Astor, John Jacob

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Astor, John Jacob

(ăs`tər), 1763–1848, American merchant, b. Walldorf, near Heidelberg, Germany. At the age of 16 he went to England, and five years later, in 1784, he arrived in Baltimore, penniless. He later went to New York City, where in a few years he entered into business with a small shop for trade in musical instruments and furs. Shrewdness, driving ambition, and stolid concentration brought him to a commanding position in the burgeoning economy of the United States. He became a leader of the China trade and was an astute investor in lands, principally in and around New York City, but he is perhaps best remembered as a fur trader. He chartered the American Fur CompanyAmerican Fur Company,
chartered by John Jacob Astor (1763–1848) in 1808 to compete with the great fur-trading companies in Canada—the North West Company and the Hudson's Bay Company. Astor's most ambitious venture, establishment of a post at Astoria, Oreg.
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 (1808) and founded subsidiary companies—the Pacific Fur Company (see AstoriaAstoria
. 1 Commercial, industrial, and residential section of NW Queens borough of New York City, SE N.Y.; settled in the 17th cent. as Hallet's Cove. It was renamed for John Jacob Astor in 1839.
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, Oreg.) and the South West Company (operating around the Great Lakes). His firm exercised a virtual monopoly of the trade in U.S. territories in the 1820s and still did when he retired from it in 1834. The wealthiest man in the United States at his death, he left a fortune that has continued to make the family name prominent. Part of his money went to found the Astor Library (see New York Public LibraryNew York Public Library,
free library supported by private endowments and gifts and by the city and state of New York. It is the one of largest libraries in the world. The library was created by a 1895 law consolidating older reference libraries established by bequests of John
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). His Astor House was a forerunner of family hotel properties that much later included the Astor Hotel and the Waldorf-Astoria.

Bibliography

See biographies by J. U. Terrell (1963) and K. W. Porter (1936, repr. 1966); P. Stark, Astoria (2014).


Astor, John Jacob,

1822–90, American financier, b. New York City, educated at Columbia and Göttingen universities and at Harvard law school; son of William Backhouse AstorAstor, William Backhouse,
1792–1875, American financier, b. New York City; son of John Jacob Astor (1763–1848). Educated in Germany, he was associated with his father in business after 1818.
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 (1792–1875). He served in the Peninsular campaign in the Civil War and later took a minor part in New York civic and political affairs. His son was William Waldorf AstorAstor, William Waldorf Astor, 1st Viscount,
1848–1919, American-British financier, b. New York City, educated in Germany and in Italy and at the Columbia law school; son of John Jacob Astor (1822–90).
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.

Astor, John Jacob,

1864–1912, American financier, b. Rhinebeck, N.Y.; son of William Backhouse AstorAstor, William Backhouse,
1829–92, American financier and sportsman, b. New York City. The son of William Backhouse Astor (1792–1875), he was a retiring man, notable principally for his wealth and for his marriage to Caroline Schermerhorn.
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 (1829–92). He served in the Spanish-American War. Drowned in the Titanic disaster, he left two sons, Vincent, the son of his first marriage, and John Jacob Astor, fifth of the name in America, the son of his second marriage.

Astor, John Jacob

(1763–1848) fur trader, real estate investor, millionaire; born in Waldorf, near Heidelberg, Germany. He moved to England at age 16 and then to New York City (1784). He worked at various jobs but soon entered the fur trade and had his own business by 1786. The leading merchant in the North American fur trade by 1800, he gained access to the China trade and invested heavily in New York City real estate. He combined all his fur holdings into the American Fur Company (1808). He planned the Astoria colony in Oregon (1811) but sold the property when it was threatened by the War of 1812. His Manhattan real estate continued to prosper and he sold his fur interests in 1834. He administered his estate wisely and at his death, his worth was at least $20 million, making him the wealthiest man in America. Among his most far-reaching bequests was $350,000 to found a public library in New York City. (The famous New York City hotel named after him, the Waldorf-Astoria, carries on the names of two hotels originally built by his grandsons.)

Astor, John Jacob

(1864–1912) financier, inventor; born in Rhinebeck, N.Y. (great-grandson of John Jacob Astor, 1763–1848). He built the Astoria section of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in 1897. He served in the Spanish-American War. He invented a bicycle brake and an improved turbine engine. He went down with the Titanic after a notable display of courage and gallantry.