Colonel John Astor is best known as one of the founders of the Waldorf Astoria hotel, the landmark hotel in New York City, which he built in cooperation with his cousin, who was named Waldorf Astor. He is also fairly widely known for his drowning in the sinking of the Titanic in April 1912, when he was only 48 years old, while on a honeymoon with his second wife, the 18 year old Madeleine Talmadge Force.
John Jacob Astor IV was born in Rhinebeck, New York on July 13, 1864. He was the son of William Astor and Caroline Webster Schermerhorn, a member of the well known Dutch American Schermerhorn clan which had been quite prominent in the development of New Netherland. John Astor's mother was a granddaughter of Anna Van Cortlandt, a member of the wealthy Dutch American Van Cortlandt family, who also belonged to the early settlers of New Netherland. So John Astor had a strong Dutch American background.
John Astor was educated at St. Paul's School in Concord. He was accepted and attended Harvard University, but it is not clear if he graduated. We do know that he spent three years abroad, from 1888 to 1891, when he was in his early twenties. Upon his return, he took up the task of managing the family fortune, which largely consisted of real estate. He became a real estate developer himself. In 1897, he built the Astoria hotel adjacent to the Waldorf Hotel, which had been built by his cousin William Waldorf Astor. Subsequently the two hotels merged into what until today is known as the Waldorf- Astoria Hotel. Later he also built the Hotel St. Regis in 1905 and the Hotel Knickerbocker in 1906.
John Astor became involved with the U. S. military during the Spanish-American War. In 1898 he was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel in the U. S. Volunteers. Prior to his commissioning, he had been associated with General Levi P. Morton. During the Spanish-American War he also put his yacht, "Nourmahal" at the disposal of the U. S. Government, and equipped a mountain battery of artillery for use in the war. He obviously felt very strongly about assisting the U. S. military forces in that war.
Astor was married to Ava Shippin Willing in 1891. The couple had two children, a son, William Vincent Astor, and a daughter, Ava Alice Muriel Astor. In 1909, Astor divorced Ava and two years later, in 1911, he married eighteen year old Madeleine Talmadge Force. New York City society and the general public were apparently outraged at a 47 year old man marrying an 18 year old woman, and the couple was probably shunned by New York society. So they decided to disappear for a while and went on an extended trip to Europe. In the spring of the following year, in April 1912, they decided to return, and booked first class cabins on the Titanic on its maiden voyage, boarding in Cherbourg, France. The couple did not travel alone. They were accompanied by three servants, a male aide for John Astor and two female aides for his wife Madeleine.
Following the Titanic collision with the iceberg, Astor went up to investigate and upon his return told his entourage that there was nothing to be worried about. It was just a small collision with an iceberg. However, as things began to worsen, the group went up to the boat deck to board the life boats. Astor at this point apparently had become worried, and also wanted to board the lifeboats, but was prevented from doing so, because only women were allowed to board the life boats. He apparently was unable to board and drowned. His body was found 10 days later by a cable-laying ship working in the area. He apparently was still fully dressed and the rescuers retrieved his personal belongings. It was reported that he carried 225 British pounds and 2440 American dollars in his pockets. The body was returned to New York City where it was buried in Trinity Church Cemetery.
Astor's wife, Madeleine Talmadge Astor, was one of the survivors of the Titanic's sinking. It turned out that Madeleine was pregnant at the time. She gave birth to a son on August 14, 1912, and named him John Jacob Astor VI, after his father, John Jacob Astor IV.
Colonel John Jacob Astor, www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/biography/11/
Notable Descendants of John Loockermans, users.crocker.com/~jcamp/jlfam.html#21
John Jacob Astor IV, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Jacob_Astor_IV
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