ASTOR FAMILY FORTUNE NOW GONE What began in 1783 and once was the largest personal fortune in the world has been completely squandered
The Astor money is finally gone
It was 1783 when John Jacob Astor came to Baltimore, then moved his fur-trading business to New York and created one of the great American fortunes. His fortune allegedly began when he took a huge risk by purchasing 10 tons of Turkish opium and smuggling it into the U.S., hiding it among pianos, furs and wood objects he imported. By 1800 he was worth $250,000 and was trading with China. In 1804 Astor purchased from Vice President Aaron Burr what remained of a 99-year lease on a huge tract of land in Manhattan for $62,500. Astor began subdividing the land into nearly 250 lots and subleased them, earning the moniker as “The Landlord of Manhattan.” The U.S. Embargo Act of 1807 nearly ruined his business but he bought favor with President Thomas Jefferson, who allowed him to resume trading in 1808. When he died in 1848 he left behind $20 million - an amount equal to $110 billion today. It was decades later in 1872 that descendant Caroline Astor, the Queen of Society in NYC & Newport, invited 400 people to her “Patriarch Ball” and gave the list to the NY Times which published it. One requirement to make the list was that you had to be at least the third generation of your family that did not have to work for a living. The last patriarch of Astor’s money was Brooke Astor who died in 2007 at 105 years old. Her son Anthony Marshall was accused, prosecuted & convicted for looting his mothers estate, taking advantage of her diminished capacity and stealing her money. After many court hearings an agreement was recently reached that gives Marshall $14 million, New York City Institutions $100 million and the Manhattan DA $12 million that it asked the court for in restitution for the drawn out case involving Brooke Astor’s disputed last Will. Her son Anthony, now 88, remains free on bail while his appeal process plays out. Her Park Avenue Apartment sold for $21 million in 2011 and her 27-room Holly Hills Country Estate in Westchester County sold for a mere $7 million at the bottom of the market in 2009. So it took some 162 years for this fortune to be squandered by generations of family members who never worked. The “400 List” that Caroline Astor started has been copied by Forbes, Quest and others who have used that number to list the richest in the world and the most socially prominent. The fortune that started it all is now gone.