John Jacob Astor: America's First Multimillionaire

John Jacob Astor: America's First Multimillionaire

John Jacob Astor: America's First Multimillionaire

John Jacob Astor: America's First Multimillionaire

Synopsis

On The Deal Maker: How William C. Durant Made General Motors: "A well-written biography."-New York Times On Stanwyck: The Life and Times of Barbara Stanwyck: "Madsen's admirably researched, insightful portrait of her aloof nature . . . reveals she was always torn between her wish to give of herself and her need to be in control."-Christian Science Monitor On Chanel: A Woman of Her Own: "Fascinating . . . . Takes the reader behind the coromandel veneers of Chanel's life."-New York Times Book Review "Carefully knits together the complex pattern of Chanel's complicated existence. It's not an easy task."-Toronto Globe and Mail On Gloria and Joe: "Axel Madsen finally gives the public a fascinating chronicle of the romance that could have ruined more than two careers."-Dallas Morning News On Cousteau: "Both critical and understanding. And it is exceptionally readable. Readers are well advised to take the plunge."-Chicago Tribune On Malraux: "Will stand as the best of more than a dozen books about Malraux in print."-Kansas City Star

Excerpt

Before Bill Gates and Donald Trump, before the Rockefellers, before Andrew Carnegie, E. H. Harriman, and Henry Ford, there was John Jacob Astor. He might have been born in a village in southern Germany, but his story is American in his desire to reinvent himself and, to an astonishing extent, invent the newly formed United States. The wish to make something of oneself is a perennial in most cultures. Doing so is the American obsession. Doing so supremely is the stuff of legends. Astor was America's first multimillionaire. As his friend Philip Hone, the last of the aristocratic mayors of New York, said of him: “All he touched turned to gold, and it seemed as if fortune delighted in erecting him a monument of her unerring potency.” When he died a few months short of his eighty-fifth birthday, he left behind a fortune that represented one-fifteenth of all the personal wealth in America.

The new American democracy's laissez-faire economy gave astute and audacious entrepreneurs unlimited opportunities. Astor was one of the first merchants to imagine the world as a global economy. He traded on three continents and had little patience for prickly nationalism. He didn't think England's quarrel with its former North American colonies was any of his business. Throughout his long life he ignored jingoistic passions while remaining attentive to the money to be made on wars. A beaver skin, he believed, belonged to the trapper who caught the animal and to the person who bought the pelt regardless of maps that statesmen in London, Paris, Madrid, St. Petersburg, and the new . . .

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