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Astor, John Jacob

John Jacob Astor

Born: July 17, 1763
Waldorf, Germany
Died: March 29, 1848
New York, New York

German-born American businessman and industrialist

An American fur trader and businessman, John Astor used his profits from fur trading to invest in a wide range of business enterprises. By the time of his death he was the richest man in America.

Childhood poverty

John Jacob Astor was born in Waldorf, near Heidelberg, Germany, on July 17, 1763. He was named after his father Jacob Astor, a poor but happy butcher. His mother, Maria Magdalena Vorfelder, learned to be very careful with the little money the family had (a quality she passed on to her son). She died when Astor was three years old. Despite the family's poverty, Astor received a good education from the local schoolmaster. When he reached the age of fourteen he went to work as an assistant to his father. He did this for two years before striking out on his own in 1779. Astor joined one of his brothers in London, England, where he learned to speak English and worked to earn money to pay his way to America.

In 1783, after the peace treaty ending the American Revolution (177583; when the American colonies fought for independence from Great Britain) had been signed, Astor sailed for the United States to join another brother who had gone there earlier. The ship carrying Astor to America became stuck in ice before completing its voyage and remained there for two months. During this time, Astor met a German man on the ship who told him how much money there was to be made in fur trading. Astor finally landed at Baltimore, Maryland, in March 1784.

Success in fur trading

Astor soon joined his brother in New York and began to demonstrate his talent for business. He worked for several furriers and began buying furs on his own. In 1784 and 1785 Astor made trips to western New York to buy furs for his employers, purchasing some for himself at the same time. He acquired enough furs to make a trip to England profitable. In London he established connections with a well-known trading house, signed an agreement to act as the New York agent for a musical instrument firm, and used his profits from the furs to buy merchandise to use for trade with the Native Americans. Not yet twenty-two, he had already proved himself a shrewd and intelligent businessman.

Astor's early success convinced him that a fortune could be made in the fur trade. He began to spend more time managing and expanding his business. Between 1790 and 1808 his agents collected furs from as far west as Mackinaw, Michigan. The Jay Treaty of 1794, which led to the British leaving forts and trading posts in the Old Northwest, worked to Astor's advantage, and he expanded his operations in the Great Lakes region. Through an arrangement with the British Northwest Company, he purchased furs directly from Montreal, Canada. By about 1809 he was recognized as one of the leading fur traders in the United States.

Fur business grows

Following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, which added land that contained part or all of thirteen more states to the union, Astor turned his attention to the fur trade in the Pacific Northwest. He obtained a charter (a grant of rights or privileges from the ruler of a state or country) for the American Fur Company and planned to establish a main fort at the mouth of the Columbia River, with sub-forts in the interior. His fleet of ships would collect the furs and sell them in China, where goods would be purchased for sale in Europe; in Europe merchandise could be bought to sell in the United States when the ships returned.

Although the town of Astoria was established on the Columbia, the company's operations were unsuccessful. After the War of 1812 Astor renewed his efforts to gain control of the fur trade in North America. Through influence in Congress he helped win passage of laws that banned foreigners from engaging in the trade (except as employees) and that eliminated the government's trading post serving independent traders. By the late 1820s he had sole control of the fur trade in the Great Lakes region and most of the Mississippi Valley. This put him into direct competition with the Rocky Mountain Fur Company and British fur interests in the Pacific Northwest. However, by 1830 Astor's interest in the company had begun to decline.

Other importing

Through Astor's dealings in the fur trade he became involved in general merchandising. During the 1790s he had begun to import and sell a large variety of European goods. During this early period he showed little interest in establishing trade relations with China. Between 1800 and 1812, however, his trade with China expanded and became a large part of his business dealings in Europe. The War of 1812 temporarily disrupted his plans, but it also gave him an opportunity to purchase ships at a bargain price, since declining trade had made other merchants anxious to dispose of their fleets.

After the war Astor had a large fleet of sailing vessels and again became active in the China and Pacific trade. For a time he was involved in smuggling Turkish opium (an addictive drug) into China but found the profits were not worth the risk and abandoned this venture. Between 1815 and 1820 he enjoyed a commanding position in trade with China. Thereafter his interest declined, and he turned his attention to other business activities. One explanation for Astor's success as a merchant was that he had the money to buy quality merchandise at a low cost and a fleet of ships that could transport the goods to markets more quickly than his rivals.

Still dealing in later years

Astor retired from the American Fur Company and withdrew from both domestic and foreign trade in 1834. He turned to other investments, including real estate, money-lending, insurance companies, banking, railroads and canals, public securities, and the hotel business. The most important was real estate. He had invested some capital in land early in his career. After 1800 he concentrated on real estate in New York City. He profited not only from the sale of lands and rents but from the increasing value of lands within the city. During the last decade of his life his income from rents alone exceeded $1,250,000. His total wealth was estimated at $2030 million (the greatest source being his land holdings on Manhattan Island) at his death on March 29, 1848, at the age of 84.

For More Information

Haeger, John D. John Jacob Astor: Business and Finance in the Early Republic. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1991.

Madsen, Axel. John Jacob Astor: America's First Multimillionaire. New York: John Wiley, 2001.

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John Jacob Astor

John Jacob Astor

An American fur trader, merchant, and capitalist, John Jacob Astor (1763-1848) used his profits from fur trading to invest in a wide range of business enterprises. By the time of his death he was the richest man in America.

John Jacob Astor was born in Waldorf, near Heidelberg, Germany, on July 17, 1763. He was named after his father, a poor but convivial butcher. In spite of the family's poverty, Astor was sent to the local schoolmaster, who provided him with an exceptional education, considering the times. When Astor reached the age of 14, his father decided that his son should work with him. The boy assisted for 2 years before, in 1779, he struck out on his own. He joined a brother in London, where he learned English and worked to earn passage money to America. In 1783, after the peace treaty ending the American Revolution had been signed, he sailed for the United States to join another brother who had emigrated earlier. He landed at Baltimore in March 1784.

Astor soon joined his brother in New York and began to demonstrate his talent for business. He received a shipment of flutes from England, which he offered for sale. He also worked for several furriers and began buying furs on his own. In 1784 and 1785 Astor made furbuying trips to western New York for his employers, purchasing furs for himself at the same time. He acquired enough furs to make a trip to England profitable. In London he established connections with a reputable trading house, signed an agreement to act as the New York agent for a musical instrument firm, and used his profits from the furs to buy merchandise suitable for trade with the Native Americans. Not yet 22, he had already proved himself a shrewd and competent businessman.

His initial success convinced Astor that a fortune could be made in the fur trade. He began to spend more time managing and expanding his business. Between 1790 and 1808 his agents collected furs from as far west as Mackinaw, Mich. The Jay Treaty and the British evacuation of forts in the Old Northwest worked to Astor's advantage, and he expanded his operations in the Great Lakes region. Through an arrangement with the British Northwest Company, he purchased furs directly from Montreal. By about 1809 he was recognized as one of the leading fur traders in the United States.

Following the Louisiana Purchase, Astor turned his attention to the fur trade in the Pacific Northwest. Through shrewd political maneuvers he obtained a charter for the American Fur Company. His plan was to establish a main fort at the mouth of the Columbia River, with sub-forts in the interior. His fleet of ships would collect the furs and sell them in China, where goods would be purchased for sale in Europe; in Europe merchandise could be bought to sell in the United States when the ships returned.

Although the town of Astoria was established on the Columbia, the company's operations were unsuccessful. After the War of 1812 Astor renewed his efforts to gain control of the fur trade in North America. Through influence in Congress he secured legislation that prohibited foreigners from engaging in the trade except as employees and that eliminated the government's trading post serving independent traders. By the late 1820's he monopolized the fur trade in the Great Lakes region and most of the Mississippi Valley. This monopoly put him into direct competition with the Rocky Mountain Fur Company and British fur interests in the Pacific Northwest. However, by 1830 Astor's interest in the company had begun to decline.

Through his dealings in the fur trade Astor became involved in general merchandising. During the 1790s he had begun to import and sell a large variety of European goods. During this early period he showed little interest in establishing trade relations with China. Between 1800 and 1812, however, his trade with China expanded and became an integral part of his business dealings in Europe. The War of 1812 temporarily disrupted his plans, but it gave him an opportunity to purchase ships at a bargain price since declining trade had made merchants anxious to dispose of their fleets. After the war Astor had a sizable fleet of sailing vessels and again became active in the China and Pacific trade. For a time he was involved in smuggling Turkish opium into China but found the profits were not worth the risk and abandoned this venture. Between 1815 and 1820 he enjoyed a commanding position in the China trade. Thereafter his interest declined, and he turned his attention to other business activities. One explanation for Astor's success as a merchant was that he had the capital to buy superior merchandise at a low cost and a fleet of ships that could transport the goods to markets more quickly than his rivals.

Astor retired from the American Fur Company and withdrew from both domestic and foreign trade in 1834. He turned to other investments, including real estate, moneylending, insurance companies, banking, railroads and canals, public securities, and the hotel business. The most important was real estate. He had invested some capital in land early in his career. After 1800 he concentrated on real estate in New York City. He profited not only from the sale of lands and rents but from the increasing value of lands within the city. During the last decade of his life his income from rents alone exceeded $1,250,000. A reliable estimate placed his total wealth at $20-30 million (the greatest source being his land holdings on Manhattan Island) at his death in 1848, at the age of 84.

Further Reading

The most complete biography of Astor is Kenneth Wiggins Porter, John Jacob Astor, Business Man (2 vols., 1931). A somewhat critical work which deals extensively with Astor's interest in the fur trade is John Upton Terrell, Furs by Astor (1963). See also Washington Irving, Astoria (1836; repr. 1961); Meade Minigerode, Certain Rich Men (1927); and Harvey O'Connor, The Astors (1941). A background discussion of the fur trade that includes Astor is provided by Bernard De Voto, Across the Wide Missouri (1947). Social histories of New York that discuss Astor are Arthur Pound, The Golden Earth: The Story of Manhattan's Landed Wealth (1935); Frederick L. Collins, Money Town (1946); and Edward Robb Ellis, The Epic of New York City (1966). □

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Astor, John Jacob (1763-1848)

John Jacob Astor (1763-1848)

Sources

Fur trade magnate

Corporate Pioneer . Considered one of the richest and most powerful men of his time, John Jacob Astor was an entrepreneurial wizard who made his fortune from the western fur trade and urban real estate. Astor was a key part of many of the economic changes that propelled westward expansion in the nineteenth century. He created a corporate structure that spanned the continent and reached out to markets in Europe, South America, and Asia. In many ways his business practices anticipated the creation of the large corporations in the late nineteenth century made famous by John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie.

Millionaire Fur Trader . Born on 17 July 1763 in the city of Walldorf in what is now Germany, Astor left for London, England, at the age of sixteen to help his brother market musical instruments. At age twenty he arrived in Baltimore, Maryland; he soon moved to New York City, where he established a prosperous business purchasing furs in Canada for resale in Europe and the United States. He expanded his interest in furs and entered the profitable China trade, where Astor and his agents traded furs for tea and silk. Because of his extraordinary success, the forty-four-year-old Astor was a millionaire by 1807. With business connections in Europe, Asia, and North America, he had reached the peak of the American fur industry by 1811.

The American Fur Company . In 1808 Astor decided he wanted to command the fur trade from the Great Lakes to the Pacific and thus challenge the powerful British fur companies in the West. His men set up a trading post in Oregon, named Astoria, in 1811, from which they were to obtain furs from the Indians and then ship the pelts directly to China. Promising as the scheme first seemed, Astors timing was poor. In 1812 the United States went to war with Great Britain. In 1813 the British Northwest Company surrounded Astoria and forced Astors agent to liquidate the entire post for a paltry $44,000. Astor was furious, especially when the American government refused to help. Astor then opted to abandon Oregon and turn his attention elsewhere. Though the American Fur Company, which he established in 1808, was unable to capture the Pacific trade, it nonetheless became the largest American fur trading firm in the West.

Monopoly . In the 1810s Astor expanded his interest in the Great Lakes region. By 1819 he had secured the largest share of the areas fur market. In the same year his grandson accidentally drowned, and the depressed Astor began to withdraw from the business, leaving daily affairs under the control of others. In the next fifteen years Astor traveled to and from Europe but remained the principal company decision maker. In 1821 the American Fur Company invaded the Upper Missouri fur trade; by merging with and buying out its competitors, Astors company managed to capture much of that market as well. Nevertheless, even the best-prepared company could not avoid the long-term problems of animal depletion or changing fashions. Recognizing these limitations, Astor sold the American Fur Company in 1834 before the market dried up.

Land Speculation . Astor had long invested his profits from furs into real estate in New York City. After 1834 and until his death fourteen years later, he continued to buy, improve, and sell land on Manhattan Island. In fact, from 1800 to 1848 Astor had invested $2 million in real estate; he owned at least $5 million in land when he died. Astor speculated in land elsewhere, including in the West, where the town of Astor, Wisconsin, was to later become Green Bay. He bought stock in railroads and canals, purchased government bonds, and was involved in various banks. When Astor died in 1848, his estimated worth was at least $8 million, a vast fortune at the time.

Reasons for Success. Astor succeeded where many failed for several reasons. He recognized the profits to be made in the West. He acquired his fortune because he tended to be attentive to and careful about his commercial ventures. He integrated his fur business horizontally through cutting deals with his competitors whenever possible. Astor watched, and successfully predicted, the market and kept tabs on company expenditures. Astor likewise attempted to integrate vertically; he worked to have the highly organized American Fur Company obtain furs at the source and control sales all the way to Europe or China. Lastly, he possessed many friends and acquaintances in political office. John Jacob Astors business strategies, remarkably similar to those developed by later corporations, enabled him to become one of the richest men of his time while serving as a major component in Americas westward expansion.

Sources

John D. Haeger, Business Strategy and Practice in the Early Republic: John Jacob Astor and the American Fur Trade, Western Historical Quarterly, 19 (May 1988): 183-202;

Haeger, John Jacob Astor: Business and Finance in the Early Republic (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1991).

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Astor, John Jacob

ASTOR, JOHN JACOB

The life of John Jacob Astor (17631848), a fur trader who became one of the wealthiest individuals in U.S. history, is a classic example of a rags-to-riches story. Born to a poor butcher in Waldorf, Germany, in 1762, he died 85 years later in New York with a fortune estimated in 1998 dollars at $78 billion.

At age seventeen, Astor left Germany for England, where he learned English and worked for his brother, a musical instruments craftsman. After three years, John Astor had saved enough money to immigrate to the United States. In March 1784, after a long trans-Atlantic crossing, he arrived in New York with seven flutes and $25. During the voyage, young Astor befriended a fellow German emigrant who had previously worked as a fur trader in the United States. The information that he gleaned from his new friend convinced him to make his career in the fur trade.

Starting out in the fur business as a clerk, Astor quickly moved on to work for himself. In 1786 he married Sarah Todd and, with the help of her $300 dowry, opened a store on Water Street in New York where he sold musical instruments and bought furs. Both Astors were very involved in the new business and lived very frugally. Astor often left the shop in his wife's care when he traveled to what was then the U.S. frontier in search of furs. In 1789 Astor purchased his first Manhattan property: two lots on the Bowery Lane for $625.

By 1800 Astor was worth $250,000, and he was the leading fur dealer in the United States. Following a trip to London, England, in 1799, where he obtained a license to ship to any East India Company port, Astor became involved in trade with the Orient. He began expanding the scope of his business by shipping furs to China and importing Chinese silks and teas. A part of his profits from these ventures immediately went into real estate purchases in New York.

The success of the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1806 opened up the great fur lands of the U.S. Northwest. Astor was determined to establish an outpost on the Pacific Ocean. In the spring of 1811, the ship Tonquin arrived at the mouth of the Columbia River. A fort was built and the settlement was named Astoria. For once however, Astor's timing was poor; during the War of 1812 (18121814), his agent was forced by the British to sell the outpost to Canada's Northwest Company for $58,000.

Astor emerged from the war wealthier than ever. With a consortium of other businessmen, he bought $2 million in bonds from the hard-pressed U.S. government, paying only 88 cents on the dollar. By the 1820s Astor's Manhattan properties had also become prime real estate; one of his holdings would include the famous intersection of 42nd Street and Broadway. When he saw the fur trade begin to decline, he sold out his commercial interests and turned his strong intellect and acquisitive instincts toward his real estate investments, buying up land in sparsely inhabited northern sections of Manhattan.

Astor did not sell off his land when prices soared; instead, he developed his properties by building commercial buildings and apartments on them. In the hands of his descendants, it was the Astor real estate in Manhattan that was critical to the spectacular growth of the family fortune, which reached $200 million before 1900.

Astor, grieving over the death of his wife, spent his last 14 years administering to his estate and managing his properties. When he died in 1848 he was the richest man in the United States, leaving an estate of some $20 million. His only public bequest was a comparatively insignificant $400,000 to found a public library, the Astor Library, which was later consolidated with other libraries as the New York Public Library in 1895. He left the remainder of his wealth to secure his family's immense fortune for the next century.

FURTHER READING

"The American heritage 40: a ranking of the forty wealthiest Americans of all time." American Heritage, October 1998.

Baida, Peter. "Poor Jacob." Forbes, October 26, 1987.

Cordtz, Dan. "Land Lords." Financial World, November 12, 1991.

Haeger, John D. John Jacob Astor: Business and Finance in the Early Republic. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1991.

Stokesbury, James L. "John Jacob Astor: A Self-Invented Money-Making Machine." American History, December 1997.

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Astor, John Jacob (1763-1848)

John Jacob Astor (1763-1848)

Source

Fur trader and businessman

Emigration . John Jacob Astor was the richest man in America when he died, having amassed a fortune based on the unique economic opportunities of the United States in the early national period. He was born in the village of Waldorf in Germany on 17 July 1763, the son of a butcher. At the age of sixteen he worked his way on a timber boat to England, joining a brother there in the business of making and selling musical instruments. Astor immediately began to learn English and to save money to emigrate to America, arriving in Baltimore in March 1784 with about twenty-five dollars and seven flutes. He made his way to New York, joining an other brother there, and soon set himself up in business. Astor got help through an advantageous marriage to Sarah Todd, a member of the elite Brevoort family, who brought $300 as a dowry.

Fur Trading . Astor soon established himself as a fur trader, a business he learned about from a man he had met on his trip to America who had previously been to the American backcountry and knew of the trade. In the 1790s Astor made many trips to the frontier, going as far as northern Michigan, making many useful contacts. Jays Treaty between Britain and America in 1795 helped his business by limiting the English presence in this area and opening up greater trade between America and Canada. Astor pursued contacts with Canadian fur traders, greatly adding to his stock, although he failed in an attempt to contract with the dominant North West Company of Canada for importing their furs into the United States. By 1800 he had accumulated over a quarter of a million dollars.

Western Expansion . Astor soon began selling furs in China, a huge market just beginning to be exploited by American and European traders. He managed to acquire a license to trade freely in ports controlled by the British East India Company, which opened much of Asia to him, and his first venture made a profit of $50, 000. The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and the reports about the Columbia River basin in Oregon that followed the return of Lewis and Clark from their exploration of that area in 1806 fueled Astors ambitions further. He faced competition in the fur trade in the Pacific Northwest from other companies based in Canada and Saint Louis. He countered by forming the American Fur Company in 1808 and planning to establish a huge trading postto be called Astoriaat the mouth of the Columbia River to gather furs from smaller posts spread throughout the interior. Ships would leave that post for China, exchanging furs there for Asian goods, which they would take on to Europe and then to New York, where they would stock up on supplies for the traders and Indians in the West. Astoria was founded in 1811, but the project proved too ambitious even for Astor. The coming of the War of 1812 further undermined it as the British asserted a military presence in Oregon. Despite setbacks Astor still continued to dominate the fur trade until he sold all his fur companies in 1834.

Other Business. The fur trade was the basis of Astors fortune, but not its only component. As early as the 1790s he began to use his fur profits to buy real estate in Manhattan, purchasing lots just north of the growing city and selling them as development advanced and drove prices up, leaving him able to purchase more land even further north. He also profited hugely during the War of 1812, buying bonds from the U.S. government on which he earned about sixty cents on the dollar, plus interest. He was also able to use his government contacts to good advantage in other areas, as when he persuaded Congress to close government fur trading posts in 1822. All his ventures left him with about $10 million at his death on 29 March 1848. He left $400, 000 to found a library, which became the heart of the New York Public Library, today one of the largest in the world. Most of the rest of his wealth and businesses he left to his son William, establishing one of the great family fortunes of the early United States.

Source

John Haeger, John Jacob Astor: Business and Finance in the Early Republic (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1991).

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Astor, John Jacob (1763-1848)

John Jacob Astor (1763-1848)

Sources

Financier, real estate mangnate

Arrival. On the occasion of John Jacob Astors death in 1848 the New York Herald described him as a self-invented money-making machine. By that time Astor had become the prime exemplar of America as a land of boundless opportunity, where anyone could go from rags to riches, a place where poor boys could make good. Astor rose high indeed from where he started, arriving in New York from his native Germany in 1783 almost penniless. The young immigrant made up in intelligence and ambition what he lacked in funds. Astor started as a clerk for a New York-based fur-trading company but soon ventured into trading on his own. Whatever profits he managed to squeeze out of the fur business he quickly channeled into Manhattan real estate.

Fur Business. In 1808 Astor organized the American Fur Company to take advantage of the high demand for American furs throughout the world. His plan was to establish a fur-trading outpost on the Pacific Coast, but most of the expedition he sent out to start the trading post was massacred by natives after founding Astoria on the south side of the Columbia River in 1811. An overland expedition fared somewhat better, finding the northern Rockies South Pass (crossover point for the Oregon Trail in the 1840s) and establishing several fur-trading stations. Operations were interrupted by the War of 1812 (Astor played a major role in financing the American war effort), but he returned afterward and built what amounted to a monopoly on the Western fur trade.

Real Estate Tycoon. Astor continued to invest his profits from furs and government bonds in Manhattan real estate. In the early nineteenth century, with the citys residents packed into the lower part of the island, most of Manhattan was still rural. In 1803 Astor paid twenty-five thousand dollars for seventy acres of Manhattan countryside, including what would become Times Square; by the 1880s those seventy acres were worth $20 million. Astor spent the depression years of 1873 to 1843 buying up most of what became midtown Manhattan at bargain prices. Nor did he neglect the lower part of the island, buying hundreds of lots below Fourteenth Street and collecting two hundred thousand dollars in annual rents by the time of his death. Asked not long before his demise whether he would have invested differently if given the chance, Astor replied, could I begin life again knowing what I now know, and had money to invest, I would buy every foot of land on the island of Manhattan.

Millionaire. Herman Melville said of John Jacob Astor that even his name rings like unto bullion. When Astor died in 1848, he bequeathed to his family (mainly his son) a fortune estimated at $40 million, making him not just a millionaire but by far the richest man in America. The term millionaire was itself a product of the 1840s, coined to describe the first generation of the super rich, grown fat on the expanding market economy. New York City, Boston, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, along with a few cotton cities such as Natchez, Mississippi, claimed the largest share of this new and expanding class of the fabulously wealthy. In 1845 ten millionaires resided in New York City, a number that increased to 115 by 1860. Though most of the new millionaires were born into prosperous families, Americans focused on those who rose from humble circumstances, such as Astor and Cornelius Vanderbilt, as the true models of wealth in America. They were help up as examples to the world of what could be accomplished in the dynamic young republic with grit, determination, hard work, and (seldom mentioned) ruthlessness, all of which Astor had in abundance.

Sources

Kenneth Wiggins porter, John Jacob Astor, Business Man (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1931);

Edward K. Spann, The New Metropolis: New York City, 18401857 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1981).

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Astor, John Jacob (1763–1848, American merchant)

John Jacob Astor (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 Company (1808) and founded subsidiary companies—the Pacific Fur Company (see Astoria, 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 Library). His Astor House was a forerunner of family hotel properties that much later included the Astor Hotel and the Waldorf-Astoria.

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

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Astor, John Jacob

Astor, John Jacob (1763–1848) US financier, b. Germany. Astor founded the American Fur Company in 1808 and, after 1812, acquired a virtual monopoly of the US fur trade. In the 1830s he concentrated on land investment and became the wealthiest man in the USA. His great-great-grandson, Viscount William Waldorf Astor (1879–1952), was married to Nancy Astor. Viscount Astor was owner of the Observer newspaper and his brother, John Jacob (1886–1971), 1st Baron Astor of Hever, was owner (1922–66) of The Times.

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Astor, John Jacob (1822–90, American financier)

John Jacob Astor, 1822–90, American financier, b. New York City, educated at Columbia and Göttingen universities and at Harvard law school; son of William Backhouse Astor (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 Astor.

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Astor, John Jacob (1864–1912, American financier)

John Jacob Astor, 1864–1912, American financier, b. Rhinebeck, N.Y.; son of William Backhouse Astor (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.

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