lease was to run until May 1, 1806. Astor began subdividing the land into nearly 250 lots and subleased them. His conditions were that the tenant could do whatever they wish with the lots for twenty-one years, after which they must renew the lease or Astor would take back the lot.
Real estate and retirement
quote="If I could live all over again, I would buy every square inch of Manhattan."
source=John Jacob Astor|
In the 1830s, John Jacob Astor foresaw that the next big boom would be the build-up of New York, which would soon emerge as one of the world’s greatest cities. Astor withdrew from the American Fur Company, as well as all his other ventures, and used the money to buy and develop large tracts of Manhattan
real estate. Predicting the rapid growth northward on Manhattan Island, Astor purchased more and more land out beyond the current city limits. Astor rarely built on his land, and instead let others pay rent to use it.
After retiring from his business, Astor spent the rest of his life as a patron of
culture. He supported the ornithologist John James Audubon, the poet/writer Edgar Allan Poe, and the presidential campaignof Henry Clay. At the time of his death in 1848, Astor was the wealthiest person in the United States, leaving an estate estimated to be worth at least 20 million dollars. In his will, he gave orders to build the Astor Libraryfor the New York public (later consolidated with other libraries to form New York Public Library), as well as a poorhouse in his German hometown, Walldorf. He also ordered that his business papers and ledgers were to be incinerated. Historians can only speculate as to what he was trying to hide.
Astor left the bulk of his fortune to his second son,
William Backhouse Astor, Sr.His eldest son, John Jacob II, had a mental disability and therefore was ineligible to receive the inheritance, although the family continued to care for him.
John Jacob Astor is buried in the
Trinity Churchyard Cemeteryin the New York Cityborough of Manhattan. As a symbol of the earliest fortunes in New York, John Jacob Astor is mentioned in Herman Melville's novella " Bartleby, the Scrivener".
The famous pair of marble lions that sit by the stairs of the
New York Public Libraryat Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street were originally named Leo Astor and Leo Lenox, after Astor and James Lenox, who founded the library. Then they were called Lord Astor and Lady Lenox (both lions are males), before being given the names Patience and Fortitude by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardiaduring the Great Depression.
# Magdalen (1788–1832)
# Sarah (1790–1791)
# John Jacob Astor II (1791–1879) was born an imbecile and died childless. [cite book |last= |first= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Great Women Reporters |year=1969 |publisher= |quote= | url=http://books.google.com/books?id=DchZAAAAMAAJ&q=%22John+Jacob+Astor+II%22&dq=%22John+Jacob+Astor+II%22&ei=YWuUSM79CZ7SigGWuYntCw&pgis=1 |isbn= ]
William Backhouse Astor, Sr.(1792–1875)
# Dorothee (1795–1853)
# Henry (1797–1799)
# Eliza (1801–1838)
# Jacob Warndorf (1802)
John Jacob Astor IV
John Jacob Astor VI
John Jacob Astor, 1st Baron Astor of Hever
Astor Place (Manhattan)
List of most wealthy historical figures
last = Smith
first = Arthur Douglas Howden
year = 1929
title = John Jacob Astor, Landlord Of New York
publication-place = Philadelphia and London
publisher = J.B. Lippincott
* [http://manybooks.net/titles/irvingwaetext98stria10.html# "Astoria", Author Washington Irving full text (pdf)]
* [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/heroin/etc/history.html Frontline show]
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Look at other dictionaries:
John Jacob Astor IV — John Jacob Astor mit seiner zweiten Ehefrau Madeleine (1911/1912) John Jacob Astor IV nach ei … Deutsch Wikipedia
John Jacob Astor VI — (August 14, 1912 June 26, 1992) was a member of the Astor family. BiographyHe was the posthumous son of John Jacob Astor IV (1864 1912) and Madeleine Talmadge Force (1893 1940). His father died when the RMS Titanic sank on April 15, 1912. His… … Wikipedia
John Jacob Astor VI — John Jacob Astor VI (14 août 1912 26 juin 1992) est un membre de la prestigieuse famille Astor. Il est le fils posthume du milliardaire John Jacob Astor IV et de sa jeune épouse Madeleine. Il naît en effet quatre mois après la mort de son père … Wikipédia en Français
John Jacob Astor — John Jacob Astor. John Jacob Astor, de nacimiento Johann Jakob Astor (17 de julio de 1763, Walldorf, Alemania 29 de marzo de 1848, Nueva York, Estados Unidos) fue el primer millonario de los EE. UU., siendo de origen alemán. Fue el creador del… … Wikipedia Español
John Jacob Astor IV — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Astor. John Jacob Astor IV … Wikipédia en Français
John Jacob Astor IV — Infobox Person name = J.J Astor caption = Astor| birth date = July 13, 1864 birth place = Rhinebeck, New York death date = April 15, 1912 (aged age|1864|7|13|1912|4|15) death place = North Atlantic Ocean death cause = RMS Titanic relatives = John … Wikipedia
John Jacob Astor — Johann Jacob Astor, Detail eines Ölgemäldes von Gilbert Stuart, 1794 Johann Jakob Astor (* 17. Juli 1763 in Walldorf bei Heidelberg; † 29. März 1848in New York City) war ein deutscher Emigrant, der … Deutsch Wikipedia
John Jacob Astor — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Astor. John Jacob Astor … Wikipédia en Français
John Jacob Astor — noun United States capitalist (born in Germany) who made a fortune in fur trading (1763 1848) • Syn: ↑Astor • Instance Hypernyms: ↑capitalist … Useful english dictionary
John Jacob Astor — n. (1763 1848) German born United States financier and fur trader … English contemporary dictionary