by Stephen Whitney

This content is part of a series.

Limits of Wealth (20 of 40)
Series: Ecclesiastes
Stephen Whitney
Ecclesiastes 6:1-6

John Jacob Astor IV was born on July 13, 1864 into one of the wealthiest families in the United States. His great-grandfather
had made his fortune in opium, fur trade and real estate. There
was more to John Astor than the $87 million fortune he had made through real estate and his family's fur-trading empire.

After graduatin from Harvard, he pataented such inventions as a turbine engine and a bicycle brake. His first marrage lasted ten years and he had two children.

His second marriage, to Madeleine in 1911, caused a scandal because divorce was not socially acceptable in the early 1900's.
To escape wagging tongues and their reputations they took an extended honeymoon in Europe and then in Egypt. She became pregnant and because they wanted the child to be born in the U.S.

When they boarded the Titanic in England on April 8, 1912 she was five months pregnant. On a ship filled with tycoons, John Jacob Astor stood out as the richest. He brought an entourage
that included a manservant, a maid, a nurse and his dog.

First-class staterooms like theirs were richly paneled suites with working fireplaces and separate quarters for servants - cost as much as $4,000 for the voyage which was equivalent to a cost
of $50,000 today.

When the Titanic hit an iceberg and was beginning to sink the women were put into lifeboats. John Astor mentioned his wife's "delicate condition" when he asked an officer if he could take one of the several empty seats in her lifeboat, but the officer refused.

He lit a cigarette and tossed his gloves to his wife. Several days later, his partly crushed, soot-stained body was found floating in the Atlantic with $2,500 in a pocket. Experts believe he may have been hit by a falling smokestack. On August 14th his son was born,
but he never got to enjoy his wealth or his son John Jacob Astor V.

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