*Includes online resources and a bibliography for further reading
"Could I begin life again, knowing what I now know, and had money to invest, I would buy every foot of land on the Island of Manhattan." - John Jacob Astor
The Astor surname, one of New York's most important family names for over a century, is synonymous with American aristocracy, a term that defies simple definition. Unlike Britain, where the term aristocrat had a definite meaning, the New York aristocracy was "at best a metaphor for high social status or prestige in a nation which had unequivocally rejected the mechanisms needed to create and sustain an aristocracy on the European model."
The defining marker for new world aristocracy was, at its core, money. Though some families with accumulated cash took years to break in, financial fitness, rather than birth or connections (which could be gained through marriage) ultimately ruled the day.
The immense wealth that the Astor family accumulated, spent, and in many cases, gave away, in the family's heyday is difficult to comprehend. The second Astor to reach the shores of America, John Jacob, accumulated during his lifetime "a fortune that represented one-fifteenth of all the personal wealth in America." His children consistently inherited amounts that preserved their title as the "richest" or "one of the richest" in America at the turn of the twenty-first century. The German immigrant John Jacob Astor's goals, however, went beyond the accrual of wealth. He developed a vision that would sweep up Thomas Jefferson himself. Together, the men "would establish a democratic outpost on the dim, distant Pacific Coast. Jefferson's vision embraced the entirety of North America and accorded Astor's enterprise a powerful role in shaping the continent's political destiny." His vision of trade, real estate, and settlement affected not only his own nation, but the world.
The Astors: The History and Legacy of One of the World's Wealthiest Families examines the history of the family and its influence. Along with pictures depicting important people, places, and events, you will learn about the Astor family like never before.