Even before he was born, John Jacob Astor VI was already famous. Madeleine Astor was pregnant with John Jacob Astor VI when she boarded the Titanic. She was married to the richest man in America during that era, John Jacob Astor IV. When the Titanic struck an iceberg on April 15, 1912, Madeleine was saved, but Astor IV drowned on the ship. Sadly, Astor IV would never meet his son Astor VI. Along with many other stories of individuals who lost their lives on the Titanic, the death of John Jacob Astor IV made headlines worldwide.
Born on August 14, 1912, John Jacob Astor VI would always be associated with the Titanic tragedy. In fact, he was even nicknamed the “Titanic Baby.” Born at 840 Fifth Avenue in New York City, he was raised in an elite and educated family. Even with all of the wealth in the world, he grew up without one of the most important people in his life, his dad John Jacob Astor IV.
Madeleine Talmage Force raised her son, Astor VI, at the Astor’s Newport Rhode Island estate in Beechwood. He attended St. George’s School in Middleton, Rhode Island. Like his father Astor IV, his Alma Mater was Harvard University.
Growing up without a biological dad, William Karl Dick, Astor VI’s stepfather, became his father figure. They both had a good relationship. When Madeleine divorced Dick, Astor VI was heartbroken. When he learned that his mom would marry Enzo Fiermonte in November 1933, he was adamantly against the union. He tried to convince his mother not to marry him, but she still did.
When Astor VI turned 21, he inherited $3 million from his father Astor IV. The fortune grew to $5 million. Today Astor VI’s inheritance is the equivalent of $93 million. Following in his father’s footsteps, Astor VI also became a successful businessman.
Like his mother Madeleine, Astor VI also married several times. Ellen Tuck French was his first wife. During their marriage, they had one son, William Backhouse Astor III. Gertrude Gretsch was Astor’s second wife. He had one daughter with Gretsch, Mary Jaqueline Astor III. Dolores Margaret Fullman was Astor’s third wife, and they divorced soon after their honeymoon. Astor’s fourth wife was Sue Sandford, and they remained married until her death in 1985.
Despite all of the opulence, there was still strife in the Astor family. When Vincent, Astor VI’s half brother, passed away on February 1959 at the age of 67, Astor VI was very upset that Vincent did not include him in his testament. He even went to the extreme of challenging the will that Vincent wrote. On July 14, 1959, John Jacob Astor’s attorney, Harry H. Lipsig, appealed Vincent’s will claiming that Mrs. Brooke Russel, Vincent’s wife, and the executors of the estate, Luke B. Lockwood and Allan W. Betts, manipulated Vincent to change the testament. In order to settle the case out of court, Mrs. Brooks Russel paid Astor VI $250,000.
When John Jacob Astor VI died on June 26, 1992, he was finally united with Astor IV, the father that he longed to have during his life. Perhaps, in death he found the peace that he never found during his lifetime.