Colonel John Jacob Astor IV - Titanic First Class Passenger

Colonel John Jacob Astor IV, the richest of all of Titanic’s passengers, was a first class passenger travelling home from a winter holiday with his pregnant newlywed wife. Along with three of their servants, the Astor’s boarded Titanic on 10th April at Cherbourg. They occupied the luxurious C Deck cabins, C62-64.

 Colonel John Jacob Astor IV
Colonel John Jacob Astor IV

John Jacob Astor the son of William Backhouse Astor and Caroline Webster Schermerhorn Astor was born on 13th July 1864 in Rhinebeck, New York, into the wealthy and prominent Astor family.

He received his education at St. Paul's School, a private school in Concord, New Hampshire, and then later he studied at Harvard. He become a Colonel in 1898, and was involved in business, including building the Astoria Hotel.

In the presence of many influential people at the Philadelphia home of the brides father, John Jacob Astor married Ava Lowle Willing, on Tuesday 17th February 1891. The couple had two children together, a son, Vincent Astor, born in 1891, and a daughter, Ava Alice Muriel Astor, born in 1902. However, in 1909 the couple divorced.

Amongst much controversy and despite having trouble getting someone to conduct the marriage, John Jacob Astor married 18 year old Madeleine Talmage Force on 9th September 1911. Following great criticism of his decision to marry the couple, the minister who conducted the wedding shortly resigned from his church.

On 24th January 1912, John Jacob Astor and his now pregnant wife [?] departed New York on Titanic's sister ship Olympic, heading for a holiday in Europe and Egypt. Also onboard was J Bruce Ismay, the Managing Director of the White Star line, who would later join them as a passenger on Titanic. On 10th April 1912 the Astor's joined the Titanic at Cherbourg to make their journey home.

After Titanic collided with the iceberg, the Astor's went to the gymnasium, where as depicted in both the film SOS Titanic and a deleted scene from the 1997 Titanic film, wearing their lifebelts, John Jacob Astor cut a spare lifebelt open to show Madeline what it was made of.

John Jacob Astor helped his wife into lifeboat 4, and asked second officer Charles Lightoller, if he could join his wife as she was in, in his own words, 'a delicate position'. Second officer Lightoller refused as it was woman and children first. Before the boat was lowered John Jacob Astor asked what the number of the boat was. This was the last time that Madeline Astor saw her husband.

His body was recovered from the North Atlantic by the Mackay-Bennett on 22nd April 1912. Included in his possession were a gold watch, $2440 in notes and £225 in British notes. His body was buried at Trinity Church Cemetery, New York.

Madeline Astor give birth to a baby boy, on 14th August 1912; he was named John Jacob Astor VI.

John Jacob Astor has been portrayed in many Titanic films including the 1997 Titanic film, played by Eric Braeden; the 1996 film/miniseries, played by Scott Hylands, and the 1979 film SOS Titanic, played by David Janssen.

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