Colonel John Jacob Astor IV
July 13th, 1864
Rhinebeck, New York
April 14, 1912
Colonel John Jacob Astor was born on July 13, 1864 in Rhinebeck, New York. He was the son of William Astor and great-grandson of John Jacob Astor who was a fur trader. Astor attended St. Paul's School, Concord and then Harvard University. After traveling abroad from 1888-1891, he returned to the USA to manage the family fortune. He owned homes at 840 Fifth Avenue, New York and another at Ferncliff, Rhinebeck, New York.
In 1894 he wrote a novel, A Journey to Other Worlds, which was a semi-scientific book. In 1898 he developed the bicycle brake. He also helped develop the turbine engine and invented a pneumatic road-improver. In 1897 Astor built the Astoria Hotel in New York which is part the Wardorf hotel, built by his cousin, William Waldorf Astor. It became known as the Waldorf-Astoria. He also had built 2 others, in 1905 the Hotel St. Regis and the Knickerbocker in 1906.
In 1898, Astor became Colonel-staff to General Levi P. Morton. At the time of the Spanish-American War, he was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. volunteers. He also let the U.S. government and provided the mountain battery of artillery to use against the Spanish.
On May 1st, 1891, Astor finally settled down and married Ava Willing, who was the daughter of Edward Shippen Willing of Philadelphia. They had 2 children, William Vincent Astor and Ava Alice Muriel Astor. Then, in 1909, Astor divorced Ava after 19 years of marriage. In 1911, 2 years later, Astor married eighteen-year-old, Madeleine Force. (This was interesting because she was a year younger than Astor's son, William.)
His badly crushed and spot-covered body was recovered on Monday, April 22 by the small ship, McKay-Bennett and they came to believe he was hit by a funnel. Here is the report they made:
"No. 124- Male- Estimated age 50 - Light hair and mustache."
"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 diamonds; diamond ring with three stones; 225 pounds in English notes; 2440 in notes; 5 pds in gold; 7s in silver; 5 ten franc pieces; gold pencil; pocketbook."
"First Class" "Name - J.J. Astor"
Here's a little on other relatives:
His Ex-wife, Ava Lowle Willing
Born: September 15, 1868
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 any children in this marriage either. 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.
Astor's son: William Vincent Astor
William Vincent Astor was married three times but when he died on February 3, 1959, he was childless. His widow, Mary Brooke (Russell) Astor, he nicknamed her "Pookie", is believed to still live in New York. She would be in her late 90's.
Astor's daughter: Ava Alice Muriel Astor
Ava married 4 times in her lifetime. Her first husband Prince Serge Obolensky, a former Czarist officer, then she married Raimund Von Hofmannath, an Australian writer, her third husband was Phillip Harding, a British journalist, and then, her final husband was David
Pleydell-Bouverie, who was a New York architect. All of these marriages ended in divorce. Ava, died on July 19, 1956 of a stroke and was only 54 years old. She has 4 children and they would be, Ivan Obolensky, Sylvia Von Hofmannsthal (now Sylvia Guirey), Romana Von Hofmannsthal (now Romana McEwan), and Emily Harding. All of them still live in New York City.