100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

Astor Heir Receives Inheritance

John Jacob Astor IV was born into the Astor family in 1864, a prominent wealthy dynasty that began with his great grandfather John Jacob Astor whose fortune in opium, fur trade and real estate made the Astor family one of the wealthiest families in the US. Astor graduated Harvard and made a fortune in real estate but was also an inventor patenting a bicycle brake, a pneumatic device for road improvement, and helped develop a turbine engine. In 1897 Astor built the Astoria Hotel in New York City adjoining the Waldorf Hotel owned by his cousin, William Waldorf Astor. The complex became known as the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Astor also wrote a science fiction novel A JOURNEY TO OTHER WORLDS in 1894 about life in the year 2000 on the planets Saturn and Jupiter.

In 1891 Astor married Ava Lowle Willing. The couple had two children before their divorce in 1909. Divorce was considered a scandal and it didn’t help when Astor announced that he would marry again at the age of 47 to 18-year-old Madeleine Talmage Force in 1911. The couple went on extended honeymoon in Europe and Egypt waiting for the gossip to calm down. The Astors are traveling with Astor’s valet, Ava’s maid, her nurse, and Kitty, Astor’s pet Airedale. Ava Astor became pregnant and her husband, wanting their child to be born in America, booked passage home. Unfortunately they chose the maiden voyage of the RMS TITANIC.

John Jacob and Eva Astor and their dog Kitty

The Astors and their servants and dog boarded the RMS TITANIC April 12, 1912 in Southampton, England. Their staterooms had working fireplaces and adjoining quarters for servants and cost $4,000. Captain Smith of the RMS TITANIC made $6,250/year. After the iceberg hit the ship Astor reassured his wife that the damage did not appear serious. As people were being loaded into lifeboats Astor said “We are safer here than on that little boat.” At 1:45AM Astor helped his wife into the lifeboat. He asked if he could accompany her due to her “delicate condition”. When told that no men could enter until all the women had been loaded he threw his gloves to his wife, lit a cigarette and stood back. He and his dog Kitty were last seen on deck. He did not survive.

In August 1912 Ava Lowell Willing Astor gave birth to John Jacob Astor V 4 months to the day after his father’s death. He will inherit a portion of his father’s fortune on his 21st birthday.

On November 15, 1912 Vincent Astor, a son from John Jacob Astor IV previous marriage, reached his 21st birthday and inherited a large portion of his father’s fortune – $150 million ($3.4 billion today.)

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