The romance of Madeleine Force and JohnJacob Astor

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Faith Baker

Guest
Hi! I'm Leah, and I'm hoping to start writing a book and screenplay about John Jacob Astor and his wife Madeline. I want it to be somewhat of a romance starting when they met, and ending shortly after the death of JJ on the Titanic. However, I don't know a whole lot about the Astors. Only a few short stories that have been told to me. Perhaps you could help me? Please just leave ANY (Even if it has nothing to do with There relationship together) information, and facts about the Astors that you know. I can and will use as much info as I can, so PLEASE help! I'm not sure what I'm gonna do with the book once were finished writing it, but I do hope to publish it someday. It isn't nessicarily gonna be all true, but I would like to use as many true facts as possible.
THANK YOU for your help!
 
Apr 11, 2001
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Faith- there is plenty right here already to get you started. Under TOPICS at the bottom of this page, go to Passenger Research and scroll that catagory for lots on Madeleine and JJ. The SEARCH option will also give you a jillion hits as well as the main page link that says 1st Class Passengers. Good luck with your play.
 
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Faith Baker

Guest
Thank you Shelley! I will definatly do that. But I'm also hoping to get some random fact here aswell. Just the little stuff that might be on peoples minds. Remember, I can use pretty much ANYTHING about them, and I probably will. If you know anything you would like to tell me, please post it here.
 
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Faith Baker

Guest
My friend Leah will also be writing here for me, since she will be helping me write my book. (She wrote our first post) We are both very interested in the Titanic, and always have been. Only recently did we discover that each of us has a talent for writing, and by combining it, we are hoping to publish our first book. Maybe not for a long time, but as long as we get started and have fun doing it, then it will work just fine. Thank you for your help!
 
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Marykate Viola

Guest
There's a lot of info on this site and also you could go to your local Barnes&Noble and see if they have any books on the Astors. Your screenplay sounds interesting, I'm also writing a book on the Titanic, only mine is historical fiction. Hope I helped and good luck with your play!!!
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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A major book is The Astors by Derek Wilson, published in 1993. It gives a very full description of the kind of life the family led and a family tree. Our J J Astor was a rather minor member of the tribe, who were very big cheeses in the US and Britain.

J J Astor's science fiction story, A Journey in Other Worlds, is online at the Gutenberg Project.
 

Wade Sisson

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Jan 10, 2008
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An Astor tibdit that might be of interest. Beechwood Mansion, the house in Newport, R.I., where Madeleine Force wed John J. Astor in 1911, is home to the Victorian Living History Museum. The facility can also be rented for weddings, private parties, Victorian balls, etc. You could get married in the same room where the ill-fated Jack Astor-Madeleine Force union took place. Check out Beechwood Mansion's web site for details -- http://www.astorsbeechwood.com/Home.html.
Also, there's a great book, published in 2000, about society at the turn of the 20th Century that offers quite a few nuggets about the Astors. Preview the book online at http://www.newyorksocialdiary.com/archive/astor400.2.html.
 
Apr 11, 2001
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It is a fabulous book- also they do a Titanic-themed party with cast of characters in costume. JJ always appears- it is rather pricey however! Even the afternoon teas are a bit Gilded in price.
 
May 12, 2009
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So, just wandering, what's everyone's opinion on Madeleine Astor? Has the pop-culture stereo-type prevailed and the majority believe her to be a vivacious tragic figure, scorned by "polite society" for falling in love with a much older married man........ Or do you guys believe she was just a skanky Edwardian era progenitor of Anna Nicole Smith, marrying a man older than her father in order to secure a position as one of the richest women in America?

Let the debate begin! ;-)
 
Dec 5, 2008
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Well, I (obviously) can't speak for when she married J.J. as to whether or not she was truly only in it for the money, but if she was, she certainly seemed to find no use of it later.

Don't forget, in order to marry her second husband, William Dick, she had to give up her entire inheritance from J.J., a sum estimated around $5,000,000 - an astronomical figure in 1912 (and hardly a pittance now!). To me that doesn't exactly sound like a woman in it purely for the shinys, even if her new husband was fairly well-off anyways.

And besides, even if she was using J.J., I hardly consider him the innocent victim and her the conniving whore. Any incredibly wealthy, middle-aged man who gets involved with a beautiful, poor, teenage girl certainly wouldn't suspect she's interested in his charm! Frankly, I say good for her if she was! I have more respect for a young woman growing up in poverty stricken times, where the majority of a woman's uses were in the bedroom or the kitchen, using her allure to pull herself out and to better things, than a rich, middle-aged man looking for a new, hot young thing.

And as for the 'baby-trap' comment, I think it has been well-established elsewhere that Madeleine was not pregnant before her and J.J. were wed, unless she has a ridiculously slow-forming uterus.

Anyways, that's my two-cents on the matter.

Best wishes,

Kat
 
May 12, 2009
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LOL, yeah, the baby-trap was a bit of an easy target for me...

But I agree, I never for once considered rich middle-aged men who marry supple teenage beauties to exactly be "victimized."
 

Jim Kalafus

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>Don't forget, in order to marry her second husband, William Dick, she had to give up her entire inheritance from J.J., a sum estimated around $5,000,000

She had to give up the USE of his money, not what she acquired with it. A crucial difference. The Astor money was hers to use while she remained an Astor, but it wasn't hers to take with her when she left.

It seems that something is missing from the John and Madeleine story. Lots of high society people divorced and remarried~ witness Alva Vanderbilt Belmont; adulterous affairs were common in all stratas of society; creepy old men marrying young women was not an oddity~ witness the Titanic's own vomiting-on-her-honeymoon Mrs Bucknell; and ambitious young tramps honing in on the wealthy was not EXACTLY unknown. SO, why exactly the massive public rejection of J.J. and Madeleine? Yes, yes, I know the wheezy line in all the books about outraged public morals etc, but I also know that they ran in a set which HAD no public morals, and which was viewed by those in the other social classes as morally bankrupt. What detail has NOT been passed down?

>Any incredibly wealthy, middle-aged man who gets involved with a beautiful, poor, teenage girl certainly wouldn't suspect she's interested in his charm!

Sad thing is, they DO believe that. It's an ego thing. Which is why the eventual realization that she ISN'T is invariably crushing.

>money, but if she was, she certainly seemed to find no use of it later.

Well, she managed to live out her life in Palm Beach and NYC, travel, and snare and maintain a male bimbo only slightly older than her oldest child, so it not EXACTLY like she couldn't figure out what to do with it.
 
Dec 5, 2008
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>>She had to give up the USE of his money, not what she acquired with it. A crucial difference. The Astor money was hers to use while she remained an Astor, but it wasn't hers to take with her when she left.<<

It also required her giving up access to her/his home, and though she may have been able to take her things with her, the bulk majority of the money was still returned. And I doubt the Astors' would have allowed a $5,000,000 spending spree a week before her wedding, either.

>> >money, but if she was, she certainly seemed to find no use of it later.

Well, she managed to live out her life in Palm Beach and NYC, travel, and snare and maintain a male bimbo only slightly older than her oldest child, so it not EXACTLY like she couldn't figure out what to do with it.<<

But not on J.J.'s dime, which was my point. I never said she became a poor seamstress, but she did give up all the wealth (material things purchased aside) that she inherited from him. I doubt some old clothing would buy you a home in Palm Beach. That money was gained elsewhere - not from the Astor estate.
 

Jim Kalafus

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>But not on J.J.'s dime,

We don't KNOW that. She had 4 years in which to...uhhh... diversify her portfolio. Any property she acquired on her own, any investments she made as The Widow Astor, any jewelry she bought would have fallen under the umbrella term of "J.J.'s dime."
 
Dec 5, 2008
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Very true, Jim. I'll admit, that may count for some, but I doubt it holds true for nearly all - if for nothing else based on the fact that, bless her heart, I don't think Madeleine was clever enough to think that far ahead, let alone manage to scheme all that herself.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I never got the impression from her that she was an undiscovered Mensa member in my (admittedly fairly brief) research of her.

And although I'm sure she was able to keep a great deal after the re-marriage, I don't think she would have been allowed to keep anything of momentous value; but I guess that depends on how thorough (or how grudging) her in-laws would have been towards her, uh... departure from the family Astor.

Although, perhaps much of her later wealth was acquired through her son. I know VERY little of John Jr (basically nothing, to be completely honest), but I doubt he would have been cut off from his Father's fortune because his mother remarried. He himself must have had an incredibly large trust fund, at least waiting for him in adulthood if nothing else, and I doubt he would watch his mother waste away in poverty while he vacationed in the Bahamas...

Maybe she simply got it from there?
 
May 27, 2007
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Madeleine always interested me since I saw SOS Titanic. I'm sure she might of got advice to invest JJ's money from Bankers or her Lawyers.

I bet she might of got some money from her son later on. Really she was the only Parent in his life that I know of. Vincent Astor his older brother gives me the impression of being distant or absent during much of JJ Jr. Childhood! Of course if I'm wrong somebody feel free to correct me. I always got the impression from my research that Vincent didn't want anything to do with Madeleine or her Child, his brother from the earliest even before she remarried! Perhaps that is one of the reasons she married William Dick as for Enzo maybe he was just a dalliance! At least she married him!

Agree with Kat in that she was a nice or decent person. Perhaps not the smartest person to ever who ever wore shoe leather but not the dumbest either. She followed her heart and lived her life to the best of her abilities and know and got what she wanted which I admire without hurting anybody intentionally. Which is more then I can say for some people I studied!
 
Mar 20, 2007
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We seem to be under the misapprehension that Madeleine joined the bread-line when she married her second husband. Not so. He was a wealthy, well-connected man in his own right. In giving up her claim on the Astor millions, Madeleine descended only so far down the socio-economic scale - from the ranks of the immensely rich to the merely very rich. Rumour has it she'd been keen on Dick before the colonel appeared on the scene, anyway. So, please, don't waste your pity on her!

Nor did Society with a capital 'S' react quite so badly as all that to the announcement of her engagement in 1911. The Newport Set made all the appropriate gestures in welcoming her into their milieu. I suspect that the press made a big 'something' out of not very much at all. And, once she was widowed, she took her place at all the best tables in town.

Jack Astor had been to hell and back during his nightmare marriage to, and subsequent divorce from, the spectacular Ava Willing. He wouldn't have wanted to go through any of that again. Likely he popped the question to Madeleine Force in the simple hope that she'd provide him with a bit of company in his old age. That she was young and (reasonably) pretty wouldn't have harmed her chances, either!

And Madeleine herself? What of her? In spite of all the wealth and luxury, she would have had her work cut out in the early stages of her marriage. Ava was a mega-star, celebrated the world over for her beauty and elegance. In stepping into that particular pair of shoes, Miss Force had a tough act to follow, alright. Think Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca and you've just about got it. Even before the sinking, everybody was judging and comparing: remember what Violet Jessop had to say on the matter. And then all the other women in first-class, too - many of them were on familiar terms with her predecessor and had been so for years. To come under their scrutiny during the voyage would have been quite a daunting prospect for a heavily-pregnant teenager with a much older, and not terribly nice or sympathetic, husband.

Opinions among Madeleine's contemporaries as to her personality and motivations varied enormously. Some liked her very much and were in no doubt that Jack had been her one true love. Others thought she was a common, jumped-up, money-grubbing arriviste with an overly pushy mama. Vincent Astor couldn't stick her, and not because of any residual loyalty to Ava either. He made things very difficult in later years for his half-brother and this had a lot to do with his deep-seated aversion to Madeleine herself.

Only one thing we can say for certain. The Titanic disaster ruined her life.
 
May 27, 2007
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Thanks Martin for that interesting insight into Madeleine! I think it's a safe bet that you know a good deal about Madeleine and I for one thank you for you unbiased opinion on her! I have read "Rebecca" so you have given me a good idea of what it was like for Madeleine by just mentioning that novel!

I also agree with you on your statement as well about Madeleine's life post Titanic! Pity Vincent couldn't have been kinder to his half Brother and been more of a presence in Young JJ's life when he was younger.
 
May 12, 2009
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Hmm... I just looked up Ava Willing and it seems she and Astor divorced in 1909, that's over 2 years before he married Madeleine! But I always read that Madeleine was the reason for their divorce?

Oh, and I haven't heard what Violet Jessop said about Madeleine, could someone clear this up?

LOL.... I'll be seeing "Rebecca: The Musical" next year when it finally opens on Broadway. I'd be think of poor Maddy the entire time now!