Like many first class passengers on Titanic, John Jacob Astor IV and his second wife, Madeleine Talmage Force, were living the good life. Not only was Astor the richest passenger on Titanic, he was also one of the wealthiest people in the world. As the 47-year-old Astor traveled with his 18-year-old wife, Madeleine, their 29 year age difference created a stir among many Titanic passengers. Despite all the commotion, they were still the richest passengers on Titanic. They were accepted into the inner circle of the elite.
A two dog lovers, they even bought their Airedale, Kitty, on Titanic. Even their pet lived the good life. Like the majority of dogs on Titanic, Kitty did not survive the disaster.
Their voyage was a quiet one until Titanic hit an iceberg on April 15, 1912. Like many passengers, Astor thought Titanic was the unsinkable ship. He was not even worried when the accident occurred.
When his pregnant wife, Madeleine, boarded lifeboat Number 4, he thought that he would be able to join her later. Sadly, Astor drowned on Titanic. He did not have the chance to meet his newborn son.
Due to his accomplishments, Astor will be remembered as a great man. Born at his parents’ country estate, Ferncliff, on July 13, 1864 in Rhinebeck, New York, he was raised by a wealthy family. He had five older sisters. He was the only son of William Blackhouse Astor and Caroline Webster Schermerhorn.
Following the family business, he made his fortune in real estate. In 1897, he created the Astoria part of the Waldorf Hotel. As a result of the merger, the Waldorf-Astoria became the largest hotel in the world. It was the first hotel to offer total electricity and personal bathrooms. The net worth of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel was $15 million. As a popular hotel on Fifth Avenue, the Waldorf-Astoria had distinguished guests.
Li Hung-Chang, who was a guest at the Waldorf-Astoria in 1896, was a gentleman. In addition to giving the workers of the Waldorf-Astoria good tips and gifts, he also ordered a basket of roses for every single lady at the hotel.
Even though the Waldorf-Astoria had distinguished guests, competition from other inns forced the Waldorf-Astoria to close. On May 3, 1929, this historic hotel went out of business. The Astor family sold the Waldorf-Astoria to the developers of the Empire State Building. In 1929, the Waldorf-Astoria was demolished. The Empire State Building was built where the hotel once stood.
Unlike the Waldorf-Astoria that was destroyed, the childhood home of John Jacob Astor IV still stands. Ferncliff, which was renamed “Astor Courts,” was the locale where Chelsea Clinton had her wedding.
In addition to being a businessman, Astor was also a writer and an inventor. He wrote a science fiction novel, A Journey in Other Worlds. Among other inventions, he created a bicycle break and a turbine engine. As a patriot, he also served his nation in the Spanish-American War as a lieutenant colonel.
On April 22, 1912, the ship, Mackay-Bennett, found the body of Astor. Using the initials stitched on his jacket, they identified him. They also found a gold pocket watch that Vincent, his son from his first marriage, claimed. Vincent wore the gold watch his entire life.
Four months after the Titanic tragedy, Astor’s second son, John Jacob Astor VI, was born. Sadly, Astor VI would never know his father. He would learn about his dad from his mother’s stories. He would also hear many Titanic accounts. Not only did Astor leave his family a financial legacy, but one of greatness. At the age of 47, he accomplished what the majority of us do not achieve in a lifetime.