John Jacob Astor, IV

Colonel John Jacob Astor IV was born in Rhinebeck, New York on July 13th, 1864. He was the son of William Astor and the great-grandson of John Jacob Astor, the fur trader. Astor was educated at St. Paula's School, Concord and later went to Harvard. After a period of traveling abroad (1888-1891), he returned to the United States to manage the family fortune

With a net worth well over 87 million dollars, John Astor the Fourth was without a doubt the richest man aboard the Titanic. Backed by a powerful family fortune, Astor had made millions of his own investing in real estate. He also held patents on a number of items of his own invention, including an improved bicycle brake, and a turbine engine.

Astor led a fairly remarkable life. During the Spanish American war, Astor financed his own battalion. Before the war, he wrote a science fiction novel about life on other planets. He also invented a "vibratory disintegrator", which supposedly produced some sort of gas from peat moss.

On May 1st, 1891 Astor was married to Ava, daughter of Edward Shippen Willing of Philidelphia. Together they had a son and one daughter. In 1909 Astor divorced Ava.

   
William Vincent Astor and Ava Alice Astor

Two years later he married eighteen year old Madeleine Force (who was a year younger than his son, Vincent). Public opinion was divided concerning the respectability of Astor's actions, and the newlyweds decided to winter abroad in order to let the gossip die down at home.

The newlywed Mr. and Mrs. Astor travelled to Egypt and Paris and in the spring of 1912 decided to return to America as First-Class Passengers on board the Titanic.

They boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg with Colonel Astor's manservant, Mr. Victor Robbins (Cabin C-62), Mrs Astor's maid, Miss Rosadile Bidois and Miss Caroline Louise Endres, Mrs. Astor's private nurse (Cabin C-45) - and their pet Airedale Kitty. Their ticket #17754.

He boarded the ship with his pregnant 19 year old wife, (her age and condition was quite a point of conversation with other first class passengers), a maid, a manservant, a personal nurse, and a dog. His staterooms were without equal. With working fireplaces and adjoining quarters for servants, the suites cost $4,000.00, an amount that equals $50,000.00 in today's dollars.

After the iceberg hit the ship Astor left his suite to investigate. He quickly returned and reported to his wife that the ship had struck ice. He reassured her that the damage did not appear serious.

Later when the First-Class passengers had begun to congregate on the Boat-Deck, the Astors sat in the gymnasium on the mechanical horses.

They wore their lifebelts but Colonel Astor had found another and cut the lining with a pen knife to show his wife what it was made of.

Even as the lifeboats were loaded Astor appeared unperturbed, he ridiculed the idea of trading the solid decks of the Titanic for a small lifeboat 'We are safer here than on that little boat'. He had changed his mind by 1.45 a.m. when Second Officer Charles Lightoller arrived on A-Deck to finish loading Lifeboat #4. Astor helped his wife to climb through the windows of the enclosed ormenade and then asked if he could accompany her, due to her "delicate condition". Lightoller told him that no men could enter until all the women had been loaded. Taking the refusal in stride, Astor then threw his gloves to his wife, lit a cigarette and stood back. After boat 4 was lowered at 1.55 a.m. Astor stood alone while others tried to free the remaining collapsable lifeboats. He and his dog Kitty were last seen on deck.

A few days later, Astor's badly crushed body (#124) was found by the McKay-Bennett, floating in the open sea. It was covered in soot, and partially crushed, leading experts to believe he had been smashed by a falling smokestack. He had $2,500 cash in his pocket. It was described as:

NO. 124 - MALE - ESTIMATED AGE 50 - LIGHT HAIR AND MOUSTACHE CLOTHING - Blue serge suit; blue handkercheif with "A.V."; belt with gold buckle; brown boots with red rubber soles; brown flannel shirt; "J.A.A." on back of collar. EFFECTS - Gold watch; cuff links, gold with diamond; diamind ring with three stones 225 in English notes; $2,440 in notes; 5 in gold; 7s. in silver; 5 ten franc pieces; gold pencil; pocketbook. FIRST CLASS NAME - J.J. ASTOR

Burial was in the Astor Family vault in Trinity Cemetery (Westerly Division, Lots 743-786) Manhattan, New York.

Madeleine survived to inherit the income from a five-million-dollar trust fund from John and the use of his home on Fifth Avenue and in the Newport so long as she did not marry. On August 14th that same year, she gave birth to John Jacob Astor VI, with whom she was pregnant on the Titanic and who would grow up to become a millionaire playboy much like his father.

She relinquished the Astor income and mansions during World War I to marry William K. Dick of New York, and by him she had two more sons. She divorced Dick in Reno, Nevada in 1933 to marry Italian prize fighter Enzo Firemonte. Five years later this marriage also ended in divorce. She died in Palm Beach, Florida in 1940 at the age of 47.

   
Madeleine Astor

   
John Jacob Astor, VI

Whatever Happened To ...

Ava Lowle Willing

Ava Lowle Willing married John Jacob Astor in 1890. They were married in her home town of Philadelphia. They had two children together, William Vincent Astor and Ava Alice Muriel.

In 1909, after 19 years of marriage, the couple separated and then divorced the next year. Ava then went to live in England.

In 1919, she married Lord Thomas Lister of Riddlesdale. He died on October 21, 1925. Ava never remarried. She didn't have children in this marriage.

Ava continued to be known as Lady Riddlesdale until she died on June 9, 1958 in New York City. She left her son $25,000 and the rest of her $3,000,000 estate went to the four children of her daughter, Alice.

Vincent Astor

William Vincent Astor (he did not like to be called William, a long standing Astor name) was born on November 15, 1891 in the Fifth Avenue mansion where his grandmother, Caroline Astor, reigned over American Society. He was the son of John Jacob Astor IV and Ava Willing. Vincent endured a difficult childhood. His mother was embarrassed by his Astor appearance and would humiliate him in public. In addition his parent's marriage was less than perfect and they were divorced in 1909. While a student at Harvard University in 1912, he inherited an estimated $200 million when his father went down with the Titanic. At this time, his mother (who had remarried an English Lord) had returned to the United States to help her grieving son.

Vincent married the first of three wives, Helen Huntington, in April 1913. At the ceremony, Vincent was stricken with the mumps, a disease that made him sterile. At the outbreak of World War I, Vincent took advice from his friend and Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt and joined the Navy. He served overseas with his wife, who did charity work with the YMCA in France. Vincent was promoted from an Ensign to a Leuitenant during the War.

In 1940, Vincent divorced Helen and married Minnie Cushing. In 1953 they divorced and he married Brooke Russell Marshall. Vincent, along with Brooke, whom he called Pookie, developed the Vincent Astor Foundation, a foundation that was designed to give back to New York City. Vincent died in 1959 leaving all of his money to Brooke, surprising many. At the time of his death, Vincent was the chairman of the board of Newsweek magazine, and one of the richest men in American. John Jacob Astor VI, Vincent's half brother who was not yet born when the Titanic sank, contested Vincent's will. John Jacob lost his case, the two had never been on good terms.

He is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Tarrytown, New York.

Ava Alice Muriel Astor

The second child of JJ Astor and his first wife Ava was born July 7, 1902. Named Ava Alice Muriel Astor, she was always known as Alice; her actual parentage, however, remains uncertain, as she may or may not have actually belonged to Astor.

Ava Alice Muriel Astor was an occultist. She was born in 1902, was pretty but also a very serious woman. She was a very strong willed person that was able to dominate a person in her presence unless they were also strong willed. She was into Egyptian magic and believed she was the reincarnation of an Egyptian princess and a disciple of Ikhnaton. Alice Astor may have been one of the first people to enter King Tut's tomb, where she got herself a necklace. Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World as a picture of things that were to come --most people think as a expose, but it was really more as a plan or blueprint Aldous Huxley and Alice did a great deal of occult things together.

Ava married 4 times in her lifetime, all of which ended in divorce.

Her first husband Prince Serge Platonovich Obolensky, the Russian Prince who had been a page at the Tsar's court before he escaped the Revolution. They were married from 1924-1932.

She then married Raimund Von Hofmannsthal, an Australian writer in 1933 (divorced in 1939).

Her third husband was Phillip John Ryves Harding, a British journalist, in 1940.

Her final husband was David Pleydell-Bouverie, who was a New York architect. They were married in 1946 and divorced in 1952.

Ava, who had fought in the Second World War as an ambulance driver, died on July 19, 1956 of a stroke and was only 54 years old.

She had 4 children:

** Ivan Obolensky, born 1925
** Sylvia Obolensky (now Sylvia Guirey), born 1932
** Romana Von Hofmannsthal (now Romana McEwan), born 1935
** Alice Emily Harding, born 1947

All of them still live in New York City.


Alice Astor being drawn in a cart by her older brother Vincent Astor at the family estate

John Jacob Astor, VI

John Jacob Astor VI, born August 14, 1912 in New York, New York.

He was the son of John Jacob Astor IV (1864-1912) and Madeleine Talmadge Force (1893-1940), born without ever seeing his father who drowned when RMS Titanic sank on April 15, 1912. His parents had married on September 9, 1911 and were returning home aboard the ship after more than eight months honeymooning in Egypt and Europe. Madeleine Astor was five months pregnant when her husband put her in one of Titanic's lifeboats and she was rescued eight hours after her husband went down with the ship.

Under the term of her extremely wealthy husband's will, Madeleine Astor received very little from an estate estimated to be as much as $100 million. Provided she did not remarry, nineteen-year-old Madeleine Astor received the annual investment income from a five-million-dollar trust fund and the use of their homes on Fifth Avenue in New York City and in Newport, Rhode Island.

Because they were on their way home, and Mrs. Astor had conceived during their honeymoon abroad, no provision for the unborn child was made in his already set will. However, it is reported that their son received three million dollars at the age of maturity. The rest of her husband's estate was left to Vincent Astor, her late husband's son by his first wife.

John Jacob Astor VI graduated from St. George's School in Newport, and in 1934 married Ellen Tuck French, with whom he had one son, William Backhouse Astor, in 1935.

Three years after their 1943 divorce he married Gertrude Gretch. The couple had a daughter, Jacqueline Astor (born 1949), but their marriage also ended in divorce in 1954.

There was a third marriage in 1954 to Dolores Fullman, who predeceased him.

John Jacob Astor VI died in Miami Beach, Florida on June 26, 1992 at the age of 79. His body was returned to New York for burial with his parents in the Trinity Church Cemetery.



Return to Titanic Sitemap