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<tr class=""><th scope="row" style="text-align:left; ">Children</th> <td class="" style=""> Vincent Astor (1892–1959)
Ava Alice Muriel Astor (1902–1956)
John Jacob Astor VI (1912–1992)</td></tr><tr class=""><th scope="row" style="text-align:left; ">Parents</th> <td class="" style=""> William Backhouse Astor, Jr.
Caroline Webster Schermerhorn</td></tr><tr class=""><th scope="row" style="text-align:left; ">Relatives</th> <td class="" style=""> John Jacob Astor, great-grandfather</td></tr><tr class=""><th scope="row" style="text-align:left; ">Family</th> <td class="" style=""> Astor family</td></tr> </table> John Jacob Astor IV (July 13, 1864 – April 15, 1912) was an American businessman, real estate builder, investor, inventor, writer, lieutenant colonel in the Spanish-American War and a member of the prominent Astor family. In April 1912, Astor earned a prominent place in history when he embarked on the ocean liner RMS Titanic, which sank four days into its maiden voyage after colliding with an iceberg. Astor was among the 1,514 people on board who did not survive. He was the richest passenger aboard the Titanic, and was considered to be the richest person in the world at that time.


John Jacob Astor IV was born on July 13, 1864, the son of Caroline Webster Schermerhorn Astor and William Backhouse Astor, Jr. He was the great-grandson of John Jacob Astor whose fortune, made in the fur trade and real estate, made the Astor family one of the wealthiest families in the U.S. Astor attended St Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire and later attended Harvard University.[1]



John Jacob Astor as Henry IV of France

In 1891, Astor married Ava Lowle Willing. The couple had two children — William Vincent Astor, born in 1891 and Ava Alice Muriel Astor, born in 1902 – before their divorce in 1909.

Since divorce was considered a scandal back then, all in society were shocked when Astor announced that he would marry again.[1] At the age of 47, he married 18-year-old Madeleine Talmage Force, the sister of Katherine Emmons Force. They were married in his mother's ballroom at Beechwood, the family's Newport, Rhode Island house. Madeleine was a year younger than Astor's son Vincent. The couple took an extended honeymoon in Europe and Egypt to wait for the gossip to calm down. Among the few Americans who did not spurn him at this time was Margaret Brown, later fictionalized as "The Unsinkable Molly Brown". She accompanied the Astors to Egypt and France and, by coincidence, was called home to the U.S. at the same time the Astors also found it necessary to abbreviate their touring.[1]



Astor and his second wife Madeleine Talmage Force.

Among Astor's accomplishments was A Journey in Other Worlds, an 1894 science fiction novel about life in the year 2000 on the planets Saturn and Jupiter.[2] He also patented several inventions, including a bicycle brake in 1898, a "vibratory disintegrator" used to produce gas from peat moss, and a pneumatic road-improver, and helped develop a turbine engine. Astor made millions in real estate. In 1897, Astor built the Astoria Hotel, "the world’s most luxurious hotel",[3] in New York City, adjoining the Waldorf Hotel owned by Astor’s cousin, William Waldorf Astor. The complex became known as the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, coincidentally becoming the host location to the U.S. inquiries into the sinking of the RMS Titanic, in which Astor was killed.[1]

From 1894 to 1896, he was on the staff of Governor Levi P. Morton.[4] Shortly after the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898, Astor personally financed a volunteer artillery unit known as the Astor Battery, which saw service in the Philippines. Astor was appointed a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Volunteers and served as a staff officer in Cuba during the Santiago Campaign. During this time he allowed his yacht, the Nourmahal, to be used by the U.S. government. During the war, Astor appeared in the films President McKinley's Inspection of Camp Wikoff in 1898 and Col. John Jacob Astor, Staff and Veterans of the Spanish-American War in 1899.[1]

Due to his war service, Astor was entitled to the Spanish Campaign Medal. He was also a member of the Society of the Army of Santiago, the Society of Colonial Wars and the Society of the American Wars of the United States.

His estate "Ferncliff," north of the town center of Rhinebeck, New York, with a mile and a half of Hudson river frontage in the picturesque Lower Hudson River Valley, had been purchased piecemeal by his father in the mid-19th century; Astor was born there.[5] His father's Italianate house of 1864 was partly rebuilt in 1904 to designs by Stanford White of McKim, Mead, and White, retaining its conservative exterior, and a sports pavilion in Louis XVI style was added.[6] The "Casino" or "Astor Courts" reportedly housed the first residential indoor swimming pool in the U.S., an indoor tennis court with vaulting of Guastavino tile, and guest bedrooms; in the lower level were a bowling alley and a shooting range.[7] The estate, reduced to 50 acres (200,000 m2) and renamed "Astor Courts," eventually became a wedding venue. The wedding of Chelsea Clinton took place there on July 31, 2010.


Astor was a prominent member of the Republican party.


While traveling, Madeleine became pregnant, and wanting the child born in the U.S., the Astors boarded the RMS Titanic on her maiden voyage to New York. They embarked in Cherbourg, France, in first class and were the wealthiest passengers aboard. Accompanying the Astors were Astor's valet, Victor Robbins; Madeleine's maid, Rosalie Bidois, and her nurse, Caroline Louise Endres. They also took their pet Airedale, Kitty. The Astors were deeply fond of their dog and had come close to losing her on a previous trip when she went missing in Egypt. Kitty did not survive the sinking.[8][9]


A short while after the Titanic hit the iceberg that caused her to sink, Astor informed his wife of the collision, but reassured her that the damage did not appear to be serious. Some time later as the ship's lifeboats for first class were being manned, Astor remained unperturbed; he and his family played with the mechanical horses in the gymnasium. At some point Astor is thought to have sliced the lining of an extra lifebelt with a pen knife to show his wife its contents, either to prove that they were not of use or to reassure her that they were.

When Second Officer Charles Lightoller later arrived on A Deck to finish loading Lifeboat 4, Astor helped his wife, with her maid and nurse, into it. Astor then asked if he might join his wife because she was in 'a delicate condition'; however, Lightoller told him that men were not to be allowed to board until all the women and children had been loaded. After Lifeboat 4 was lowered at 1:55 am, Astor is said to have stood alone while others tried to free the remaining collapsible boats;[1] he was last seen alive on the starboard bridge wing, smoking a cigarette with Jacques Futrelle. A mere half hour later, the ship disappeared beneath the ocean. Madeleine, her nurse and her maid survived. Astor and his valet, Victor Robbins, did not.

In the aftermath, ships were sent out to retrieve the bodies from the site of the sinking; of the 1,517 passengers and crew that perished in the sinking, only 333 bodies were ever recovered. Astor's body was recovered on April 22 by the steamer Mackay-Bennett, a cable-ship chartered by White Star Line (the Titanics shipping company). Astor was thought for years to have been killed by one of the ship's falling funnels because reports persist that his body was recovered in a mangled state, but all who examined his body maintained that it was in perfect condition with no bruising.[1]

Astor was identified by the initials sewn on the label of his jacket. Among the items found on him was a gold pocket watch which his son, Vincent, claimed and wore the rest of his life.

CLOTHING – Blue serge suit; blue handkerchief with "A.V."; belt with gold buckle; brown boots with red rubber soles; brown flannel shirt; "J.J.A." on back of collar.
EFFECTS – Gold watch; cuff links, gold with diamond; diamond ring with three stones; £225 in English notes; $2440 in notes; £5 in gold; 7s. in silver; 5 ten franc pieces; gold pencil; pocketbook.

Astor was buried in Trinity Church Cemetery in New York City. On August 14, 1912, Madeleine Astor gave birth to his second son, John Jacob Astor VI.[10][11][1]


Astor left $69 million of his $85 million estate ($2.08 billion in 2012 dollars[12]) to his eldest son, Vincent.[13] This value included his estate in Rhinebeck and his yacht, the Noma. To his wife Madeleine, he left a $5 million trust fund and an annual paycheck of $500,000, as well as use of his New York mansion 65th & Fifth Avenue, all its furnishings, and his Newport mansion Beechwood and all of its furnishings, pick of whichever luxury limo she wanted from his collection and five of his prized horses—as long as she did not remarry. His remaining child, Alice (who lived with her mother Ava), received a $10 million trust fund.Template:Citation needed


John Jacob Astor 1909

John Jacob Astor in 1909.

Astor's prominence led to the creation of many exaggerated and unsubstantiated accounts about his actions during the sinking of the Titanic. One story alleges that he opened Titanics kennel and released the dogs; in another, he placed a woman's hat on a boy to make sure the child was able to get into a lifeboat. Another legend claims that after the ship hit the iceberg, he quipped, "I asked for ice, but this is ridiculous." These stories appeared in newspapers, magazines, and even books about the sinking. In reality, none of the claims about Astor's actions were substantiated, as nobody who recognized him survived other than the women who boarded lifeboats relatively early on.[14] Wade wrote that the ice joke is almost certainly apocryphal, as Astor was not known for making jokes, and that the story about the hat (like many other 'survivor stories' published shortly after the sinking) may have been invented by the reporter.[14]

However, Louis Garrett's eyewitness account stated:Template:Citation needed Template:Blockquote


Astor's fame has made him a frequent character in films about Titanic. German actor Karl Schönböck played Astor in the 1943 Nazi propaganda film Titanic. William Johnstone played Astor in the 1953 film Titanic, and in the 1997 version of Titanic he was played by Eric Braeden, who was cast in the role due to a strong resemblance to Astor. In the 1997 film, he is instantly killed when the Grand Staircase's dome breaks, flooding the entire room. In the 1996 miniseries, he was played by Scott Hylands. Astor was also portrayed by David Janssen in the 1979 film S.O.S. Titanic. Astor was mentioned in the first episode of the ITV drama Downton Abbey as a good friend of Cora, the Countess of Grantham. Perennially, in the town of Astoria, Oregon (so named for Astor's great-grandfather), Astor IV is portrayed by a local amateur actor in street corner vignettes. He was played by Miles Richardson in the 2012 Titanic miniseries.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 "John Jacob Astor IV". Encyclopedia Titanica. Retrieved 2010-10-27. "Colonel John Jacob Astor IV was born in Rhinebeck, New York on July 13th, 1864 the son of William Astor and great-grandson of John Jacob Astor the fur trader. Astor was educated at St. Paul's School, Concord and later went to Harvard. After a period of travelling abroad (1888–91) he returned to the United States to manage the family fortune. He had homes at 840 Fifth Avenue, New York and at Ferncliff, Rhinebeck, New York. ..." 
  2. John Wilson Foster, The Age of Titanic: Cross-Currents in Anglo-American Culture (2002).
  3. Stanley Turkel, "The Original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel" April 4, 2007; (accessed July 8, 2009).
  4. 12px "Astor, John Jacob. An American capitalist, inventor, and soldier". New International Encyclopedia. 1905. 
  5. Automobile Club of America, The Club Journal 2 (November 12, 1910) "Little Journeys to the Homes of Members: Ferncliff", pp1002ff.
  6. Paul Goldberger, A Monograph of the works of McKim, Mead & White, 1879–1915, 1985.
  7. Retrieved on September 10, 2011.
  8. Fate of the pets who sailed on the Titanic. October 2, 2010. Retrieved on September 10, 2011.
  9. "John Jacob Astor IV". Retrieved February 16, 2012. 
  10. "Son for Mrs. Astor. Named for Father. Both Mother and Baby Said to be Very Well, the Child Strong and Well Formed.". New York Times. August 15, 1912, Thursday. Retrieved June 22, 2008. "Baby is the Sixth John Jacob Astor. Mrs. Madeleine Force Astor, survivor of he Titanic ..." 
  11. "John J. Astor 5th, 79. Son of Builder of Hotel". New York Times. June 27, 1992. Retrieved August 10, 2009. "John Jacob Astor 5th, a descendant of one of America's most fabled merchant princes, died yesterday at his home in Miami Beach. ... His father was John Jacob Astor 4th, a businessman and inventor, who built the Astoria Hotel in New York City that was later combined with the hotel next door to become the Waldorf-Astoria. His mother was the former Madeline Talmage Force of New York City. She was pregnant with him when she and her husband sailed on the Titanic. Her husband put her on a lifeboat and went down with the ship on April 15, 1912." 
  12. "WolframAlpha". Retrieved 20 April 2012. 
  13. "Astor Bequests Have All Been Paid". New York Times. Retrieved 20 April 2012. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 Wade, Wyn Craig (1979, 1986 (revised)). Titanic: End of a Dream. New York City: Penguin Books. pp. 70–73. ISBN [[Special:BookSources/0-14-016619-2|0-14-016619-2]]. 

External linksEdit

John Jacob Astor IV
John Jacob Astor IVb.jpg
Astor in 1895
Born July 13, 1864
Rhinebeck, New York
Died April 15, 1912 (aged 47)
RMS Titanic (sunk), North Atlantic Ocean
Resting place Trinity Church Cemetery
Nationality American
Alma mater Harvard University
Net worth $85 million ($2.08 billion in 2012 dollars)
Political party Republican

Ava Lowle Willing (m. 1891–1909) «start: (1891)–end+1: (1910)»"Marriage: Ava Lowle Willing to John Jacob Astor IV" Location: (linkback:</span>

Madeleine Talmage Force (m. 1911–1912) «start: (1911)–end+1: (1913)»"Marriage: Madeleine Talmage Force to John Jacob Astor IV" Location: (linkback:</span>
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