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New York Times

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Father of 18-Year-Old Debutante in Society Announces the Engagement
Col. Astor's Marked Attentions Soon Gave Rise to Rumors of Betrothal- Wedding Plans Not Yet Made
Formal announcement was made yesterday of the engagement of Miss Madeleine Talmage Force, the débutanto [sic] daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William H. Force of 18 East Thirty-seventh Street, to Col. John Jacob Astor, grandson of John Jacob Astor, and the recognized head of the Astor family in this country. The announcement was made by Mr. Force after many months of vague rumors that an engagement did exist between Col. Astor and his eighteen-year-old daughter, who have been seen together at numerous social affairs ever since their first meeting in Bar Harbor, last Summer. Col. Astor is 47 years old.

In making the announcement at his office at 78 Front Street, the father of the bride-to-be said that owing to the continued rumors of the attachment between Col. Astor and his daughter, which were not backed up by any public announcement of an engagement, he feared that unpleasant gossip might arise.

"Therefore I insisted on manking [sic] the formal announcement," Mr. Force continued. "I called Col. Astor on the telephone to-day and we discussed the matter. He accepted my point of view and it was agreed between us that I should make the announcement. No date has been set yet for the wedding. All that will come later on."

Col. Astor came here from Newport on Monday on his new yacht Noma, which is now lying at the station of the New York Yacht Club at the foot of East Twenty-third Street. His son Vincent is at Beechwood, his father’s house at Newport, where many of the cottagers received the news of the engagement yesterday from Col. Astor. It is said at Newport that Mr. and Mrs. Force and their daughters, the Misses Katherine and Madeleine Force, are soon to visit Col. Astor at Beechwood. Last night the Colonel entertained them at dinner.

Miss Force a Debutante

Miss Madeleine Force was introduced to society on Dec. 22 last and was graduated from Miss Spence's school in this city in June of last year. She had previously studied in Europe and also at Miss Ely's school at Greenwich, Conn. She is the second daughter of Mr. Force. Miss Katherine Force, her sister, is not yet 20 years old.

The future Mrs. Astor is a rather tall, graceful girl with brown hair and strong, clean-cut features. She is very popular in the younger set and took part last season in many of the society amateur theatricals. She belongs to the Junior League, an organization for débutantes, and among her girl friends are the Misses Leta Pell Wright, Margaret Mackay, Henrietta Thaw, Alice Damrosch, Dorothy Cramp, Carol Brown, Sara McAlpin Pyle, and Nathalie Kelley.

Col. Astor has been very attentive to Miss Force ever since their first meeting at Bar Harbor, where the young girl's family were spending the Summer. They were seen together at nearly all of the social functions of last season, and society fully expected to hear the formal announcement of their engagement at the large dinner dance which Col. Astor gave at his town house, 840 Fifth Avenue, on Feb. 6. For several months previous to this, Col. Astor and his son had been abroad. During their absence and later in the season, the Astor box at the Metropolitan Opera House, No. 7 in the "golden horseshoe," was frequently occupied by Mrs. Force and her two daughters. At various times during the season the Colonel entertained the family at dinner at the fashionable restaurants.

He was abroad during part of May and June, and, returning to this side, went to his estate at Rhinebeck-on-Hudson. During the boat races at Poughkeepsie in July he entertained Mrs. Force and her younger daughter at luncheon. For a brief period Mr. and Mrs. Force were at Bar Harbor, but they have not closed their house in East Thirty-seventh Street, as have the majority of their neighbors.

Miss Force's mother was Miss Katherine E. Talmage, daughter of T. V. P. Talmage, and a granddaughter of ex-Mayor Talmage of Brooklyn. She was married to Mr. Force in January, 1889. The family is well known in Brooklyn, where they lived on Remsen Street prior to coming to Manhattan. Mr. Force, who was born on May 11, 1852, is now the head of the extensive shipping and forwarding firm of William H. Force & Co. with offices at 78 Front Street. He is a prominent driver and cross-country rider, and is a member of the Riding and Driving and Hamilton Clubs of Brooklyn, also the New York Yacht and the Down Town Clubs.

Col. Astor’s Career

Col. Astor has held a prominent place in the life of this city for many years. Not alone has he been a conspicuous clubman and leader of society, but he has engaged in vast business activities that gave him a place of rank, apart from his immense fortune and social attainments. He has put up and owns more hotels and skyscrapers than any other New Yorker. His fortune is estimated at over $100,000,000.

He was born at Ferncliff, Rhinebeck-on-the-Hudson, July 13, 1864. His schooldays were passed at St. Paul's, Concord, N. H., and he was graduated from Harvard, class of '88. After an extended tour of Europe and of the West Indies, he became a student of the business details connected with the vast estate, which, at the death of his father, William Astor, came under his direction. He has always been an enthusiastic yachtsman; was one of the earliest believers in the automobile, and has recently displayed a keen interest in air navigation.

In 1891, three years after leaving Harvard, Col. Astor married Miss Ava L. Willing, daughter of Edward S. Willing of Philadelphia, who obtained a divorce from him in November, 1909. They had two children, William Vincent Astor, who was born in 1892, and Miss Ava Alice Muriel Astor, who is about 10 years old, and who is at present with her mother in London.

Shortly after his marriage, Col. Astor began his plans for building large hotels, and among these which he [illegible] the Waldorf-Astoria, the St. Regis, [illegible], Knickerbocker, and the Astor [illegible] owns the Astor House, one of the most famous hotels in its day.

Col. Astor first received his title through appointment to the staff of Gov. Morton, but later received the commission of Colonel in the Spanish-American war. Colonel Astor's bent of mind has been toward mechanics and general scientific research. Several patents for useful inventions have been issued to him. He has also published several books. His first, "A Journey in Other Worlds," was published in 1894. He belongs to more than forty clubs, including the Knickerbocker, Union, Metropolitan, New York Yacht, Brook, Riding, Tuxedo, Country, Racquet and Tennis, Automobile Club of America, Army and Navy, Military Order of Foreign Wars, and Society of Colonial Wars.

When the Spanish-American war broke out Col. Astor had just returned from a cruise in his yacht to Cuba and was in Washington when the declaration of war was made. He went at once to the War Department and offered his service in any capacity.

The Astor battery which he equipped for the United States forces cost $100,000. The battery did effective work at Santiago, and later in the Philippines.

When the Colonel received his discharge from the army, in September, 1898, Major General Shafter recommended to the Secretary of War that the young officer be advanced to the brevet rank of Colonel “for faithful and meritorious service." This rank was therefore conferred on him.

At the death of Mrs. William Astor, the Colonel's mother, who lived in one of the big twin houses at Fifth Avenue and Sixty-fifth Street, the leadership of New York society fell upon Col. Astor's wife. The divorce proceedings instituted by Mrs. Astor in 1909 were shrouded in much mystery. The interlocutory decree was filed on Nov. 10 of that year in the office of the Dutchess County Clerk, at Poughkeepsie. The papers were sealed. The decree was signed by Supreme Court Justice Isaac N. Mills of Mount Vernon.

At the time the interlocutory decree was granted in November, Col. Astor and his son Vincent, were cruising in Southern waters in the Nourmahal. A great gale swept over the West Indies, and for a time it was believed that the yacht had foundered and all on board had perished. At the height of the excitement the Nourmahal came into the harbor at San Juan, Porto Rico, unharmed.

Wedding May Be Out of Town

The wedding of Col. Astor and Miss Force will be a very quiet one, it is said, and will probably take place late in the Fall out of town. Besides his magnificent home on Fifth Avenue, which has been recently remodeled, and which is architecturally a chateau of the time of François I., the couple will occupy Beechwood, at Newport, during the season and spend the early Spring and late Fall at the Colonel's country seat at Rhinebeck, which is called Ferncliff, being a house of great architectural beauty, set down in the centre of 2,000 acres of woodland and meadows.

The original Astor came here from Baden, when the new city was a century old, with a capital of $75, and from the hour of landing to his last illness never ceased to work. He learned the languages of the Senecas, Mohawks, and Oneidas, and within ten years he had a regiment of men trapping for him. He married Sarah Todd, who brought him a dowry of $300. Meanwhile he was buying real estate on Manhattan Island. From his investments grew the tremendous fortune that Col. John Jacob Astor found waiting for him when he finished his college days.


Mark Baber, USA


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Encyclopedia Titanica (2004) COL. ASTOR TO WED MADELEINE FORCE (New York Times, Wednesday 2nd August 1911, ref: #3183, published 12 July 2004, generated 1st December 2022 12:53:57 PM); URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/col-astor-wed-madeleine-force.html