Collier's New Encyclopedia (1921)/Astor, John Jacob (merchant)
ASTOR, JOHN JACOB, an American merchant, born in Waldorf, Germany, July 17, 1763. In 1783 he came to the United States and engaged in buying furs from the Indians and selling them to dealers. His success in the fur business led him to become the owner of a number of vessels in which he shipped furs to London and brought merchandise therefrom. In furtherance of a scheme for becoming independent of the Hudson Bay Company and establishing a thoroughly American system of fur trading, he sent out expeditions to open up intercourse with the Indians on the Pacific coast, by which the present city of Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia river in Oregon was planted in 1811. An interesting outline of his projects in this connection is given in Washington Irving's “Astoria.” Mr. Astor acquired large wealth, invested heavily in real estate in New York City; and at his death left a fortune estimated at $20,000,000, and the sum of $400,000, with which to found a public library in New York City. He died March 29, 1848.