John Jacob Astor IV Biography

John Jacob Astor IV, a prominent American businessman, financier, and investor, was a key figure in the construction of the renowned Astoria hotel. Unfortunately, his life was tragically cut short when he perished in the sinking of the RMS Titanic. Known as “Jack Ass” by the press of that era, Astor was widely recognized as one of the most influential businessmen in America. Hailing from the esteemed Astor family, his name would forever be etched in history due to his untimely demise aboard the ill-fated Titanic. At the time of the disaster, he was considered one of the wealthiest individuals in the world, with a net worth of approximately $87 million. Astor’s family roots can be traced back to his grandfather, who emigrated from Waldorf, Germany, and amassed a fortune through a thriving fur trade and various other ventures in New York. Born into one of the wealthiest families in the United States, Astor received a top-notch education, including attending Harvard, and extensively traveled the world before his tragic end.

Quick Facts

  • Died At Age: 47
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Ava Lowle Willing, Madeleine Astor
    • Father: William Backhouse Astor Jr.
    • Mother: Caroline Webster Schermerhorn Astor
    • Children: Ava Alice Muriel Astor, John Jacob Astor VI, Vincent Astor
  • Born Country: United States
  • Hoteliers
  • Real Estate Entrepreneurs
  • Died on: April 15, 1912
  • Place of death: Atlantic Ocean
  • Cause of Death: Drowning
  • U.S. State: New Yorkers
  • More Facts
  • Education: Harvard University

Childhood & Early Life

John Jacob Astor IV was born on 13th July, 1864 at Rhinebeck in New York. He was the great-grandson of John Jacob Astor whose fortunes earned him the distinction of being one of the wealthiest persons in America and thus John was brought up in an influential and rich family. He was the only son of William Backhouse Astor Jr. and his socialite wife Caroline Webster “Lina” Schemerhorn and the youngest of the couple’s five children. He had four elder sisters – Emily, Helen, Charlotte and Caroline. He initially attended St. Paul’s School at Concord, New Hampshire. John was called “Jack” by many and attended Harvard University. Thereafter, he started managing his family estate.


He had several accomplishments in his illustrious career. He wrote a science fiction novel ‘A Journey in Other Worlds’ (1894) about life in the year 2000 on the planets Saturn and Jupiter. Astor also patented several inventions, including a bicycle brake in 1898, a “vibratory disintegrator” and a pneumatic road-improver. He also helped in the development of turbine engine. Astor made great fortune in real estate and built the famous Astoria hotel in New York in the year 1897 which was considered as the most luxurious hotel in the world. It was located at a close proximity to his rival and Cousin William’s Waldorf Hotel. The complex was soon called the “Waldorf-Astoria Hotel”. On 10th January, 1899, John Jacob Astor IV became one of the early investors in the then newly created Tesla Motor Company. John had invested an amount of $100,000 in lieu of which he got 500 shares in the company and became one of the directors on the board. John Astor also constructed many other famous hotels in New York City that included the St. Regis Hotel and some even say that this was John’s biggest achievement.

Major Works

Astor was the author of a famous science fiction titled “A Journey in Other Worlds” that was published in the year 1894 and speaks about possibility of life on planets such as Jupiter and Saturn in the year 2000.

Personal Life & Legacy

John Astor’s first marriage was to Ava Lowle Willing and the couple got married in the year 1891. Though the couple had two children from this marriage (Vincent and Alice), apparently it was an unhappy marriage. John and Ava divorced in the year 1909 and he remarried just two years later in 1911 to Madeleine Talmage Force. The couple had a huge age difference between them and Madeleine was about 30 years younger than John Astor. Madeleine was only18 years old when she got married to John Astor. The newlywed couple had gone to Europe for a holiday and had made a fateful decision of returning to the United States of America on the RMS Titanic’s maiden voyage in the year 1912. On 14th April 1912, the Titanic collided with an iceberg at about 11:40 PM and unfortunately there were insufficient number of lifeboats compared to the number of passengers on board. However, Astor made sure that Madeleine, his pregnant wife was on one of these lifeboats and bid farewell to her as he stood on the sinking ship’s deck. On 15th April 1912, Astor drowned in the early hours of the morning and his wife Madeleine Astor paid a tribute to her dead husband by naming their newborn son John Jacob. Astor’s body was found much later and was buried in New York City in Trinity Church cemetery. Madeleine Astor gave birth to John Jacob Astor IV’s second son 4 months after the Titanic Sank.


In the year 1898, when war between Spain and USA started, John offered his yacht the “Nourmahal” to the U.S. Navy to help in the ongoing war. During this conflict, John Jacob Astor IV also served in the U.S. Army. John Astor and his young wife was on an extended honeymoon in Paris and Egypt in the spring of the year 1912 when they decided to return home all of a sudden as First Class Passengers in the ill-fated ship Titanic. Though John Jacob Astor VI came from a successful business family, he had a deep inclination towards literature, scientific invention and art. Astor wanted to accompany his pregnant wife while she was leaving the sinking ship Titanic but the officer-in-charge turned down his request.

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