John Jacob Astor
famous American businessman

1763 - 1848

John Jacob Astor was a famous American businessman. He built a large fortune through his involvement in the fur trade and through his extensive real estate investments in New York. The investments increased in value over the years, and Astor's family became one of the wealthiest in the United States.

Astor was born in Walldorf, Germany, near Heidelberg. He came to New York City when he was 20 years old. There, he worked as a baker's boy and peddler and ran a music store before entering the fur trade in about 1787. He shipped his furs to China and Europe, often in his own vessels.

Astor's Pacific Fur Company established the trading post of Astoria, Oregon, in 1811, but lost it during the War of 1812. His fur companies won an almost complete monopoly of the trade in the United States. Astor invested his profits principally in Manhattan Island farmland, which became the heart of New York City.

Astor retired from the fur trade in 1834. At his death, his estate was estimated at more than $20 million.

Contributor: John Elgin Foster, Ph.D., Prof. of History, Univ. of Alberta.

John Elgin Foster, Ph.D., Prof. of History, Univ. of Alberta.

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