A Classification of American Wealth
History and genealogy of the wealthy families of America - Sponsors

 Part 1 : Colonial and Mercantile America  Part 2 : America in the Gilded Age
 Part 3 : America in the Twentieth Century  Encyclopedia of American Wealth

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  Encyclopedia of American Wealth > Profiles of wealthy Americans [ A-C ] [ D-H ] [ I-M ] [ N-Z ]

 Astor Family

 John Jacob Astor ( 1763-1848 ) , New York City, New York

 Parents :  Johannes Jakob Astor
 Married :  Sarah Todd
 Children :     Magdalen (Astor) Bentzon Bristed (1788-1832)
    John Jacob Astor II (1791-1869)
    William Backhouse Astor (1792-1875)
    Dorothea (Astor) Langdon (1795-1874)
    Eliza (Astor) Rumpff (1801-1838)

 Fortune :
  20,000,000   E  $


 20,000,000     $


  25,000,000     $


  2,500,000     $


  250,000     $


  100,000     £


 Activity : Real Estate
 Main property : New York City real estate / American Fur Company (1808-34)
 Other activities : Merchant, investments
 Philanthropy : Contributed 400'000 $ to New York Public Library

Biographical sketch :

The son of a butcher in Waldorf Germany, John Jacob Astor came to America with nothing more than five pounds sterling and seven flutes from his brother George Peter Astor, a merchant who sold music instruments in London. Astor established himself in New York as a fur trader and prospered thanks to his thriftiness, sense of organization and extraordinary mercantile abilities. His business was a model of vertical integration, uncommon at the time. Through his agents, Astor bought furs directly from the Indians in the vast Midwestern territories, in exchange for colonial wares and alcohol. Instead of selling the furs in New York, John Jacob Astor shipped them to Europe, Russia and China and traded them against luxury goods, tea and other merchandise which he sold dearly in New York. Supported by the US government to retaliate against Canada’s Hudson Bay Company, J.J.Astor created the American Fur Company in 1808, which soon monopolized the fur trade in the great Missouri territory. With a capital of 1 million $, the firm netted 500'000 $ a year in 1831. Like other New York merchants, John Jacob Astor invested his profits into New York City real estate. Thus in 1805 he purchased the estate of Aaron Burr, which included the famous Mortier lease from Trinity Church. Another famous purchase of John Jacob Astor was in 1809 the Philipse-Morris title to 51'000 acres of land, formerly part of the famous Philipse Manor. This land was confiscated after the Revolution and had been sold and developed by the new owners. Astor sued on the basis of illegitimacy of the confiscation and after 22 years in court received 500'000 $ as a settlement from the State of New York. Numerous other purchases and acquisitions of land or water grants followed and John Jacob Astor became by far the largest landowner of New York and the richest man in America. In 1834, Astor sold out his interest in the American Fur Co and thereafter dedicated all his attention to the real estate operations. When he died in 1848, his fortune was estimated at over $ 20 million, by far the largest ever seen in America until this time. From his wife, the former Sarah Todd, John Jacob Astor had two sons and three daughters. Since his eldest son was an imbecile, the Astor fortune was left to the second son, William Backhouse Astor, who proved a worthy heir.


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