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Astor, Caroline Schermerhorn (1830–1908)

Astor, Caroline Schermerhorn (1830–1908)

American arbiter of New York Society. Born Caroline Webster Schermerhorn in New York, New York, on September 22, 1830; died in her Fifth Avenue mansion in New York City on October 30, 1908; daughter of a wealthy Dutch merchant; married William Backhouse Astor, Jr. (1830–1892, grandson of John Jacob and Sarah Todd Astor ), in 1853; children: Emily Astor Van Alen (who married James J. Van Alen and died in childbirth); Helen Astor Roosevelt (who married James Roosevelt); Charlotte Augusta Astor Drayton (who married James Coleman Drayton); Caroline Astor Wilson (who married Orme Wilson); and John Jacob Astor IV (who married Ava Lowle Willing and Madeleine Talmadge Force ).

Born in 1830, the daughter of a wealthy merchant of the Dutch aristocracy, Caroline Schermerhorn was the Grande Dame of American society from the 1860s to the turn of the century. Following her marriage to William Backhouse Astor, Jr., she felt it her duty to make sure that those who belonged to the powerful elite were separated from those who did not. It was Caroline Astor who, though she did not coin the term, helped compose the list of the famous "four hundred," the cream of New York Society. She wintered in New York, spent spring in Europe, and summered in Newport, Rhode Island. Determined to be the one-and-only Mrs. Astor, she held lavish parties to undermine the prominence of her sister-in-law, Augusta Astor (Mrs. John Jacob Astor III).

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