Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Astor, John Jacob (capitalist)

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ASTOR, John Jacob, capitalist, b. in New York city, 10 June, 1822; d. there, 22 Feb., 1890. He was graduated at Columbia, studied at Göttingen university, Germany, and afterward took the full course at Harvard law-school. After one year's practice he undertook, in 1847, to aid in the management of the Astor estate, which occupied most of his future life. He served in Virginia on the staff of Gen. McClellan with the rank of colonel, and later was brevetted brigadier-general of volunteers. He took an active interest in the Astor library, was treasurer of its board of trustees, and in 1879 deeded to it the three lots on which the northern wing of the present building was afterward erected by him. He also gave liberally to the library, and presented his collection of early books and rare manuscripts. To Trinity church, of which he was a member, he and his brother presented as a memorial to their father a sculptured reredos and altar costing $80,000. Mr. Astor also gave freely to the Cancer hospital, the Woman's hospital, and the Children's aid society, and in 1887 he presented to the Metropolitan museum of art his wife's collection of costly laces. He left bequests to St. Luke's hospital of $100,000, to the Metropolitan museum $50,000, to the Cancer hospital $100,000, and to the Astor library $450,000, bringing the family benefactions to the institution up to about to $1,500,000. By his father's will he received one half of the Astor estate, variously estimated to be worth from $100,000,000 to $150,000,000, and this share, with its large accumulations, he in turn bequeathed to his only son, William Waldorf Astor, who thus became the head of the family, and who has resided in England for several years. See address on “Mr. J. J. Astor and his American Ancestry,” by the Rev. Morgan Dix, S. T. D., in “The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record ” for July, 1891. — His wife, Charlotte Augusta, b. in New York city, 27 Feb., 1825; d. there, 12 Dec., 1887, was the daughter of Thomas S. Gibbs, a southern merchant, who had removed to New York. She was married to Mr. Astor on 9 Dec., 1846. Mrs. Astor was an active friend of the Children's aid society, and gave $225,000 to found the Cancer hospital. For twenty years she supported a German industrial school, and from 1872 till her death she was a manager of the Woman's hospital, besides taking an active part in the Niobrara league to aid the Indians and in many other charities. She bequeathed $150,000 to charitable organizations. — His nephew, John Jacob, b. in Rhinebeck, N. Y., 13 July, 1864, was graduated at Harvard in 1888, and in 1894-'6 served on the staff of Gov. Levi P. Morton with the rank of colonel. He is a member of numerous social and scientific organizations, and a director of various commercial and financial institutions. In 1897 he completed on Fifth avenue, New York, one of the largest, and probably the most costly hotel in the world, which he named the Astoria, after the settlement established at the mouth of the Columbia river by his great-grandfather in 1811 (q. v.) It is erected on the site of the residence of his father, William Astor (1830-'92), and adjoining the Waldorf hotel, erected by his cousin, William Waldorf, now a British subject, residing in London. Col. Astor served as a staff officer in Cuba during the Spanish-American war. He has invented a bicycle brake and a pneumatic road-improver, and is the author of “A Journey in Other Worlds” (New York, 1894).