John Jacob Astor IV

John Jacob Astor- London Illustrated NewsJohn Jacob Astor IV was born July 13, 1864 in Rhinebeck. The only son of William Backhouse Astor and Caroline nee Schermerhorn. John Jacob was one of five children; he had four sisters, his eldest sister, Emily, who was the first born, sadly died in 1881.

These are some official details from John Jacob Astorís birth and baptism records;


Child: John Jacob Reference ID: 1258

Birth Date: 13 Jul 1864

Bapt. Date: 3 Sep 1864

Parents: Wm. Astor; Caroline W.

Sponsors: Wm. B. Astor; John Jacob Astor; Mary A. Carey

Comment: recorded at Church of the Messiah, Rhinebeck

Source: Baptismal Record of Eight Episcopal Congregations of Old Rhinebeck: 1816-1899

Old Rhinebeck - Eight Episcopal Congregations: 1816-1899

Location: Towns of Red Hook & Rhinebeck, Dutchess County --- Denomination: Episcopal

William Backhouse Astor was born July 12, 1830. He was the second grandson of the original John Jacob Astor, the founder of the American Astor fortunes.

He married Miss Caroline Schermerhorn on September 23, 1853.

It is said that John Jacob IV father, William Backhouse, was not as keen a business man as his eldest brother, the previous family heir also known as John Jacob. The family estate being largely left in the hands of Williamís lawyer.

William was a man who rarely sought the limelight but can not be exactly described as boring. He took a very keen interest in athletic sports as well as Yachting and horse racing. He also was a breeder of very fine race horses.

Travelling around Europe was something he indulged in over the years, while the estate was, as has been mentioned already, largely in the hands of his lawyer. No harm seems to have come to the Astor millions though as John Jacob IV clearly inherited a massive fortune.

William is reported to have spent $20,000,000 during his lifetime, a vast amount even compared to these days. Much of this huge sum is said to have gone to charity, something that just a few of his close friends knew.
Apparently he was usually of good health and his death at the age of only 62 was a shock. He had been suffering from "congestion of the lungs" but it had not been deemed critical.

His mother was born Caroline Schermerhorn on September 22, 1830. Only slightly younger than her husband to be, William Backhouse.

Contemporary accounts say that she was a socialite, it seems in contrast to her husband. She is also said to be unhappy to mix with those she felt were not to her tastes. Apparently she considered herself to be ĎTheí Mrs. Astor, which as her husband William Backhouse was eventually the Astor family head, seems fair to me.

Caroline Astor

Caroline died on October 30, 1908, four years before her only son, John Jacob IV.

As can be seen, John Jacob grew up in a wealthy family. A family whose parents kept themselves occupied with a number of interests. I think it fair to say that his parents were a contrast to each other.

He attended St Paul's, a well known academy in Concord, New Hampshire. In the early 1880's he then attended Harvard.

From an early age he showed a very keen interest in things of a mechanical and scientific nature. It was said that he wanted to become an inventor. This proved to be true. Among a number of other inventions, John Jacob dreamed up the following: a patent bicycle brake, a pneumatic road scraper, a patent turbine and several other practical inventions.

He was also one of three who took a local interest in the "Keeley motor." Designed and built by one John Keeley in answer to the need for powerful engines for various industries. The Keeley motor was deeply controversial but despite cries for him to come clean over how it worked, Keeley came out with statements such as this: (it is) "a device which disintegrates the etheric (sic) force that controls the atomic constitution of matter." He eventually took its secrets to his grave.

Young John Jacob Astor IV was particularly interested in railroads, something that he carried into his manhood.

An interesting story tells of how young John Jacob persuaded his father, William, to allow him to take a journey on the North Pacific Railroad, at that time still under construction. When the train reached the end of the line, so far completed, John found out that the railroad was going to be continued over the Idaho and Montana mountains. He decided that he was going to find out exactly where it was going. So the young boy hired a stage coach, the only way to travel at that time, and took a journey through dangerous country, well known for bandits.

On hearing of the trip, Johnís father was said to be greatly worried, although he never scolded him. It seems William admired what his young son had done, maybe he thought it boded well for the future of the Astor family.

John Jacob Astor IV was an enthusiastic sportsman, maybe something he picked up from his father. Other pastimes of which he was fond were hunting large game, yachting and the driving and owning of automobiles. In fact he was once credited with the ownership of 20 automobiles at one time.

On April 25 1898 after a long running dispute with Spain over Cuba and the Philippines, America found itself at war with Spain, in what became to be known as the Spanish-American war. Although disputes with Spain dragged on for some time, the war itself lasted until only a short time. Spainís capitulation to the United States was signed on August 14, 1898.

At the beginning of the war John Jacob Astor IV was taken from "civil life" and received the rank of Colonel through being put on the staff of Governor Morton. Astor actually equipped a mounted battery at his own expense and presented it to the government. It was known as the Astor battery. He also volunteered to be, and was made, assistant inspector general of volunteers and served as an aid of General Shafter's staff.

On June 4, 1898 Colonel Astor and General Breckinridge carried out an inspection of the Third army corps, at Chickamauga National Military Park, Chattanooga.

Both Colonel Astor and General Breckinridge declared themselves pleased with how the men showed themselves during the exercises.
At about 2 pm on June 28, General Shafter, in charge of the invasion forces, arrived at Jaragua, Cuba, to inspect troops and find out first hand, how things were unfolding. Among his officers was Colonel John Jacob Astor.

July 6:- Colonel Astor was directly involved in an exchange of prisoners with the Spanish. The exchange took place near Santiago under a tree between the Spanish and American lines.

Colonel Astor and Lieutenant Miley, accompanied by an interpreter, were in charge of the prisoners to be exchanged. The Spanish prisoners were taken through the American lines mounted and blindfolded.

The meeting between Colonel Astor and the Spanish Major Irles was "extremely courteous, but very formal" neither person attempted to discuss anything other than the business at hand.

After Major Irles had taken his pick of those men he wished to take back with him he turned to Colonel Astor and, in a tone of courteousness but none the less defiant, said:

"Our understanding is, Gentlemen, that this truce comes to an end at 5 oíclock,"
Colonel Astor looked at his watch, bowed to the Spanish officer, without making a reply, and then started back slowly to the American lines, with Hobson and his companions following.

The so called Astor battery also took its part in the war. Indeed during the occupation of Manila, along with other American forces, it came under heavy fire and a number of men were lost.

After hostilities had ceased a war investigation commission investigated, among other things, the effectiveness of the new officers, among them Colonel John Jacob.

One of those called before the commission was General Shafter, who had been in charge of the invasion forces in Cuba.

Commission member, Governor Woodbury, asked General Shafter how the staff officers appointed from civil life had turned out and received the following reply:

John Jacob Astor IV"They were men as a rule who had no previous military experience and might not have been much use in executing a military manoeuvre. But I had three of them on my staff, and for carrying orders, distributing rations to the refugees and a thousand things, they were invaluable. Beginning with Colonel John Jacob Astor, who was perhaps the most inexperienced, they were splendid fellows, and did what they had to do. Astor fell in with the work, ate his beans and did his duty as cheerfully and expeditiously as though he had not a dollar."

The final word regarding the war I leave to the, North Adams Evening Transcript, dated, Thursday November 25, 1898. Note that John Jacob is described as Lieutenant Colonel, not the first time I have seen that title used. As for the rest of the article I think I sense a touch of sourness in its writer:

"The honourable discharge of Lieutenant Colonel John Jacob Astor from the army will force that gentleman to rely entirely for support upon his income from $100,000,000 worth of real estate and personal property."

On 17 February 1891, John married Ava Lowle Willing, of Philadelphia. Ava was born September 15, 1868 in Philadelphia. Daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Shippen Willing. Her family was also reputed to be wealthy and of good stock. Indeed it appears that the Willings were able to claim links with the French kings, Philip I, II and III, and Louis VI, VII and VIII.

Ava Lowle Willing

Ava Lowle Willing was considered to be a beautiful woman, with a round face and a oval chin with a dimple in it. Her hair was very dark, almost black and she had deep violet-blue eyes which were decorated with long dark lashes. She had a very sweet manner.
They were married at her father's house in Philadelphia. The New York Times gave a report of the wedding, which mentions the bridegroom wearing dark grey striped trousers, a long black frock coat, a full white silk cravat and pearl coloured gloves. He also wore a white orchid, Ava's favourite flower.
The brides gown was made in Paris. It was of a rich, heavy, creamy duchesse satin, with an immense train. The petticoat was edged with deep flowing point lace, caught up in festoons by small clusters of orange blossoms. The veil was of lace and long. Her bouquet was of white orchids edged with lilies of the valley. On the left of her corsage she wore a big cluster of diamonds.

It is said that the couple knelt down during part of the ceremony, as was usual in protestant Episcopal churches. The ring was not a heavy one, but the inside was inscribed with the bride and groom's names.

The wedding present from John Jacob's parents was that of a furnished house on Fifth Avenue, New York and a collection of magnificent diamonds. This was indeed, a wealthy family.

Fifth Avenue, A wedding present to John and AvaAccording to a contemporary news paper account the so called Bridal presents were estimated to be worth $2,000,000.

In the evening, the newlyweds arrived in Baltimore, Maryland. They occupied the bridal apartments at the Hotel Rennert. They left the following day.

Nine months later on 15 November, 1891 they became the parents of a strong, healthy ten pound baby, William Vincent Astor, who became known to all as Vincent. According to reports of the birth, John Jacob was too ill with a fever to be told of the arrival.

William Vincentís birth took place at the mansion of his grandfather, on Fifth Avenue Thirty fourth Street, New York, which is where the Waldorf Astoria Hotel was eventually built.

Sketch of Vincent as a boy

Although Vincent was described as delicate during his boyhood this does not seem to have stopped him having a full life and of taking his duties seriously. Vincent was to take responsibility of the family estate on the death of his father, John Jacob, at the age of only 20. So serious was he about managing things properly he ended his studies in order to devote enough time to family business matters.


Vincent was educated at Eaton and Harvard, where he progressed well in his studies. During his life he took a special interest in social movements and politics along with lighter things such as enjoying musical comedies.

A moderate cigar smoker and infrequent drinker he may have been, but he had a passion for cars, just like his father. I have to say that his driving was not moderate, he was repeatedly involved in motor crashes.

Also, like his father and his fatherís father, he took a keen interest in sports. He kindly donated prizes for the boys of New York public schools who took part in athletic events.

He married Helen Dinsmore Huntington on 20 April, 1914, a fraction over two years after his fatherís death.

Ava Alice Muriel AstorIn February 1902, a daughter, Ava Alice Muriel Astor was born to John Jacob and Ava. Ava Alice Muriel became the subject of a custody battle during the divorce of her parents.

Ava Alice had only just turned 10 when her father died. She was left $5,000,000 in her fatherís will, to be held in trust until she attained the age of 21.

Sadly the year 1909 saw the end of the marriage of John Jacob IV and Ava Lowle.

The reasons for the end of the marriage are, at the moment, unclear to me. However,

I have, in the course of researching for this article, come across a number of accounts that state Ava only married John Jacob because of his status. These accounts also state that she actually found him repulsive. As I have not, as yet, been able to satisfactorily check the statements made, I only wish to allude to them. It is also said that Ava was a domineering woman, prone to speaking down to John. Whatever the cause or causes, for someone to have sought divorce, particularly of John Jacob Astorís standing, in those days, there must have been very strong reason or reasons.

On November 9 1909 Ava Lowle won an interlocutory, or interim, divorce. It is said to have taken one minute for Justice Mills, of New York, to grant, and the papers were then sealed thus denying public knowledge of details unless those affected were to disclose them. Ava then had six months in which to request the divorce be made final, which she duly did. It was said at the time that Ava had been granted custody of their daughter Ava Muriel, while John Jacob took charge of Vincent.

March 5 1910 saw the granting of the Decree absolute in favour of Mrs Astor.

She is said to have been awarded the sum of $10,000,000, to be paid in one lump, either in cash or securities. John Jacob was also instructed to pay his former wife the sum of $300,000 per annum. This time, apparently, the papers were not sealed.

At the time the divorce settlement was the largest the world had seen. It is unclear what John Jacobís position was over his daughter, but either way his, now former, wife was granted custody, little Ava Muriel was just eight years old. John took custody of Vincent.

As was usual Ava Lowle was free to resume her maiden name and re-marry should she wish, but John Jacob was forbidden to legally re-marry in New York.

It would seem that whatever the reasons for the divorce, Ava Lowle had received a sympathetic hearing from the decision makers.

Sometime in 1910 Miss Madeleine Talmadge Force appeared in John Jacobís life.

She was eighteen years old. By all accounts and judging by photographs, Madeleine was indeed a beautiful young woman.

Madeleine was born on June 19, 1893 to Mr. William H. Force and Mrs. Katherine Talmadge Force.


Mr. William H. Force was said to be an active business man. He arrived early and worked ten hour days. He managed and directed the forwarding firm of W. H. Force & co. of Newport, Rhode Island.

On August 3, 1911 in Newport, Rhode Island, Madeleine and John announced their engagement. Madeleine was introduced to John Jacobís friends and, according to a contemporary news paper account, "She was formally received today at Newport, the social mecca of America".

The same newspaper also records the following;

"Although practically unknown to the Newport set the future Mrs. Astor was assured an enthusiastic welcome when Mrs. Ogden Mills, social arbiter of the sea side colony, openly expressed her warm approval of the engagement".

Mrs. Mills was later to say "I have met her and she is a lovely girl. When she arrives you will all like her as I do". This is seen as total acceptance of young Madeleine into Newport society.

It was also said that shortly before the announcement Colonel Astor and Miss Force took their first un-chaperoned luncheon together at the Hotel St. Regis. The lovers had dined there often, but up until that time, Madeleineís mother, her sister, Katherine or Colonel Astorís son, Vincent, had been present also.

It was apparent to many that John Jacob and Madeleine force where very much in love. The following is from the Syracuse Herald, dated August 3, 1911;

"Those who daily watched the party noted the fact that Colonel Astor was always on hand early and displayed great pleasure upon the arrival of his charming young sweetheart. These watchers now declare that he showed every symptom of being deeply smitten with the sweet-faced young girl."

I have noticed in a number of accounts, that acknowledgement was made of the affection and love shown by the couple to each other. Bearing in mind the nature of the times and that they were often frowned upon for their relationship, I was pleasantly surprised to find some well balanced and supportive articles.

Madeleine and John astor

As well as being extremely happy that he was engaged to his new, soon to be, wife, John Jacob had another reason to feel pleased.

For he had recently received the seal of approval from his future father in law, Mr. William H. Force. A reporter from the Syracuse Herald asked Mr. Force about his thoughts on the match. The following are the reporters questions and Williamís replies. I think you will agree that his answers are very clear.

Reporter: "Do you consider Colonel Astor a young man?"

Mr. Force: "Young?, why of course heís young, young in years, young in spirit"

Reporter: "Is that the reason your daughter decided to marry him?"

The article goes on to remark that, a faint smile played over the rather grim features of Mr. Force. He remarked good humouredly: "I will take this opportunity to state that my daughter is marrying Mr. Astor first, last and all the time because she loves him. She compares him to some of the other shallow minded, so called society men she has met, and need I say that the comparison is entirely to the benefit of Mr. Astor". Mr. Force is also stated as making it clear that he emphatically denies the rumour that he was opposed to the match, or that Colonel Astor was not willing to announce the engagement at this time. Adding: "Mr. Astor is perfectly acceptable to me. Because he is an American gentleman, a man every inch of him and not a manikin".

Plans for the wedding were well in hand. But because he was divorced John Jacob found it very hard to find an official to marry him. In the end two were persuaded, one as a standby. Also because Colonel Astor was forbidden to re-marry in New York the family home of Beechwood, Newport, Rhode Island was chosen, in great secrecy, as the marriage venue.

So, on the 9 September, 1911, Colonel John Jacob Astor IV and Miss Madeleine Talmadge Force became husband and wife.

The following extracts from the Syracuse Herald of September 10, 1911 give a very clear idea of the wedding and some of the surrounding events.

Special to the Syracuse Herald.

Newport, Sept. 9.--Miss Madeleine Talmage Force of New York became the bride of Col. John Jacob Astor, head of the famous American family of his name a few minutes after 9 oíclock this morning.

Although the ceremony was performed at Newport in the midst of the famed society leaders not one was present at the service. The marriage was performed in the beautiful white and gold ball room of Beechwood, the famous Astor show place.

The secrecy which marked the courtship and subsequent pre-nuptial arrangements of Miss Force and Col. Astor reached itís climax in the carrying out of the wedding plans.

Extra "chapel" engaged.

So carefully were the "inside" plans made that a room had even been engaged in an obscure hotel, where the ceremony would have been performed, if by some chance the Beechwood arrangements been revealed.

The clergyman who dared public opinion and displayed his independence by performing the ceremony is the Rev. Dr. Joseph Lambert, pastor of the Elmwood Temple Congregational Church, Providence. R. I.

Seemed devoted lovers.

The wedding scene impressed the witnesses with the belief that Colonel Astor and Madeleine Force were a pair of devoted lovers. As they met in front of the beautiful white marble fire place of the grand ball-room Miss Force was attended by her father, and Colonel Astor by his son Vincent. Her fiance fairly jumped to take her hand and they turned to face the minister, who stood there upon a huge red rug and underneath a great cutglass chandelier.

As Dr. Lambert began the ceremony, Colonel Astor dropped to his knees, gently drawing Miss Force with him. And in that posture they remained during the brief service.

Clasps bride tightly.

As Colonel Astor slipped the ring upon the finger of his new wife he lost his composure, slipped his arm about the girlish figure at his side and then clasped her tightly and kissed her.

Following the marriage the brides father made the following statement, carefully weighing each word as it was spoken and pleading that he be quoted exactly:

"In this marriage only the happiness of my daughter was considered. She and Colonel Astor are and have been very much in love. If they were not in love this marriage would not have occurred."

Immediately after the ceremony Colonel and Mrs. Astor boarded the Noma which quickly sailed.

Reserve clergy not needed.

The Rev. Edward S. Straight, known as the "carpenter preacher" was on hand, ready to act if required, but he was sent away just after the Rev. Mr. Lambert reached Beechwood. Another clergyman was also in reserve, the Rev. Mr. Roberts.

Immediately after the marriage, as he was rushing away to board his yacht Noma for his honeymoon voyage, Colonel Astor said: "Now that we are happily married I donít care how difficult divorce and remarriage laws are made.

"I sympathize heartily with the most straight laced people in most of their ideas, but believe remarriage should be possible, as marriage is the happiest condition for the individual and the community."

I have emboldened the above quote and separated it, because I feel it is very significant. The following is the rest of the article as it was in 1911.

As Colonel and Mrs. Astor sped away in the huge swift gray automobile toward the yacht landing, where the special launch was waiting to bear them across the bay to the yacht, he waved aside all questioners with the statement that W. A. Dobbyn, his confidential and business secretary would make public all the details.

Official statement issued.

Mr. Dobbyn then issued this formal statement:

"Colonel John Jacob Astor and Miss Madeleine T. Force were married at Newport to-day by the Rev. Joseph Lambert of the Elmwood Temple Congregational church of Providence.

"The bride was given away by her father, William H. Force. Miss Katherine Force, sister of the bride, acted as maid of honor and Vincent Astor was the best man.

"Those who witnessed the marriage were Mr. and Mrs. William H. Force, parents of the bride, Miss Katherine Force, sister of the bride, Mrs. Elder Vincent Astor, William P. Sheffield of Newport and W. A. Dobbyn of New York."

On board the Noma.

Within less than an hour from the time that they had gone ashore to be married Colonel Astor and his beautiful bride were aboard the Noma headed for the open sea.

Although everyone closely connected with Colonel Astor or the bride disclaimed any knowledge of the probable destination of the yacht it is generally believed that the honeymoon will be spent in the quietness of Ferncliff on the Hudson, the secluded ancestral estate of Colonel Astor.

It was shortly after 2 oíclock this morning when the Noma from New York, carrying Colonel Astor, Miss Madeleine Force, her sister, Miss Katherine Force, and William H. Force, the brides father, dropped anchor in the bay.

Mrs. Force, the brides mother, accompanied by Mrs. P. T. Elder, a personal friend, slipped into Newport and were driven to the Munchinger-King Inn.

In between these happy events a serious and potentially unpleasant one occurred. The following is from the same News paper;

Those aboard the yacht were astir early. The sky was heavily overcast with dark gray clouds and the old adage "Happy is the bride that the sun shines on" seemed likely to lack fulfilment for Madeleine Force. There was a cold penetrating twang to the salt air during the early morning that called for the overcoats and sweaters.

Whether the question of luck was involved or not, there went out from shore Deputy Sheriff Frank P. King, headed for the Noma just as the Astor-Force party sat down to breakfast at 8 oíclock. As soon as Colonel Astor was informed that he was sought by the process server he said he was ready to accept service.

Served with summons.

A summons was given him in a damage suit for $30,000 brought by Bridget McCrohan and her children. The action grows out of the death of Eugene F. McCrohan son of the woman who was killed at Beechwood in the summer of 1910, while doing some electric wire work on the estate at Beechwood.

Just a few minutes before 9 oíclock Colonel Astor, Miss Force and the others of the party went ashore. From an obscure spot two limousine automobiles dashed up, the party got in and hurried away. The carefully planned strategy worked out just as was intended and the newspaper men were left behind. Colonel Astor and party drove direct to the office of the town clerk.

Bride was flurried.

Colonel Astor appeared agitated, Miss Force somewhat unconcerned in appearance, kept her head in the air, apparently seeing no one. City clerk Fullerton had the licence all ready. This had been arranged by the Newport attorney.

It was not until the house was reached that the change as to the clergyman was known. The Rev. Dr. Lambert had been rushed from Providence.

The most striking feature of this marriage was its democratic simplicity.

Surrounded by all that is typical of the lavish display of wealth, in the one center of pleasure and fashion that American society has adapted, the bride and bridegroom and all with them brushed aside every convention.

No new clothes.

Miss Force wore a semi-hobble travelling gown of dark blue material. It was not new.

Colonel Astor wore the same business suit of blue chevlot, varied only by a thin pin stripe, by which he was so frequently recognized while making daily calls upon his fiancťe.

Witnesses of the ceremony to-day all noted that the only gem worn by the bride was the huge solitaire diamond in her engagement ring. All members of the little wedding party wore their street clothes.

Miss Katherine Force, sister of the little bride, was dressed in black which fitted closely to her trim figure. She wore a huge white polo coat and a wide brimmed velvet hat to match. Mrs. William H. Force, the mother, wore black lace over white silk and a large black hat. Mrs. Elder, a friend of the brides mother, was attired in a gray walking suit.

Two other noteworthy events regard the two preachers. The standby preacher, The Rev. Edwin Straight, known as the Ďcarpenter preacherí, was clearly upset that he was not used. This makes me wonder if he knew he was a standby. From the Syracuse Herald;

The Rev. Edwin Straight, the "carpenter preacher" who went to Newport last night to be in readiness to perform the ceremony, is chagrined over what he declared was bad treatment. He arrived home at noon. He had been at Newport all night, staying at a hotel waiting to be called to the Astor residence.

"I am pained, humiliated and distressed over the treatment accorded me," said Mr. Straight, "I shall have something to say later about it too. I feel that I have been made a cats paw,"

The other event that I feel should be highlighted is that involving the Preacher who did carry out the marriage ceremony, Rev. Dr. Joseph Lambert, pastor of the Elmwood Temple Congregational Church, Providence, Rhode Island.

Here is a quote included in the Syracuse Herald from the Rev. Edward T. Root;

Congregational church circles in this city are greatly stirred over the announcement that Mr. Lambert tied the wedding knot. The Rev. Edward T. Root, head of the Rhode Island federation of churches, said:

"I think the whole matter is disgraceful. I suppose it was the question of $1,000. It must have been the money that made him do it."

Mr. Lambert may be asked to resign.

Soon after the wedding the newlyweds headed to Europe for their honeymoon. Eventually boarding the Titanic, which was on its maiden voyage, at Cherbourg, France, in order to return home. Many seemed to have thought that the trip abroad was also taken in order to escape from public gaze for a while thus allowing gossip and intrusion into their affairs to die down.

Some also thought the Astorís were returning early, so that Colonel Astor could make changes to his will. He had already made some changes reflecting the fact that he now had a new wife, but it appears he wanted to add or strengthen the provisions.

This makes sense in the light of the fact that Madeleine was now pregnant with John Jacobís child.

I feel the Titanic story is very well covered and much has been written that includes details of what John and Madeleine apparently did on board. I have decided not to go into great detail here because of this, but am adding a few things which I feel warrant a particular mention.

They boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg. With the couple traveled Johnís manservant, Mr. Victor Robbins. Victor was married with children at the time and he had been with Colonel Astor for at least five years. Victor perished in the sinking.

As well as Mr. Robbins there was Madeleineís maid, Miss Rosalie Bidois, her private nurse, Miss Caroline Louise Endres and the coupleís pet dog an Airedale called Kitty.

They occupied cabin numbers C62-64.

John Jacob Astor

On the night of the sinking, April 14-15, 1912, John Jacob is reported by many to have remained calm, he is also said to have helped many into lifeboats.

At one point, apparently to help keep his young wife calm, he was seen sitting in the gym cutting into a lifejacket so that he could show her what kept it afloat.

When it came to the time for Madeleine to enter a boat herself John is said to have asked if it was possible to travel with his pregnant wife, but upon refusal he did not create a fuss. After saying farewell to his wife for the last time, he stepped back.

He is recorded by some, such as fellow passenger Archibald Gracie, to have been seen standing alone have a quiet smoke.

Before Colonel Astorís body was found, members of his family, including his son, Vincent, had apparently been planning to have the wreck blown up in order, it was hoped, to release Colonel Astorís body.

However, on April 23 his corpse which had been found by the cable ship, Mackay-Bennett, was identified. Numbered as 124, it was eventually returned to his family for burial in the family plot.

From the Wintoba free press;

New York, May 6. Funeral services over the body of John Jacob Astor, one of the victims of the Titanic disaster, were performed Saturday in the little Episcopal church of the Messiah, at Rhinecliffe on the Hudson, Rev. Dr. Saunders, rector of the church, officiated, assisted by Rev. Dr. W. T. Manning rector of Trinity, New York.

Mrs. Ava Willing Astor, Colonel Astorís first wife, did not go to Rhineland, the Astor home. After the services the body brought to this city where internment took place in Trinity cemetery on Washington Heights. Mrs. Madeleine Force Astor went to the grave with the other mourners.

Several contemporary sources mention the displays of weeping and sadness among those who knew John Jacob, not least of all his son, Vincent, I am aware that a newspaper is hardly likely to say otherwise, but in this case I do believe it to be true.

Eventually Colonel Astorís will was executed on 18 September 1911. To his son, Vincent, he left;

a) All the lands and personal property at Rhinebeck, N.Y, over which the testator was given a power of appointment by his father's will.

(b) All the lands and personal property at Rhinebeck which belonged to him absolutely at the time of his death.

(c) The house and grounds at Newport, R.I with all personal property therein over which he had a power of appointment under his father's will

(d) All the pictures and statuary left to him for life by his fatherís will with power of appointment

(e) All his jewellery wearing apparel, personal effects, yachts and boats

To his wife, Madeleine Talmadge Force Astor, He left the Town house and stable at Fifth Avenue and Sixty-fifth street, together with the books, paintings, pictures, engravings, marbles, bronzes statuary and objects of art plate and silver-plated ware linen, china glass, household effects useful and ornamental therein contained and now herein above disposed of to have and to hold the same for so long during her life as she shall remain his widow. Upon her death or remarriage all this property is bequeathed to the testator's son, William Vincent Astor.

Also for his wife, he left a trust fund of $5,000,000 she was to have this for the rest of her life so long as she remained his widow. Upon her death or remarriage, the money would go to William Vincent Astor.

He also left her a outright legacy of $100,000 payable immediately on the event of his death and all horses and other live stock, and all carriages and harness and stable furniture and all automobiles and all provisions and supplies belonging to him at the time of his death.

His daughter, Ava Alice Muriel Astor was left a trust fund of $5,000,000. During her minority, the trustee's were to determine how much she should have for her maintenance and education. Once she reached majority, she received the absolute sum of money.

A trust fund of $3,000,000 was to be given to any child who survived him other than his two children, William Vincent Astor and Ava Alice Muriel Astor. The child would attain the money up reaching majority (21 years of age.)

Astor also left various amounts of money to his employee's. He also left a reasonable sum of money to St. Paul's school in Concord, New Hampshire.
As can be seen, John had fortunately had the foresight to include something for future children not yet born.

There was much talk of his first wife being left out of the will but on reflection I feel she had received a very good settlement from the divorce.

I hope you find this short biography interesting, I will be looking to add to it as and when other things are brought to my attention or come to light.

Graham Fox June 7 2006


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1870 United States Census, New York



William Astor 40  Male  New York  At Home 
Caroline Astor 40  Female  New York  Keeping House 
Caroline Schermerhorn 75  Female  New York At Home 
Emily Astor 16  Female New York   
Helen Astor 14  Female  New York   
Augusta Astor  12  Female New York   
Caroline Astor  Female  New York   
John Astor  Male  New York   
Emma Butterworth  50  Female  Germany  Domestic Servant 
Minnie Stonemaw  35  Female  Germany  Domestic Servant 
Rosina McGuire  50  Female  Ireland  Domestic Servant 
Mary Donahue  40  Female  Ireland  Domestic Servant 
Margaret O'Brien  30  Female  Ireland  Domestic Servant 
Sarah Marrow  30  Female  Ireland  Domestic Servant 
Ann Morris  20  Female  Ireland  Domestic Service 
James Cohen  26  Male  Ireland  Domestic Servant 


1910 United States Federal Census, Rhinebeck, Duchess, New York.

 John Astor Head   Male 45  Divorced  New York  New York  New York  Own Income 
Vincent Astor  Son  Male  17  Single  New York  New York  New York  Own Income 
Annie Connelley   Servant Female  24  Single  New York  New York  New York  Laundress 
Agnes Brown  Servant  Female  48  Widow  England  England  England  Chamber Maid 
Florence Lewis Servant  Female  27  Single  England  England  England  Parlor Maid 
Annie Fletcher  Servant  Female  46  Married  New York  England  England  Cook 
Ellie Connor  Servant  Female  23  Single  Ireland  Ireland  Ireland  Kitchen Maid 
Thomas Enright   Servant  Male  42  Single  England  Ireland  Ireland  Valet 
William Duel Servant  Male  25  Single   New York  Canada Canada  Groom 


Astor Family Tree

John Jacob Astor
1 John (Johann) Jacob Astor was born 17-07-1763 in Walldorf, Heidelberg, Germany. John Jacob died 29-03-1848 in New York, New York, 84 years old. John married,when he was 22 years old, in 1785 to Sarah Todd, who was 23 years old. Sarah was born in 1762 in Walldorf, Heidelberg, Germany, daughter of Adam Todd and Sarah Cox. Sarah died in 1834, 72 years old.

Children of John Jacob and Sarah:
1 Magdalen Astor, born in 1788.
2 Sarah Astor, born in 1790. Sarah died in about 1790.
3 John Jacob II Astor, born in 1791. John Jacob II died in 1869, 78 years old.
4 William Backhouse Astor, born 10-09-1792 in New York, New York.
5 Dorothea Astor, born 11-01-1795.
6 Henry Astor, born in 1797. Henry died in 1799, 2 year old.
7 Eliza Astor, born in 1801.
8 No name Astor, born in 1802. No name died in 1802, 0 days old.

1.1 Magdalen Astor born in 1788, daughter of John Jacob Astor and Sarah Todd. Magdalen died in 1832, 44 years old. Magdalen:
(1) married, aged 19 years old, in 1807 to Adrian Bentzon.
(2) married,aged 32 years old, in 1820 with John Bristed, who was 42 years old. John was born in 1778. John died in 1855, 77 years old.

Children of Magdalen and Adrian:
1 John Jacob Astor Bentzon, born in 1818.
2 Charles Astor Bentzon, born in 1820.

1.2 William Backhouse Astor was born 10-09-1792 in New York, New York, son of John Jacob Astor and Sarah Todd. William Backhouse died 24-11-1875 in New York, New York, 83 years old. William Backhouse married, aged 26 years old, in 1818 in New York, New York to Margaret Rebecca Armstrong, who was 20 years old. Margaret Rebecca was born in 1798 in New York, daughter of John Armstrong and Alida Livingston. Margaret Rebecca died in 1872, 74 years old.

Children of William Backhouse and Margaret Rebecca:
1 Emily Astor, born in 1819 in New York City, New York.
2 John Jacob III Astor, born 10-06-1822 in New York, New York.
3 Laura Astor, born in 1824.
4 Alida Astor, born in 1826.
5 William Backhouse JR. Astor, born 12-07-1829 in New York.
6 Henry Astor, born in 1830.
7 Sarah Astor, born in 1832. Sarah died in 1832, 0 days old.

1.2.1 Emily Astor born in 1819 in New York City, New York, daughter of William Backhouse Astor and Margaret Rebecca Armstrong. Emily died in 1841, 22 years old. Emily married  Samuel IV Ward. Samuel IV is born in 1814. Samuel IV died in 1884, 70 years old.

1.2.2 John Jacob III Astor born 10-06-1822 in New York, New York, son of William Backhouse Astor and Margaret Rebecca Armstrong. John Jacob III died 22-02-1890 in New York, New York, 67 year old. John Jacob III married,aged  24 year old, in 1846 to Charlotte Augusta Gibbs, who was 24 years old. Charlotte Augusta was born in 1822 in New York, New York, daughter of Thomas Stanyarne Gibbes. Charlotte Augusta died in   1887, 65 years old.

Child of John Jacob III and Charlotte Augusta:
1 William Waldorf Astor, born 31-03-1848 in New York, New York. William Waldorf Astor born 31-03-1848 in New York, New York, son of John Jacob III Astor and Charlotte Augusta Gibbes. William Waldorf died 18-10-1919 in Western House, Brighton, Sussex, England, 71 year old. He is buried 22-10-1919 at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire, England. William Waldorf married Mary Dahlgren Paul. Mary Dahlgren was born in 1854 in Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, daughter of James W. Paul. Mary Dahlgren died 22-12-1894, 40 years old.

Children of William Waldorf and Mary Dahlgren:
1 William Waldorf II Astor, born 18-05-1879 in New York, New York, New York, USA.
2 Pauline Astor, born in 1880.
3 John Rudolph Astor, born in 1881. John Rudolph died in 1881, 0 days old.
4 John Jacob V Astor, born 20-05-1886 in New York City, New York, Ny.
5 Gwendolyn Enid Astor, born in 1889. Gwendolyn Enid died in 1902, 13  year old. William Waldorf II Astor born 18-05-1879 in New York, New York, New York, USA, son of William Waldorf Astor and Mary Dahlgren Paul. William Waldorf II died 30-09-1952 in Cliveden, Buckinghamshire, England, 73 year old. William Waldorf II married, 26 year old, 03-05-1906 in London, England with Nancy Witcher Langhorne, 26 year old. Nancy Witcher was born 19-05-1879 in Danville, Virginia, USA. Nancy Witcher died 02-05-1964 in Grimsthorpe, England, 84 year old.

Children of William Waldorf II and Nancy Witcher:
1 William Waldorf III (Bill) Astor, born 13-08-1907 in England.
2 Nancy Phyllis Louise Astor, born in 1909. Nancy Phyllis Louise died in 1975, 66 year old.
3 Francis David Langhorne Astor, born 05-03-1912 in London, UK.
4 Michael LANGHORNE Astor, born 10-04-1916 in England.
5 John Jacob VII Astor, born in 1918
. William Waldorf III (Bill) Astor born 13-08-1907 in England, son of William Waldorf II Astor and Nancy Witcher Langhorne. Bill died 07-03-1966, 58 years old (heart attack). Bill:
(1) married, aged 38 years old, in 1945 to Sarah Kathleen Elinor Norton. 
Divorce in 1953.
(2) married, aged 48 years old, in 1955 with Phillipa Victoria Hunloke.
Divorce in 1960.
(3) married, aged 53 years old, in 1960 with Janet Bronwen Alun Pugh. Francis David Langhorne Astor born 05-03-1912 in London, UK, son of William Waldorf II Astor and Nancy Witcher Langhorne. Francis David Langhorne died 07-12-2001 in London, UK, 89 years old. Buried at All Saintsī Churchyard, Sutton Courtenay, Oxfordshire. Francis David Langhorne:
(1) married, 33 year old, in 1945 with Melanie Hauser. Divorce in 1951.
(2) married, 40 year old, in 1952 with Bridget Aphra Wreford. Divorce in 2001. Michael LANGHORNE Astor born 10-04-1916 in England, son of William Waldorf II Astor and Nancy Witcher Langhorne. Michael LANGHORNE died 28-02-1980, 63 year old. Michael LANGHORNE:
(1) married,aged 26 year old, in 1942 with Barbara McNeill. Divorce in 1961.
(2) married, 45 year old, in 1961 with Pandora Clifford. Divorce in 1968.
(3) married, 54 year old, in 1970 with Judith Innes. Divorce in 1980. Pauline Astor born in 1880, daughter of William Waldorf Astor and Mary Dahlgren Paul. Pauline died in 1972, 92 years old. Pauline married,aged 24 years old, 29-10-1904 with Herbert Henry Spender-Clay,who was 29 years old. Herbert Henry was born 04-06-1875. Herbert Henry died 1937, 62 years old.

Children of Pauline and Herbert Henry:
1 Phyllis Mary (Lady) Spender-Clay, born 04-10-1905.
2 Rachel Pauline Spender-Clay, born 19-01-1907 *** John Jacob V Astor born 20-05-1886 in New York City, New York, Ny, son of William Waldorf Astor and Mary Dahlgren Paul. John Jacob V died 19-07-1971 in Cannes, France, 85 year old. John Jacob V married,aged 30 years old, 28-08-1916 with Violet Mary (Lady) Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound, who was 27 year old. Violet Mary born on 28-05-1889. she died 03-01-1965, 75 years old.

Child of John Jacob V and Violet Mary:
1 Gavin Astor, born 01-06-1918. Gavin Astor born 01-06-1918, son of John Jacob V Astor and Violet Mary (Lady) Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound. Gavin died 1984, 66 year old. Gavin married Irene Violet Freesia Janet Augusta Haig. Irene Violet Freesia Janet Augusta is born 07-10-1919. Irene Violet Freesia Janet Augusta died 2001, 82 years old.

1.2.3 Laura Astor born 1824, daughter of William Backhouse Astor and Margaret Rebecca Armstrong. Laura died in 1902, 78 year old. Laura married Franklin H. Delano.

1.2.4 Alida Astor born 1826, daughter of William Backhouse Astor and Margaret Rebecca Armstrong. Alida died 25-04-1881, 55 year old. Alida married John Jr. Carey.

Children of Alida and John Jr:
1 Margaret Carey.
2 Arthur Astor Carey.
3 Henry Carey.

1.2.5 William Backhouse JR. Astor born 12-07-1829 in New York, son of William Backhouse Astor and Margaret Rebecca Armstrong. William Backhouse JR. died 15-04-1892, 62 year old. William Backhouse JR. married, 24 year old, 20-09-1853 with Caroline Webster Schermerhorn, 22 year old. Caroline Webster is born 22-09-1830 in New York, N.Y., U.S, daughter of Abraham Schermerhorn. Caroline Webster died 30-10-1908 in New York City, 78 year old.

Children of William Backhouse JR. and Caroline Webster:
1 Emily Astor, born in 1854.
2 Helen Schermerhorn Astor, born in 1855.
3 Charlotte Augusta Astor, born in 1858.
4 Caroline Schermerhorn Astor, born in 1861.
5 John Jacob IV (colonel) Astor, born 13-07-1864 in Rhinebeck, New York. Emily Astor is born in 1854, daughter of William Backhouse JR. Astor and Caroline Webster Schermerhorn. Emily died in 1881, 27 year old. Emily married James J. Van Alen. James J. is born in 1850.

Children of Emily and James J.:
1 Sarah Van Alen.
2 Lawrence Van Aalen.
3 Mary Van Alen, born in 1876. Died in 1959, 83 year old. Helen Schermerhorn Astor born in 1855, daughter of William Backhouse JR. Astor and Caroline Webster Schermerhorn. Helen Schermerhorn died in 1893, 38 year old. Helen Schermerhorn married with James Roosevelt Roosevelt. James is born in 1854, son of James Roosevelt Roosevelt and Rebecca Brien Howland. James died in 1927, 73 year old. James was the half-brother of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Children of Helen Schermerhorn and James:
1 James Roosevelt, born in 1879. James died in 1958, 79 year old.
2 Helen Rebecca Roosevelt, born in 1881. Helen Rebecca died in 1962, 81 year old.
3 Tad Roosevelt, born +/- 1882. Charlotte Augusta Astor is born in 1858, daughter of William Backhouse JR. Astor and Caroline Webster Schermerhorn. Charlotte Augusta died in 1920, 62 year old. Charlotte Augusta:
(1) married with George Ogilvy Haig.
(2) married with James Coleman Drayton. James Coleman is born in 1854.

Child of Charlotte Augusta and James Coleman:
1 Caroline Astor Drayton
. Caroline Schermerhorn Astor is born in 1861, daughter of William Backhouse JR. Astor and Caroline Webster Schermerhorn. Caroline Schermerhorn died in 1948, 87 year old. Caroline Schermerhorn married with Marshall Orme Wilson. Marshall Orme is born +/- 1857.

Child of Caroline Schermerhorn and Marshall Orme:
1 Marshall Orme II Wilson, born in 1885. Marshall Orme II died in 1966, 81 year old. John Jacob IV (colonel) Astor is born 13-07-1864 in Rhinebeck, New York, son of William Backhouse JR. Astor and Caroline Webster Schermerhorn. John Jacob IV died 15-04-1912, 47 jaar oud. John Jacob IV:
 (1) married, 26 year old, 17-02-1891 with Ava Lowle Willing. Daughter of Edward Shippen Willing and Alice C. Barton.
(2) married, 47 year old, in 1911 in Beechwood Mansions, Newport, NY with Madeleine Talmage Force, 18 years old. Madeleine Talmage was born in 1893, daughter of William Hurlbut Force and Katherine Arvilla Talmage. Madeleine Talmage died in 1940 in Florida, 47 years old.

Children of John Jacob IV and Lowle:
1 William Vincent Astor, born op 15-11-1891. 
2 Ava Alice Muriel Astor, born in 1902.

Child of John Jacob IV and Madeleine Talmage:
1 John Jacob VI Astor, born 14-08-1912. William Vincent Astor is born 15-11-1891, son of John Jacob IV Astor and Ava Lowle. Vincent died 03-02-1959, 67 years old. Vincent:
(1) married, aged 22 years old, 30-04-1914 with Helen Dinsmore Huntington. Divorce in 1939.
(2) married, aged 48 years old, in 1939 with Mary Benedict (Minnie) Cushing.  Divorce in 1953. Minnie died in 1978.
(3) married, aged 62 years old, in 1953 with Roberta Brooke Russell, 51 year old. Roberta Brooke is born 30-03-1902 in Portsmouth, Rockingham Co., NH Co., NY. Ava Alice Muriel Astor was born in 1902, daughter of John Jacob IV Astor and Ava Lowle Willing. Ava Alice Muriel:
(1) married with Serge Obolensky.
(2) married with Raimund Von Hoffmannsthal. John Jacob VI Astor is born 14-08-1912, son of John Jacob IV Astor and Madeleine Talmage Force. John Jacob VI died 26-06-1992, 79 years old. John Jacob VI married, 22 year old, in 1934 with Ellen Tuck French.

 Children of John Jacob VI and Ellen Tuck:
1 Living Astor.
2 Living Astor.
3 Caroline Fisk Astor.
4 William Astor, born in 1935

1.2.6 Henry Astor is born in 1830, son of William Backhouse Astor and Margaret Rebecca Armstrong. Henry died in 1918, 88 year old. Henry married with Malvina Dinehart.

1.3 Dorothea Astor is born 11-01-1795, daughter of John Jacob Astor and Sarah Todd. Dorothea died in 1853, 58 year old. Dorothea married, 17 year old, 24-09-1812 in New York, New York with Walter Langdon.

Children of Dorothea and Walter:
1 Sarah Shelburne, born in 1814.
2 John Langdon, born in 1816. Died in 1837, 21 year old.
3 Eliza Langdon, born in 1818.
4 Louisa Dorothea Langdon, born in 1820.
5 Walter Langdon, born in 1822.
6 Woodbury Langdon, born 06-04-1824.
7 Cecilia Langdon, born in 1827.
8 Eugene Langdon, born in 1830. Died in 1866, 36 years old.

1.4 Eliza Astor was born in 1801, daughter of John Jacob Astor and Sarah Todd. Eliza died in 1838, 37 years old. Eliza married Vincent Rumpff.

*** Rachel Pauline Spender-Clay (born 19-01-1907), married David BOWES-LYON. He was a son of the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne and a brother of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.



This Family Tree was Comiled by Marie-Anne


 References and Sources

  • Middleton daily Times April 27 1892;- his fathers death and family info.
  • The Lima News July 1929. His interest in science etc.Journey on railroad.
  • Keeley motor item from 'John Keeley's Mystery Motor
    By Ronald Barker
    Apr 2, 2005' as quoted on web site Unexplainable.net
  • American Library of Congress. Info. on Spanish-American war.
  • Spanish American war, centenary website. Shown as Lt. Col.
    WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060. Info. on the Spanish-American war
  • The Evening Democrat, Saturday, June 4, 1898. Astor troop inspection.
  • The North Adams Evening Transcript, Thursday November 25, 1898. Astor
    battery under fire. JJ's discharge.
  • The News. Fredercick Maryland, Wednesday, December 21, 1898. Report on
    effectiveness of officrs drawn from civil life.
  • Other contemporary news papers. Span-Am war
  • Colorado Springs Gazette, Sunday 29, November 1908. Ava's pedigree.
  • Bucks County Gazzette, 19, February 1908. $2,000,000 wedding present
    estimate. JJ and AW.
  • Lima Daily News, Tuesday, April 30th 1914. Info. on Vincent.
  • The Syracuse Herald,   1912-05-07  . Ava Alice Muriel inheritance money.
  • Contemporary 1909 news paper articles regarding 1909 interlocutary divorce.
  • Contemporary 1910 news paper article regarding 1910 final divorce.
  • Titanic, Women and children first. By Judith Geller published in 1998. ISBN 1 85260 594 4  Information on Ava Lowle's character.
  • The Syracuse Herald, August 3, 1911. Information regarding Mr W. H. Force's
  • The Syracuse Herald, August 3, 1911. Information regarding the engagement,
    Madeleine's introduction to J.J's freinds, certain social acceptance, her
    fathers approval of the relationship and of John.
  • The Syracuse Herald. Syracuse N. Y, Sunday morning. September 10, 1911. The
    JJ/MT wedding and surrounding events.
  • Contemporary newspaper accounts regarding reasons for returning from
  • Information regarding Titanic was drawn and cross refferenced from a
    numberof sources.
  • Daily Review. Info. on finding of John's body.
  • Public archives of Nova Scotia web site Public Archives Of Nova Scotia Body I.D number.
  • The will provisions came from information supplied and are also contained in
    mumerous contemporary newspaper accounts.
  • Picture of John Jacob in Automobile - Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-USZ62-50027

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