John Jacob Astor VI

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
John Jacob Astor VI
John Jacob Astor VI.jpg
Born (1912-08-14)August 14, 1912
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died June 26, 1992(1992-06-26) (aged 79)
Miami Beach, Florida U.S.
Resting place Trinity Church Cemetery, New York City, New York, U.S.
Residence Miami Beach, Florida, U.S.
Education St. George's School
Alma mater Harvard University
Occupation International Mercantile Marine Company
Known for "Titanic Baby"
Home town Newport, Rhode Island, U.S.
Religion Episcopalian
  • Ellen Tuck French
    (m. 1934–1943; divorced)
  • Gertrude Gretsch
    (m. 1944–1954; divorced)
  • Dolores Margaret Fullman
    (m. 1954–1955; divorced)
  • Sue Sandford
    (m. 1956–1985; her death)
Children William Backhouse Astor III
Mary Jacqueline Astor
Parent(s) John Jacob Astor IV
Madeleine Talmage Force
Relatives See Astor family

John Jacob "Jakey" Astor VI (August 14, 1912 – June 26, 1992) was an American socialite, shipping businessman, and member of the Astor family. He was dubbed the "Titanic Baby" for his affiliation with the RMS Titanic; Astor was born four months after his father, Colonel John Jacob Astor IV, died in the sinking of the Titanic, but his mother, Madeleine Astor, survived.[1]

Early life[edit]

John Jacob Astor VI was born at 840 Fifth Avenue in New York City on August 14, 1912. He was the son of Colonel John Jacob "Jack" Astor IV (1864–1912) and socialite Madeleine Talmage Force (1893–1940). His godmother was Colonel Astor's sister, philanthropist Caroline Schermerhorn "Carrie" Astor (1861–1948), while his godfathers were Carrie's son Marshall Orme Wilson, Jr. (1885–1966) and Madeleine's cousin Philip Lyndon Dodge. Jakey's parents' marriage, on September 9, 1911, had sparked much controversy both because of their 29-year age difference and since Colonel Astor had only previously been divorced from his first wife, socialite Ava Lowle Willing (1868–1958), one year earlier, on March 5, 1910.

The newlyweds were returning home aboard the Titanic after about three months of honeymooning in Egypt and Europe. Madeleine was five months pregnant with Jakey when her husband put her in one of the ship's lifeboats. She was rescued eight hours after her husband went down with the ship.

After Jack's death, Madeleine raised their son at the Astor's Newport, Rhode Island mansion, Beechwood, as part of the Astor family. She would later remarry to banker William Karl Dick (1888–1953) in June 1916, and boxer Enzo Fiermonte (1908–1993) in November 1933. Through Dick, she would have two more sons: William Force Dick (1917–1961) and John Henry Dick II (1919–1995).[2] Fiermonte taught her sons boxing.

Jakey, who had become close to Dick, highly opposed the union with Fiermonte and repeatedly tried to convince his mother to end the relationship. He and his mother frequently argued over the union. This caused a rift between the two, though they later reconciled within several months of the marriage. When asked if his mother was marrying Fiermonte, he responded "Unfortunately, it's true".

Jakey graduated from St. George's School in Middletown, Rhode Island and from Harvard University.[3]


Under the terms of Colonel Astor's will, Madeleine received relatively little from her husband's $85 million estate (approximately equivalent to $2.1 billion in 2016 dollars).[4][5] This value included his estate in Rhinebeck and his yacht, the Noma. William Vincent Astor (1891–1959), the Colonel's son from his first marriage, received $69 million (about $1.7 billion in 2016 dollars), while the Colonel's daughter from his first marriage, Ava Alice Muriel Astor (1902–1956), received a $10 million trust fund (about $250 million in 2016 dollars).

The Colonel's 19-year-old widow Madeleine received the annual income from a $5 million trust fund (about $120 million in 2016 dollars), sweetened by an annual payment of $500,000 (about $12 million in 2016 dollars), 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, the pick of whichever luxury limo she wanted from his collection, and five of his prized horses, provided that she did not remarry. While not listed by name, his father's will mentioned that any surviving child other than his children Vincent and Ava would receive a bequest of $3 million, to be held in trust until the child reached age 21.[6][7] Jakey inherited the $3 million on his 21st birthday, which by that point had grown to $5 million (about $92 million in 2016 dollars).[4] When Madeleine died in late March 1940, she left him a diamond solitaire ring worth $50,000 (about $850,000 in 2016 dollars) and a pearl necklace worth $1,525 (about $25,800 in 2016 dollars).

Elder half-brother Vincent's contempt for Madeleine led him to believe that Jakey was not even a biological Astor. Having despised his younger half-brother since birth, Vincent left him nothing in his will.[8] Jakey felt cheated and resentfully stated Vincent "had the legal, not the moral right to keep all the money".[9] After Vincent died childless in early February 1959, Jakey sued Vincent's widow Roberta Brooke Russell (1902—2007) to inherit his money. He was convinced that Vincent was "mentally incompetent" when signing his last will in June 1958 due to alcoholism, though Brooke insisted Vincent was "fully competent". While Vincent was hospitalized, Brooke would often bring him liquor. Jakey accused her of using the liquor to influence the will in her favor. Jakey ended up settling for $250,000 (about $2.0 million in 2016 dollars). The rest of money remained with the Vincent Astor foundation and Brooke.[10]


Astor became engaged to Eileen Sherman Gillespie (December 21, 1915 — July 27, 2008), the elder daughter of Lieutenant Lawrence Lewis Gillespie (1876—1940) and Irene Muriel Augusta Sherman (1887—1972), in early December 1933. Irene's parents were businessman William Watts Sherman (1842 — January 22, 1912) and Sophia Augusta Brown (1867—1947).[11] They planned to marry on February 6, 1934. However, she called off the wedding on January 22, 1934 after a bitter argument. Heartbroken, he went to Shanghai shortly afterwards to grieve, returning to America in early May 1934. Astor blamed her parents for interfering with the relationship. He once suggested they could potentially reconcile, stating "I was willing to marry her, and if I were to think about it, I might still be willing to marry her."[12] Eileen's daughter Marguerite "Margy" Slocum said of him: "She felt that he had grown up lonely..... He was a bit eccentric, and she felt he wasn't mature enough to get married." Eileen would later marry in 1940 Foreign Service officer John Jermain Slocum (March 1, 1914 — August 12, 1997),[13] roommate of banker/philanthropist David Rockefeller (born 1915).[14]

A few weeks after returning from Shanghai, he became engaged to Eileen's close friend socialite Ellen Tuck "Tucky" French (December 10, 1915 — September 5, 1974), the elder daughter of Francis Ormond "Frank" French II (November 27, 1888 — June 17, 1962) and Eleanor Livingston Burrill (August 2, 1891 — December 18, 1974).[15] They married on June 30, 1934 at Trinity Church in Newport, Rhode Island.[16] Tucky was a first cousin of Rhode Island Governor William Henry Vanderbilt III (1901—1981), and had previously been attracted to Jakey while he was engaged to Eileen. Along with Eileen's sister Phyllis, Tucky was scheduled to be a bridesmaid at Jakey and Eileen's wedding. The couple had one son, William Backhouse Astor III (1935—2008), and divorced in May 1943.[17] At the time of their son's birth, Jakey was working at the International Mercantile Marine Company.[18] Her sister Virginia Middleton French (April 10, 1917 — August 31, 2011)[19] would marry William Force Dick on December 18, 1941 before her marriage to Philip B. Pool.[20] The two had respectively served as matron of honor and usher to Astor and Tucky's wedding. Astor served as an usher and Tucky was matron of honor to Virginia and William's wedding.[21] Virginia and Vincent were appointed as the godparents of William Backhouse Astor III.[22]

Jakey's second marriage was to Gertrude Gretsch (1923 — January 16, 1999),[23] the daughter of Walter and Gertrude Gretsch,[24] in New York City on September 18, 1944.[25] The couple had a daughter, Mary Jacqueline "Jackie" Astor (born 1949). Their marriage ended in divorce on August 2, 1954 after being separated for four years, though the Mexican divorce was ruled invalid in 1956. An American divorce soon followed.[26] In 1961, Gertrude Astor remarried to Italian aristocrat Sonio Edoardo Coletti-Perucca.

He married a third time to Dolores Margaret "Dolly" Fullman (born c. 1928) on August 6, 1954 but they separated soon after returning from their honeymoon and divorced.[27][28]

His fourth wife was Sue Sandford; she predeceased him, circa 1985.


Astor died in Miami Beach, Florida, in 1992 at the age of 79. His body was returned to New York for burial with his parents in the Trinity Church Cemetery.[29] At the time of his death, he was survived by his son, daughter, three grandsons, and youngest half-brother.


  • William Backhouse Astor III (July 19, 1935 — September 24, 2008), investment banker, served as president of New Vernon Fire Department from 1972—1974. He married and later divorced Charlotte Ann Fisk (April 22, 1936 — October 13, 2008), daughter of Earl Ellsworth Fisk and Florence Leavitt.[30] They had 2 sons:
    • William Backhouse Astor IV (born 1959)
    • Gregory Todd Astor (born 1966) portrayed Colonel Astor in "Titanic the Musical" in April 2012[31] He married c. 1991 Robin Rhodes They have three children:
      • Alexandra Ellen "Allie" Astor (born c. 1997)
      • Rebecca Charlotte "Becca" Astor (born c. 1998)
      • Stephen William Astor (born c. 2002)[32]
  • Mary Jacqueline "Jackie" Astor (born June 1949),[33] married in 1984 to John Rozet Drexel IV (born 1945), son of John Rozet Drexel III (1919—2007) and Mildred Sophia Noreen Stonor (1922—2012). He is a great-great-grandson of banker Anthony Joseph Drexel and a grandson of Ralph Francis Julian Stonor. They have one son:
    • Nicholas Astor Drexel (born c. 1988) [34][35]

Name confusion[edit]

Even though some sources refer to Jakey as John Jacob V, John Jacob Astor, 1st Baron Astor of Hever (1886—1971) was born first and therefore is actually John Jacob Astor V. Jakie Astor (1918—2000), youngest brother of David Astor, was John Jacob Astor VII; the 3rd Baron Astor of Hever is John Jacob Astor VIII. Jakey is sometimes (incorrectly) referred to as John Jacob III.

References in popular culture[edit]

Astor's name is shown on one of the page buttons on an apartment building in Mel Brooks' 2005 movie musical The Producers.


  1. ^ "Jack Astor, the Titanic Baby". The Ellensburg Democrat. 
  2. ^ "WILLIAM DICK DIES; AN INDUSTRIALIST". encyclopedia titanica. New York Times. 
  3. ^ "Madeleine Astor". 
  4. ^ a b Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Community Development Project. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved October 21, 2016. 
  5. ^ "Astor Bequests Have All Been Paid". New York Times. Retrieved 20 April 2012. 
  6. ^ "Son for Mrs. Astor; Named for Father" (PDF). The New York Times. August 15, 1912. Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  7. ^ "Astor Estate Goes To Son". The Evening News. 7 May 1912. 
  8. ^ "Part II: Vincent, the Astor Who Gave Away the Money". NewYorkSocialDaily. Retrieved 6 August 2013. 
  9. ^ Wilson, Andrew (2012). Shadow of the Titanic: The Extraordinary Stories of Those Who Survived. Simon and Schuster. 
  10. ^ Gordon, Meryl (2008). Mrs. Astor Regrets: The Hidden Betrayals of a Family Beyond Reproach. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 
  11. ^ Van Deusen, Mary S. "Eileen Sherman Gillespie". Retrieved 2009.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  12. ^ Davis, Deborah (2009). Gilded: How Newport Became America's Richest Resort. John Wiley & Sons. 
  13. ^ "John Jermain Slocum". Find a Grave. October 14, 2012. 
  14. ^ Bruce Weber (1 August 2008). "Eileen G. Slocum, 92, Dies". New York Times. 
  15. ^ "Francis Ormond FRENCH/Eleanor Livingston BURRILL". pennock. 
  16. ^ Porter, Russell B. "JOHN JACOB ASTOR WEDS ELLEN FRENCH". Encyclopedia Titanica. New York Times. 
  17. ^ "Gertrude Versus Dolly 'Which Wife's Legal?' Astor Asks N.Y. Court". The Miami News. 
  18. ^ Baber, Mark (20 July 1935). "MRS. JOHN J. ASTOR GIVES BIRTH TO SON". NY Times. 
  19. ^ "William Force Dick + Virginia Middleton French". Our Family Tree. 
  20. ^ "VIRGINIA POOL Obituary". New York Times. Retrieved September 9, 2011. 
  21. ^ "Virginia M. French Has Twelve Attendants At Her Marriage Here to William F. Dick". New York Times. December 19, 1941. 
  22. ^ "ASTOR INFANT CHRISTENED". New York Times. January 15, 1936. 
  23. ^ "Paid Notice: Deaths COLETTI, PERUCCA, GERTRUDE GRETSCH". The New York Times. 20 January 1999. 
  24. ^ Gretsch, Fred. "Gretsch Family Connection to Titanic Passengers". Retrieved 6 August 2013. 
  25. ^ "J. J. Astor Marries Gertrude Gretsch. Son of the Late Colonel John Jacob Astor IV Weds Alumna of Finch at Her Home". The New York Times. 19 September 1944. Retrieved 2009-02-16. ..... of the Late Colonel John Jacob Astor IV Weds Alumna of Finch at Her Home The..... Mr. Astor is the son of the late Col John Jacob Astor IV, who lost his life..... 
  26. ^ "Astor Seeking Divorce. John J. Files Suit in Mexico Against Second Wife". The New York Times. July 3, 1954. Retrieved 2009-02-16. 
  27. ^ "Astor's Name Taken from Social Register". St. Joseph News-Press. Missouri. United Press. 27 November 1954. p. 2. Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  28. ^ "Milestones: Married". Time. 16 August 1954. John Jacob Astor VI, 42, whose fortune, inherited from his great-great-grandfather, is estimated at $70 million; and Dolores Margaret "Dolly" Fullman, 26, blonde Miami divorcee; he for the third time, she for the second; in Arlington, Va. 
  29. ^ "Myth #3: There are a lot of Astors buried in the churchyard". Trinity Wall Street. 19 January 2012. 
  30. ^ "Obituaries: Charlotte A. Fisk". 13 October 2008. 
  31. ^ Hallenbeck, Brent (March 20, 2012). "Born to Play the Role". The Burlington Free Press. 
  32. ^ "William Backhouse Astor III". The Burlington Free Press. Vermont: Scroggin(s) Obituaries & News. 20 September 2008. 
  33. ^ Curtis, Charlotte (August 22, 1967). "Newport Party Resembled Reunion Of John Jacob Astor's Relatives". The Telegraph. 
  34. ^ "John R. Drexel III". Newport Daily News. Retrieved April 2007.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  35. ^ Gorrow, Chelsea. "Astor family coming to city's birthday party". Seattle Times. Retrieved 8 August 2011. 

Further reading[edit]