On this day in 1864, John Jacob Astor IV was born in Rhinebeck, New York. Mr. Astor was named after his great-grandfather John Jacob Astor who was America's first multi-millionaire (as well as creator of the first trust). In the early 19th-century, Mr. Astor made his millions trading furs, opium, and New York real estate.
In the late 19th century, Mr. Astor IV also made millions in New York real estate, most notably the Waldoff-Astoria Hotel, which he built with his cousin William Waldorf Astor. (JJ's home at Astor Courts in Rhinebeck was one of the last projects of the architect Stanford White.)
Mr. Astor IV was also a Colonel in the US Army, an author, inventor, and actor. But it is his death for which he is most remembered. Returning to the US from an extended honeymoon with his 18-year old pregnant wife, the 47-year old Astor IV died on the RMS Titanic. His wife survived to give birth to John Jacob Astor VI.
In April 1912, the San Francisco Call reported a first-hand account of the disaster from Colonel Archibald Gracie, the last man saved.
"'The Conduct of Colonel John Jacob Astor was deserving of the highest praise', Colonel Gracie declared. 'The millionaire New Yorker,' he said, 'devoted all his energies to saving his young bride, nee Miss Force of New York, who was in delicate health. Colonel Astor helped us in our efforts to get her into the boat, and as she took her place Colonel Astor requested permission of the second officer to go with her for her own protection.'
'No sir,' replied the officer. 'Not a man shall go on a boat until all the women are all off.'
Astor family history from New York Social Diary