<tr class=""><th scope="row" style="text-align:left; ">Children</th>
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Vincent Astor (1892–1959) Ava Alice Muriel Astor (1902–1956) John Jacob Astor VI (1912–1992)</td></tr><tr class=""><th scope="row" style="text-align:left; ">Parents</th>
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William Backhouse Astor, Jr. Caroline Webster Schermerhorn</td></tr><tr class=""><th scope="row" style="text-align:left; ">Relatives</th>
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John Jacob Astor, great-grandfather</td></tr><tr class=""><th scope="row" style="text-align:left; ">Family</th>
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John Jacob Astor IV (July 13, 1864 – April 15, 1912) was an American businessman, real estate builder, investor, inventor, writer, lieutenant colonel in the Spanish-American War and a member of the prominent Astor family. In April 1912, Astor earned a prominent place in history when he embarked on the ocean liner RMS Titanic, which sank four days into its maiden voyage after colliding with an iceberg. Astor was among the 1,514 people on board who did not survive. He was the richest passenger aboard the Titanic, and was considered to be the richest person in the world at that time.
Since divorce was considered a scandal back then, all in society were shocked when Astor announced that he would marry again. At the age of 47, he married 18-year-old Madeleine Talmage Force, the sister of Katherine Emmons Force. They were married in his mother's ballroom at Beechwood, the family's Newport, Rhode Island house. Madeleine was a year younger than Astor's son Vincent. The couple took an extended honeymoon in Europe and Egypt to wait for the gossip to calm down. Among the few Americans who did not spurn him at this time was Margaret Brown, later fictionalized as "The Unsinkable Molly Brown". She accompanied the Astors to Egypt and France and, by coincidence, was called home to the U.S. at the same time the Astors also found it necessary to abbreviate their touring.
Among Astor's accomplishments was A Journey in Other Worlds, an 1894 science fiction novel about life in the year 2000 on the planets Saturn and Jupiter. He also patented several inventions, including a bicycle brake in 1898, a "vibratory disintegrator" used to produce gas from peat moss, and a pneumatic road-improver, and helped develop a turbine engine. Astor made millions in real estate. In 1897, Astor built the Astoria Hotel, "the world’s most luxurious hotel", in New York City, adjoining the Waldorf Hotel owned by Astor’s cousin, William Waldorf Astor. The complex became known as the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, coincidentally becoming the host location to the U.S. inquiries into the sinking of the RMS Titanic, in which Astor was killed.
From 1894 to 1896, he was on the staff of GovernorLevi P. Morton. Shortly after the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898, Astor personally financed a volunteer artillery unit known as the Astor Battery, which saw service in the Philippines. Astor was appointed a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Volunteers and served as a staff officer in Cuba during the Santiago Campaign. During this time he allowed his yacht, the Nourmahal, to be used by the U.S. government. During the war, Astor appeared in the films President McKinley's Inspection of Camp Wikoff in 1898 and Col. John Jacob Astor, Staff and Veterans of the Spanish-American War in 1899.
His estate "Ferncliff," north of the town center of Rhinebeck, New York, with a mile and a half of Hudson river frontage in the picturesque Lower Hudson River Valley, had been purchased piecemeal by his father in the mid-19th century; Astor was born there. His father's Italianate house of 1864 was partly rebuilt in 1904 to designs by Stanford White of McKim, Mead, and White, retaining its conservative exterior, and a sports pavilion in Louis XVI style was added. The "Casino" or "Astor Courts" reportedly housed the first residential indoor swimming pool in the U.S., an indoor tennis court with vaulting of Guastavino tile, and guest bedrooms; in the lower level were a bowling alley and a shooting range. The estate, reduced to 50 acres (200,000 m2) and renamed "Astor Courts," eventually became a wedding venue. The wedding of Chelsea Clinton took place there on July 31, 2010.
While traveling, Madeleine became pregnant, and wanting the child born in the U.S., the Astors boarded the RMS Titanic on her maiden voyage to New York. They embarked in Cherbourg, France, in first class and were the wealthiest passengers aboard. Accompanying the Astors were Astor's valet, Victor Robbins; Madeleine's maid, Rosalie Bidois, and her nurse, Caroline Louise Endres. They also took their pet Airedale, Kitty. The Astors were deeply fond of their dog and had come close to losing her on a previous trip when she went missing in Egypt. Kitty did not survive the sinking.
A short while after the Titanic hit the iceberg that caused her to sink, Astor informed his wife of the collision, but reassured her that the damage did not appear to be serious. Some time later as the ship's lifeboats for first class were being manned, Astor remained unperturbed; he and his family played with the mechanical horses in the gymnasium. At some point Astor is thought to have sliced the lining of an extra lifebelt with a pen knife to show his wife its contents, either to prove that they were not of use or to reassure her that they were.
When Second Officer Charles Lightoller later arrived on A Deck to finish loading Lifeboat 4, Astor helped his wife, with her maid and nurse, into it. Astor then asked if he might join his wife because she was in 'a delicate condition'; however, Lightoller told him that men were not to be allowed to board until all the women and children had been loaded. After Lifeboat 4 was lowered at 1:55 am, Astor is said to have stood alone while others tried to free the remaining collapsible boats; he was last seen alive on the starboard bridge wing, smoking a cigarette with Jacques Futrelle. A mere half hour later, the ship disappeared beneath the ocean. Madeleine, her nurse and her maid survived. Astor and his valet, Victor Robbins, did not.
In the aftermath, ships were sent out to retrieve the bodies from the site of the sinking; of the 1,517 passengers and crew that perished in the sinking, only 333 bodies were ever recovered. Astor's body was recovered on April 22 by the steamer Mackay-Bennett, a cable-ship chartered by White Star Line (the Titanics shipping company). Astor was thought for years to have been killed by one of the ship's falling funnels because reports persist that his body was recovered in a mangled state, but all who examined his body maintained that it was in perfect condition with no bruising.
Astor was identified by the initials sewn on the label of his jacket. Among the items found on him was a gold pocket watch which his son, Vincent, claimed and wore the rest of his life.
NO. 124 – MALE – ESTIMATED AGE 50 – LIGHT HAIR & MOUSTACHE.
CLOTHING – Blue serge suit; blue handkerchief with "A.V."; belt with gold buckle; brown boots with red rubber soles; brown flannel shirt; "J.J.A." on back of collar.
EFFECTS – Gold watch; cuff links, gold with diamond; diamond ring with three stones; £225 in English notes; $2440 in notes; £5 in gold; 7s. in silver; 5 ten franc pieces; gold pencil; pocketbook.
Astor left $69 million of his $85 million estate ($2.08 billion in 2012 dollars) to his eldest son, Vincent. This value included his estate in Rhinebeck and his yacht, the Noma. To his wife Madeleine, he left a $5 million trust fund and an annual paycheck of $500,000, as well as use of his New York mansion 65th & Fifth Avenue, all its furnishings, and his Newport mansion Beechwood and all of its furnishings, pick of whichever luxury limo she wanted from his collection and five of his prized horses—as long as she did not remarry. His remaining child, Alice (who lived with her mother Ava), received a $10 million trust fund.Template:Citation needed
Astor's prominence led to the creation of many exaggerated and unsubstantiated accounts about his actions during the sinking of the Titanic. One story alleges that he opened Titanics kennel and released the dogs; in another, he placed a woman's hat on a boy to make sure the child was able to get into a lifeboat. Another legend claims that after the ship hit the iceberg, he quipped, "I asked for ice, but this is ridiculous." These stories appeared in newspapers, magazines, and even books about the sinking. In reality, none of the claims about Astor's actions were substantiated, as nobody who recognized him survived other than the women who boarded lifeboats relatively early on. Wade wrote that the ice joke is almost certainly apocryphal, as Astor was not known for making jokes, and that the story about the hat (like many other 'survivor stories' published shortly after the sinking) may have been invented by the reporter.
Astor's fame has made him a frequent character in films about Titanic. German actor Karl Schönböck played Astor in the 1943 Nazi propaganda film Titanic. William Johnstone played Astor in the 1953 film Titanic, and in the 1997 version of Titanic he was played by Eric Braeden, who was cast in the role due to a strong resemblance to Astor. In the 1997 film, he is instantly killed when the Grand Staircase's dome breaks, flooding the entire room. In the 1996 miniseries, he was played by Scott Hylands. Astor was also portrayed by David Janssen in the 1979 film S.O.S. Titanic. Astor was mentioned in the first episode of the ITV drama Downton Abbey as a good friend of Cora, the Countess of Grantham. Perennially, in the town of Astoria, Oregon (so named for Astor's great-grandfather), Astor IV is portrayed by a local amateur actor in street corner vignettes. He was played by Miles Richardson in the 2012 Titanic miniseries.
↑"John J. Astor 5th, 79. Son of Builder of Hotel". New York Times. June 27, 1992. http://www.nytimes.com/1992/06/27/obituaries/john-j-astor-5th-79-son-of-builder-of-hotel.html. Retrieved August 10, 2009. "John Jacob Astor 5th, a descendant of one of America's most fabled merchant princes, died yesterday at his home in Miami Beach. ... His father was John Jacob Astor 4th, a businessman and inventor, who built the Astoria Hotel in New York City that was later combined with the hotel next door to become the Waldorf-Astoria. His mother was the former Madeline Talmage Force of New York City. She was pregnant with him when she and her husband sailed on the Titanic. Her husband put her on a lifeboat and went down with the ship on April 15, 1912."