Encyclopedia Titanica

John Jacob Astor

John Jacob Astor
John Jacob Astor

Colonel John Jacob Astor IV (JJ Astor) was born in Rhinebeck, New York on July 13th, 1864 the son of William Astor and great-grandson of John Jacob Astor the fur trader.  Astor was educated at St. Paul's School, Concord and later went to Harvard. After a period of travelling abroad (1888-91) he returned to the United States to manage the family fortune.  He had homes at 840 Fifth Avenue, New York and at Ferncliff, Rhinebeck, New York.

In 1894 Astor wrote a semi-scientific novel A Journey in Other Worlds. During his life he also developed several mechanical devices including a bicycle brake (1898), helped to develop the turbine engine, and invented a pneumatic road-improver.

In 1897 Astor built the Astoria Hotel, New York adjoining the Waldorf Hotel which had been built by William Waldorf Astor, his cousin. The new complex became known as the Waldorf-Astoria. Astor's real-estate interest included two other hotels, the Hotel St. Regis (1905) and the Knickerbocker (1906).

He became Colonel-staff to General Levi P. Morton and in 1898, at the time of the Spanish-American War, was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel in the US volunteers. He placed his yacht Nourmahal at the disposal of the U.S. government and equipped a mountain battery of artillery for use against the Spanish.

On 1 May 1891 Astor was married to Ava, daughter of Edward Shippen Willing of Philadelphia. Together they had a son and one daughter. However, in 1909 Astor divorced Ava and, two years later, married eighteen-year-old Madeleine Force (who was a year younger than his son Vincent). Public opinion was divided concerning the respectability of Astor's actions, and the newlyweds decided to winter abroad in order to let the gossip die down at home. Mr and Mrs Astor travelled to Egypt and Paris and, in the spring of 1912, decided to return to America as First Class passengers on board the brand new Titanic.

John Jacob and Madeleine Astor
John Jacob Astor and his bride Madeleine around the time they departed on Honeymoon

They boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg with Colonel Astor's manservant Mr Victor Robbins, Mrs Astor's maid Miss Rosalie Bidois, Miss Caroline Louise Endres Mrs Astor's private nurse and their pet Airedale Kitty. Their ticket was PC 17757 which cost £224 10s 6d. They occupied cabins on C-Deck.

After the accident Astor left his suite to investigate, he quickly returned and reported to his wife that the ship had struck ice. He reassured her that the damage did not appear serious.

Later, when the first class passengers had begun to congregate on the boat deck, the Astors sat on the mechanical horses in the gymnasium. They wore their lifebelts but Colonel Astor had found another and cut the lining with a pen knife to show his wife what it was made of.

Even as the boats were loaded Astor appeared unperturbed, he ridiculed the idea of trading the solid decks of the Titanic for a small lifeboat 'we are safer here than in that little boat'. He had changed his mind by 1:45 when Second Officer Charles Lightoller arrived on A deck to finish loading Lifeboat 4. Astor helped his wife to climb through the windows of the enclosed promenade and then asked if he might join her, being as she was in 'a delicate condition'. Lightoller told him that no men could enter until all the women had been loaded. Astor stood back and just asked Lightoller which boat it was. After boat 4 was lowered at 1:55 Astor stood alone while others tried to free the remaining collapsible boats.

Astor's body was recovered on Monday April 22 by the cable ship Mackay-Bennett (#124):


CLOTHING - Blue serge suit; blue handkerchief with "A.V."; belt with gold buckle; brown boots with red rubber soles; brown flannel shirt; "J.J.A." on back of collar.

EFFECTS - Gold watch; cuff links, gold with diamond; diamond ring with three stones; £225 in English notes; $2440 in notes; £5 in gold; 7s. in silver; 5 ten franc pieces; gold pencil; pocketbook.


The body was delivered to Mr N. Biddle and forwarded to New York City on May 1, 1912. He was buried at Trinity Cemetery, New York.


  1. Ava Lowle Willing was born September 15, 1868 in Philadelphia and married John Jacob Astor IV in 1890 in that city. They were the parents of two children, William Vincent Astor and Ava Alice Muriel Astor. After 19 years of marriage the couple separated in 1909 and divorced the following year. Ava Astor then went to live in England where, in 1919, she married Thomas Lister (Lord Ribblesdale). He died on October 21, 1925 and Ava never remarried. There were no children of her marriage to Lord Ribblesdale. Ava continued to be known as Lady Ribblesdale until her death on June 9, 1958 in New York City. She left a token bequest to her son of $25,000 but the bulk of her estate of $3,000,000 went to the four children of her daughter.
  2. William Vincent Astor married three times but died childless on February 3, 1959. His widow, Mary Brooke (Russell) Astor (he called her "Pookie") died in 2007 aged 105.
  3. Ava Alice Muriel Astor was first married to Prince Serge Obolensky, a former Czarist officer. Her second husband was an Austrian writer named Raimund Von Hofmannsthal, and her third husband was a British journalist named Philip Harding. Her final husband was David Pleydell-Bouverie, a New York architect. All four marriages ended in divorce. She died in New York City on July 19 1956 of a stroke at the age of 54. Her children are Ivan Obolensky of New York City, Sylvia Von Hofmannsthal (now Sylvia Guirey) of New York City, Romana von Hofmannsthal (later Romana McEwen) of New York City, and Emily Harding.

References and Sources

New York Times , June 11, 1958, Obituary of Ava Lowle Astor
Who Was Who 1897-1916

Research Articles

Senan Molony Titanica! (2006) Loaded and the Tramp
Michael Poirier Titanica! (2021) John Jacob Astor’s Fatal Mistake
Astor could have survived had he stepped into lifeboat seven when given the opportunity.
Howard Fitzgerald Titanica! (2023) Family at War
Titanic connections to conflicts 1861-1953

Newspaper Articles

New York Times (18 February 1891) A Magnificent Wedding
New York Times (2 May 1897) Forced Mr. Astor To Dismount
New York Times (11 August 1899) Col. Astor Ready To Serve
New York Times (29 April 1900) Yachts And Yachtsmen
New York Times (22 May 1902) Col. Astor's $300 Ride
New York Times (22 September 1908) Col. Astor Imports A New Breed Of Dog
New York Times (1 December 1908) Col. Astor At Newport
New York Times (27 October 1909) Col. Astor's Wife Seeks Separation
New York Times (9 November 1909) Mrs. Astor Obtains Divorce Quietly
New York Times (11 November 1909) Sealed Astor Papers Filed
New-York Tribune (1 February 1910) Medal For Col J. J. Astor
New York Times (3 February 1910) Mrs. Astor To Get Only $50,000 A Year
New York Times (19 February 1910) Astors To Be Reconciled?
New York Times (2 March 1910) Mrs. Astor Asks A Decree
New York Times (5 March 1910) Unsealed Decree In Astor Divorce
The New York Times (2 July 1910) Killed At Col. Astor's Home
New York Times (2 August 1911) Col. Astor To Wed Madeleine Force
The New York Times (8 August 1911) Col. Astor In Tennis Match
New York Times (16 August 1911) Arrange Astor Settlement
New York Times (1 September 1911) Astor Wedding Day Not Set
New York Times (2 September 1911) Col. Astor May Wed Any Day
New York Times (3 September 1911) Col. Astor At Ferncliff
New York Times (6 September 1911) Col. Astor And Party Return
New York Times (7 September 1911) Astor Offers $1,000 As Marriage Fee
New York Times (8 September 1911) Greenwich Expected The Wedding
New York Times (8 September 1911) Pastor Is Congratulated
New York Times (8 September 1911) Say Astor Wedding Is Near At Hand
New York Times (9 September 1911) Clerical Carpenter To Marry Col. Astor
New York Times (10 September 1911) Col. Astor Weds Madeleine Force
Early Morning Ceremony at Beechwood, the Bridegroom's Newport Home
New York Times (11 September 1911) Criticise Pastor Who Married Astor
The New York Times (3 October 1911) Sue Col. Astor For $30,000
New York Times (8 November 1911) Minister Who Wed Astor Quits Church
New York Times (24 January 1912) Big Crowd Sails To-day
New-York Tribune (25 January 1912) Astors Sail For Egypt
New-York Tribune (6 March 1912) Astor Settles With Widow
New York Times (7 April 1912) Americans In Rome
Chicago American (16 April 1912) 300 Of Titanic's Passengers Were Booked At Paris
New York Times (16 April 1912) Col. John Jacob Astor
Worcester Evening Post (16 April 1912) No Hope For More Survivors
Worcester Telegram (16 April 1912) Walter Porter Among Those On Titanic
Miss. Carrie Endres Sister of Worcester Man Also on Board Lost Liner
The Evening Telegram (16 April 1912) Won't Affect Stock Market
Unidentified Newspaper (17 April 1912) John Jacob Astor Iv
Le Petit Journal (17 April 1912) John Jacob Astor Iv (1)
Le Matin (17 April 1912) Missing: Astor And Stead
From Le Matin, 17 April 1912
New York Times (17 April 1912) Mrs. Astor
New York Times (17 April 1912) Vincent Astor As Head Of His Family
New York Times (17 April 1912) Vincent Astor's Grief
The Globe (18 April 1912) Tragic Honeymoons
Among the passengers of the ill-fated Titanic were a number of honeymoon couples
Brooklyn Daily Eagle (19 April 1912) Astor Gave Up Lifeboat Seat
Worcester Evening Gazette (19 April 1912) Astor Put Boy By Wife's Side
CAPT. R. [sic] H. ROSTRON Washington Herald (19 April 1912) Capt. Rostron Tells Of Rescue
Washington Herald (19 April 1912) Ismay Left Ship At Women's Plea
Washington Times (19 April 1912) J. J. Astor Acted Bravely, Declare Many Who Saw Him
Col. John Jacob Astor kissed his bride good-by as he placed her in the waiting lifeboat.
The Toronto Daily Star (19 April 1912) Last Man To Leave Titanic Was Colonel Gracie, U.s.a.
Mrs. Churchill Candee Washington Herald (19 April 1912) Mrs. Candee Lauds Maj. Butt's Heroism
MISS CAROLINE BONNELL Washington Times (19 April 1912) No Alarm Felt When Steamer First Struck
Newark Evening News (19 April 1912) Stengel Tells Tragedy Story
Washington Times (19 April 1912) Washington Man Tells Harrowing Details Of Wreck
Washington Times (19 April 1912) Widener Was Heroic To End, Says Friend
Traction Magnate Kissed Wife Good-By, Then Went Back To Die
Atlantic City Daily Press (20 April 1912) Alarmed County Man Finds Sister Was Rescued
L'Excelsior (20 April 1912) Astor Says: We'll Meet In New York
From L'Excelsior, 20 April 1912
New York Evening Journal (20 April 1912) Astor To Dynamite Titanic
Toronto Daily Star Unidentified Newspaper (20 April 1912) Astor's Old Butler A Hero
North American (20 April 1912) Barber Thrown From Titanic As It Sank
Worcester Telegram (20 April 1912) Futrelle Met Death Like Hero Says Wife
Daily Home News (20 April 1912) Jersey Women Tell Thrilling Tales
New York Times (20 April 1912) Mrs. Astor Is Ill, But Not Critically
No alarm felt by relatives and friends
New York Times (20 April 1912) Praise Astor And Butt
Worcester Telegram (20 April 1912) Stead And Astor Cling To Raft
Worcester Evening Gazette (20 April 1912) Still Playing As Water Creeps Up
L'Excelsior (20 April 1912) The Astors
Washington Herald (21 April 1912) Describes Last Meal On Titanic
“It Was the Gayest Night of Trip Among Diners,” Says Assistant Steward
Boston Daily Globe (21 April 1912) Girl Went Down To Save Another
News of the World (21 April 1912) Lost In The Titanic
Hays, Head, Stead, Straus, Guggenheim
New York Times (21 April 1912) Peace Men Mourn Their Loss
The New York Times (21 April 1912) Sealing The Lips Of Titanic's Crew
New York Times (22 April 1912) Astor Saved Us, Say Women
'Hold That Boat,' He Commanded, as One Was Leaving Without Them
Chicago Record Herald (22 April 1912) Chicagoans Saved By Astor
Mrs. Hippach and Daughter, at Home, Tell of Rescue From Titanic
New York Times (22 April 1912) Mrs. Astor Is Able To Tell Of Rescue
Thinks She Got Into Last Boat as She Left Husband on Deck
Atlantic City Daily Press (23 April 1912) An Atlantic Man Finds Evidence Favoring Ismay
D. W. McMillan’s Sister, Titanic Survivor, Says He and Astor Helped Women
New York Times (25 April 1912) Tribute To J. C. Smith
The Washington Post (2 May 1912) Astor's Watch Ran Long 
Did Not Stop Until More Than an Hour After the Titanic Sank 
The Evening Post (2 May 1912) Col. Astors Body Is Taken Through City
Standard Union (4 May 1912) Col. Astor Buried In Grave Beside Mother
New York Times (4 May 1912) Col. Astor's Funeral
Standard Union (4 May 1912) Funeral Of Hero Of Lost Titanic
Worcester Telegram (6 May 1912) Worcester Theater Concert Nets $800
Western Times (13 May 1912) The Astor Millions
(19 May 1912) mrs. Ava W. Astor Sails
New York Times (3 July 1912) Big Astor Tax For State
The Times (27 July 1912) Colonel Astor's Will
New York Times (15 August 1912) Son For Mrs. Astor; Named For Father
New York Times (18 August 1912) Astor Will Contest Not Contemplated
Counsel for Mrs. Astor, Denies Rumors of an Appeal to the Courts
The Washington Herald (30 November 1912) Third Widow, Due To Titanic Wreck, Becomes A Mother
Chicago Examiner (1 December 1912) Second Titanic Baby Born
New York Times (5 December 1912) Col. Gracie Dies, Haunted By Titanic
New York Times (30 August 1913) Grand Duke At Newport
New York Times (29 April 1914) Astor Bequests Have All Been Paid
New York Times (15 June 1915) Miss Astor At Festival
New York Times (18 June 1916) Mrs. John J. Astor To Marry W. K. Dick
New York Times (23 June 1916) Mrs. J. J. Astor Is Wed To Wm. K. Dick
New York Times (1 August 1922) Astor Sale Likely To Help Mrs. Dick
New York Times (4 July 1924) Miss Astor To Wed Russian Nobleman
New York Times (22 October 1925) Lord Ribblesdale Dead; Line Extinct
New York Times (9 March 1930) Origin Of Names Of Hotels Here
New York Times (15 August 1933) John Jacob Astor 3d, 21, Comes Info Vast Fortune
New York Times (16 December 1933) John Jacob Astor To Wed Debutante
New York Times (3 January 1934) Eileen S. S. Gillespie To Be Wed On Feb. 6
New York Times (22 January 1934) Eileen Gillespie Not To Wed Astor
New York Times (21 March 1934) Ex-wife Gives Up Claim On W. K. Dick
New York Times (31 May 1934) Ellen Tuck French Is Engaged To Wed
New York Times (16 June 1934) Wedding Planned By Ellen French
New York Times (27 June 1934) Rectors For Astor Rites
New York Times (29 June 1934) Young Astor Tells Of Wedding Plans
New York Times (30 June 1934) Mother Of Astor To Attend Bridal
New York Times (20 July 1935) Mrs. John J. Astor 3d Gives Birth To Son
New York Times (14 August 1935) Astor Home Scene Of Newport Party
New York Times (15 January 1936) Astor Infant Christened
New York Times (29 March 1940) Mrs. Fiermonte Dead In Florida
Former Madeleine Force Was Married to Col. Astor, W. K. Dick and Italian Boxer
New York Times (29 October 1940) Astor Estate At Newport Sold
Jersey Observer (18 November 1943) Robert Hopkins, Hero Of Titanic, Dies In Hoboken
New York Times (19 August 1944) J. J. Astor Marries Gertrude Gretsch
New York Times (4 February 1959) Vincent Astor Dies In His Home At 67
New York Times (7 February 1959) Rites For Astor Attended By 400
New York Times (27 June 1992) John J. Astor 5th, 79; Son Of Builder Of Hotel
Miami Herald (28 June 1992) John Jacob Astor V [obituary]

Documents and Certificates

Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912, National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55[279]).
Son of John Jacob and Madeleine Astor


Scannell's New Jersey's First Citizens Jonathan H. Blackwell
Gold watch sold at auction for £900,000
The plan of first class accomodation was saved by Colonel Astor's assistant


An elite class of millionaires find a new toy to amuse with the Titanic – a symbol of technological triumph.


Walter Lord (1955) A Night to Remember
Don Lynch & Ken Marschall (1992) Titanic: An Illustrated History, London, Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0 340 56271 4
John P. Eaton & Charles A. Haas (1994) Titanic: Triumph & Tragedy, Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1 85260 493 X
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Titanic Passenger Summary

Name: Colonel John Jacob Astor
Age: 47 years 9 months and 2 days (Male)
Nationality: American
Marital Status: Married to Madeleine Force
Embarked: Cherbourg on Wednesday 10th April 1912
Ticket No. 17757, £247 10s 6d
Cabin No. C-?
Died in the Titanic disaster (15th April 1912)
Body recovered by: Mackay-Bennett (No. 124)
Buried: Trinity Cemetery, New York City, New York, United States

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