John Jacob Astor III
|John Jacob Astor III|
June 10, 1822|
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||February 22, 1890
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Resting place||Trinity Church Cemetery, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|Known for||patriarch of English Astors|
|Spouse(s)||Charlotte Augusta Gibbes
(m. 1846–1887; her death)
|Children||William Waldorf Astor, 1st Viscount Astor|
|Parent(s)||William Backhouse Astor, Sr.
Margaret Alida Rebecca Armstrong
|Relatives||See Astor family|
John Jacob Astor III (June 10, 1822 – February 22, 1890) was an American financier, philanthropist and a soldier during the American Civil War. He was a prominent member of the Astor family, becoming the wealthiest family member in his generation and the founder of their English branch.
Family & Early life
Astor was the eldest son of real estate businessman William Backhouse Astor, Sr. (1792–1875) and Margaret Alida Rebecca Armstrong (1800–1872), a nephew of occasional poet John Jacob Astor, Jr. (1791–1869), and a grandson of fur-trader John Jacob Astor (1763–1848), Sarah Cox Todd (1761–1842), Senator John Armstrong, Jr. (1758–1843) and Alida Livingston (1761–1822) of the Livingston family. His younger brother, businessman William Backhouse Astor, Jr. (1829–1892), became the patriarch of the male line of American Astors.
John Astor studied at Columbia University and the University of Göttingen, following which he went to Harvard Law School. He practiced law for a year, to qualify for assisting in the management of his family's immense estate, one half of which later descended to him. It was based on his paternal grandfather's achieving a monopoly in the lucrative fur trade in the early nineteenth century.
During the American Civil War, Astor served as a volunteer aide-de-camp to Major General George B. McClellan (then commanding general of the U.S. Army) from November 30, 1861 to July 11, 1862. In recognition of his services during the Peninsular Campaign, Astor was brevetted as a brigadier general of Volunteers in March 1865.
In 1880 he became a companion of the New York Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States—a military society of officers who had served in the Union armed forces. He was assigned insignia number 1909.
In business, Astor dabbled in railroad investment, but was outsmarted by Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794–1877) and forced to yield control of the original New York Central Railroad line (from Albany to Buffalo) to him. His principal business interest was the vast Astor Estate real estate holdings in New York City, which he managed profitably and parsimoniously.
Marriage and family
William was married on December 9, 1846 at Trinity Church in New York City to Charlotte Augusta Gibbes (February 27, 1825 – December 12, 1887) of South Carolina, daughter of Thomas Stanyarne Gibbes, Jr. and Susan Annette Vanden Heuvel. They had one son, William Waldorf Astor, 1st Viscount Astor (March 31, 1848—October 18, 1919). In 1859 he built a home at 350 Fifth Avenue, today the street address of the Empire State Building. Later, he had an imposing vacation home, Beaulieu, built in Newport, Rhode Island, and he had a country estate, Nuits, at Ardsley-on-Hudson in Irvington, New York.
John Jacob Astor III donated objects and funds to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (in 1887 he presented it with his wife's collection of valuable laces and left a bequest of $50,000). He and his brother presented Trinity Church with a memorial to their father: a sculptured reredos and altar costing $80,000. He left a bequest of $450,000 to the Astor Library, bringing the family benefactions to the institution to a total of about $1,500,000. He also gave generously to the New York Cancer Hospital ($100,000 bequest), the Woman's Hospital, St. Luke's Hospital ($100,000 bequest) and the Children's Aid Society.
He took an active interest in the Astor Library beyond funding. He was treasurer of its board of trustees, and in 1879 deeded to it the three lots on which the northern wing of the present building was later constructed by him. He presented it with his collection of early books and rare manuscripts.
His deeply religious wife Charlotte supported the newly formed Children's Aid Society and sat on the board of the Women's Hospital of New York, an institution that to her dismay refused to accept cancer patients. She persuaded her husband to donate the money ($225,000) to erect the New York Cancer Hospital's first wing, the "Astor Pavilion." For twenty years, she supported a German industrial school. From 1872 until her death, she was a manager of the Woman's Hospital, besides taking an active part in the Niobrara League to aid the Indians and in many other charities. She bequeathed $150,000 to charitable organizations.
John Jacob III increasingly visited London in his later years. His son moved there permanently with his family in 1891 and became a citizen in 1899 where he was later made a peer. John Jacob Astor III died on February 22, 1890 and was interred in the Trinity Church Cemetery in Manhattan.
- Some sources such as Time magazine incorrectly list him as "John Jacob Astor II" and discount the birth of his uncle John Jacob Astor, Jr. (1791–1869), who was unstable.
- "Milestones". Time (magazine). July 31, 1939. Retrieved 2008-08-01.
To celebrate the fourth birthday of Millionheir* William Astor, his parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Jacob Astor III, invited his playmates to a party on the lawn of Chetwode, pillared Astor mansion at Newport. *When John Jacob Astor IV went down on the Titanic, most of his fortune went to 20-year-old Son Vincent, only a few million to Son John Jacob VI, then unborn. Since Vincent has no direct heirs, William is heir apparent to both fortunes.
- Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1900). "Astor, John Jacob, capitalist". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.
- New York Times. February 7, 1904.
- Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Astor, John Jacob, American capitalist and soldier". Encyclopedia Americana.
- Speight, John F. "Genealogy Data Page 850". speightfamily.net. Retrieved 2009. Check date values in:
- "Extract from the Will of the late John Jacob Astor, January 6, 1888". Forty-Third Annual Report of the Trustees of the Astor Library of the City of New-York, for the Year 1891. 1892.
- "Viscount Astor Died Suddenly of Heart Disease. Stricken Saturday Morning, After Having Passed Part of Preceding Day Outdoors. Body Will Be Cremated and the Ashes Placed in Private Chapel at Cliveden. Peerage Came as Reward for War Gifts. Realty Holdings Here Valued at $60,000,000. Little Known to British Public. Estate Will Pay a Heavy Tax. His Pursuit of Title Evoked Bitter Criticism. Became a British Subject in 1899. Peerage Followed War Gifts.". New York Times. October 20, 1919. Retrieved 2008-08-01.
Viscount Astor died yesterday morning. His death, which was from heart disease, was unexpected.
- "John Jacob Astor Dead. Heart Disease Carries Him Off Suddenly. The End Of A Placid And Useful Life Full Of Good Deeds. William Waldorf Astor His Only Heir.". New York Times. February 23, 1890. Retrieved 2008-06-22.