The Astor Family


Feb 4, 2007
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quote:

The sheer volume of information relating to prominent (and even not so prominent) Titanic personalities now available on the internet is astonishing.
Ha ha! Yes, Martin, you are sooo right! The last time I personally conducted any real research on the Astor family was about 13 years ago ~ in the fledgling "dark ages" of early Internet, and also before the Big JC Film. "Back then" as we know, there wasn't much info readily available or easily accessible....... remember microfilm? And that was only IF one's local library was fortunate enough to have rolls of the publication one desired.
happy.gif
 
Mar 20, 2007
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Here's an interesting and well-illustrated article about Astor Courts, the sumptuous guest cottage/summer house on Colonel Astor's Rhinebeck estate which has recently been restored to its full Beaux Arts glory. The architect of what was originally called the Ferncliff Casino was Stanford White, J. Clinch Smith's highly prolific brother-in-law. His great-grandson, Sam, was in the charge of the restoration project.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/06/garden/06white.html
 
Mar 20, 2007
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I believe that that particular photograph of John Jacob Astor in fancy dress dates from the legendary Bradley-Martin costume ball of 1897, which caused such a stir at the time. You can read all about it here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bradley-Martin_Ball

As for his love of motor cars, I imagine you've seen this picture of the colonel in the driving seat?

http://www.mcmahanphoto.com/lc1933--millionaire-john-jacob-astor-iv--car-photo.html

Lastly (for now), here's another portrait of the lovely Ava. Perhaps this is the expression she assumed whilst looking down her nose at her husband?

http://cgi.ebay.com/MRS.-AVA-LOWLE-WILLING-ASTOR-PORTRAIT-8x10-PHOTO_W0QQitemZ130292725504QQcmdZViewItemQQimsxZ20090310?IMSfp=TL090310121009r32195
 
Mar 20, 2007
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That it is, Jason. Very reminiscent of the slightly 'impressionistic' technique of the great portrait photographer of the period, Baron de Meyer. I've seen this image attributed to a particular studio elsewhere and I don't believe it is by de Meyer. But his influence is clearly discernable. It is a pity - and quite surprising, too - that Ava (to the best of my knowledge) never sat for any of the great artists of the day, Sargent, Boldini, de Laszlo or even Helleu. She certainly possessed the style, the means and the connections and they doubtless would have made a fine job of recording her beauty and chic.

The temptation to consider how the gorgeous, wilful and domineering Ava would have comported herself, had it been she on the Titanic that night, instead of poor, luckless Madeleine, is irresistible. Possibly, she would have done a Molly Brown, bawling out a truculent quartermaster and commandeering a lifeboat to pilot a rescue operation. Or possibly (and perhaps more likely, from a woman once described as 'magnificiently selfish and permanently dissatisfied'), she would simply have shrugged her sable-clad shoulders whilst listening to the death cries from the water.

Who knows?
 
Mar 20, 2007
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The photograph of Ava Astor in the link I posted above is actually from the studio of Frances Benjamin Johnston. And, of course, she was indeed caricatured by the French cartoonist 'Sem', dancing a tango with an adoring Boldini.

Ava seems to have possessed an uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time (or, conversely, not being in the wrong place at the wrong time - such as aboard the Titanic in the spring of 1912!) Here she is at King Tut's freshly-opened tomb in 1922:

http://pro.corbis.com/search/Enlargement.aspx?CID=isg&mediauid=%7B5A1FE38F-BA6C-4A59-AE84-14B8BD39BBB8%7D

The man standing next to Ava is Prince Serge Obolensky, who was shortly to become the first husband of her much-married daughter, Alice.
 

Brian Ahern

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Dec 19, 2002
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Thanks for supplying the photo of JJA in his auto, Martin - I hadn't seen it before. Madeleine too was a motorist. I'm not sure if you've seen the Times article from the summer of 1912 that reports the recently-widowed Madeleine being threatened with arrest for driving in New Jersey on a New York driver's license.

I first learned of it on a thread I started a few years ago (my first posting ever on ET!):

https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/discus/messages/5811/49414.html?1080229952

It's interesting that MFA was renting a place at Bernardsville when she had a spectacular place in Newport at her disposal, and when her family had always made choice of Bar Harbor. Perhaps, deep in mourning, she wanted to summer more quietly in a place where she had fewer acquaintances.
 

Brian Ahern

Member
Dec 19, 2002
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A correction - the article was dated October 1912. It does state, however, that Mrs Astor had summered at Bernardsville, which continues to have a swank, WASPy reputation today.
 
Mar 20, 2007
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(This is really a plea aimed at fellow Society buffs...)

I'm trying to establish exactly when the engagement between Jack Astor and Ava Willing was announced. They tied the knot in Philadelphia with the maximum pomp and ceremony in February, 1891, and coverage in the press was extensive. But I can't make out when he popped the question, reports in The New York Times (normally such a great source of information) being terribly vague in this matter.

I know that Alice Willing, Ava's mother, had been away in Europe for a prolonged period around 1890, yet she must have returned to the States in order to chaperone her then unmarried daughter to social functions. I gather that Ava made a splash at the ultra-ultra-prestigious Patriarchs Ball in New York, where Jack's courtship became more serious, but the earliest reference I can find to her attendance is in January, 1891 - only a month before her wedding. Was this in fact a shot-gun affair, pulled off in a matter of weeks? Or was the engagement more long standing? If anybody - Brian, Carole etc - has any information to help clarify, I'd be eternally grateful.

Many thanks

Martin
 

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