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When The Titanic Sank, The Richest Person In The World Was On Board And Went Down With The Ship

The Titanic sank, leaving more than 1500 people dead. Third class passengers from steerage made up a large portion of the fatalities. However, not every victim was indigent. In fact, one of the casualties happened to be the richest person in the world…



One guy had more fortune, fame, and infamy than anyone else in the early 20th century. John Jacob “Jack” Astor IV was his name. He was dubbed “Jack Ass” in the media. During the Spanish-American War, he served as a lieutenant colonel in addition to being an American businessman, investor, novelist, developer, and inventor. Oh, and he belonged to the Astor clan. Likewise known as one of the richest families in American history.

In April 1912, Astor became a permanent and prominent part of history when he set out to cross the Atlantic Ocean on the RMS Titanic. Astor was the richest man in the world at the time of the Titanic’s voyage. An estimate of his personal wealth put it at $85 million. Those $85 million are now worth $2.3 billion.

Imagine how crazy it would be if that space ship got hit by a meteorite and blew up halfway through the voyage. Essentially, this is what occurred 109 years ago.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Getty Images/Hulton Archive

Early Life and Family Wealth

John Jacob Astor I, the great-grandfather of John Jacob IV, made his first million dollars by dealing Canadian furs with affluent women in New York City. JJAI then used his money to buy up vast quantities of real estate around New York, especially in what we now call Manhattan.

At the time of JJAI’s death in 1848, he left behind a fortune of $20 million. Today, $20 million would be a sizable fortune. In 1848, $20 million was in question. JJAI’s fortune is now worth the equivalent of $121 BILLION USD after accounting for inflation. JJAI became the fifth-richest American and the 14th-richest person in history thanks to his money.

John Jacob Astor IV was raised in opulence as a result of his wealthy family. Astor studied at Harvard University and the esteemed St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire. Astor wed socialite Ava Lowle Willing in 1891. The couple had two children, William Vincent, born in 1891, and Ava Alice, born in 1902.

In 1909, Astor and Ava got divorced. Divorce was a pretty big scandal in those days, and making that scandal worse was the fact that “Jack” planned to remarry almost right away, to a much much younger woman. Jack married Madeleine Talmage Force, an 18-year-old socialite, when he was 47 years old. Vincent, Jack’s kid, was two years older than Madeleine. The ceremony took place at the Newport, Rhode Island, ballroom of his mother’s family house.

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Not A Lazy Trust Fund Baby

Jack Astor wasn’t just a middle-aged playboy with a trust money who toured the globe with his young bride. He had books published. He released “A Journey in Other Worlds,” a science fiction book about life in the year 2000 on Saturn and Jupiter, in 1894.

Next to his cousin Willy’s Waldorf Hotel, he constructed the Astoria Hotel in 1897, which at the time was the most opulent hotel in the world. The two properties eventually became known as the Waldorf-Astoria, and were coincidentally the headquarters for American inquiries into the sinking of the Titanic.

A Fateful Voyage

The pair decided to take an extended honeymoon in Egypt and Europe to allow the rumors back home time to die down because of the drama surrounding the divorce and the 29-year age gap between Jack and Madeleine.

Along with the Astors, Molly traveled to France and Egypt. Coincidentally, she was called back to the United States just as the Astors made the decision to return home.

While Madeleine was expecting a child and wanted the birth of her child to take place in the United States, the scandal surrounding Jack’s second marriage was still boiling. Therefore, Brown and the Astors made reservations for passage on the opulent new ocean liner RMS Titanic. Because Titanic was billed as the fastest, most technologically advanced ship ever built, the journey was anticipated to last seven days.

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Organization/Getty Images

The RMS Titanic’s inaugural journey was chosen by Molly and the Astors, who boarded the ship in Cherbourg, France. They received first class accommodations because they were the richest passengers on the cruise. The Astors were accompanied by Victor Robbins, Jack’s valet, Rosalie Bidois, Madeleine’s caregiver Caroline Endres, and Kitty, the couple’s adored Airedale.


Eventually, the couple either made their way to the A Deck, or were retrieved from the gym for evacuation. Madeleine, her maid, and nurse were loaded into Lifeboat 4. Astor requested to travel with his expectant wife, but naturally, men were not permitted to abandon ship until all of the ladies and children had been picked up.

An image of Madeline Astor’s actual life jacket is shown below:



Lifeboat 4 was lowered into the Atlantic Ocean at 1:55 a.m. John Jacob Astor IV was unable to flee at any point. His wife and friends last saw him smoking a cigarette while standing on the Starboard bridge wing. The titanic vanished beneath the ocean’s surface in less than 30 minutes. All three of Madeleine’s caregivers and maids lived. Victor Robbins, Jack Astor’s butler, and they didn’t.

Of the 1,517 passengers who died in the sinking of the Titanic, only 333 bodies were ever found. One of them was Jack Astor’s. He was found on April 22nd and was identified thanks to the monogrammed initials on his jacket. On his person, a pricey gold pocket watch was also discovered. Vincent, his son, would continue to wear that watch throughout his entire life.

John Jacob “Jakey” Astor VI, the second son of Jack Astor, was born to Madeleine Astor four months after the Titanic went down.

What Happened To The Largest Fortune In The World?

His trust money of $10 million, which is now worth $270 million, was bequeathed to his daughter Ava, who is also from his first marriage.

Madeleine and Jack’s son Jakey, who was nicknamed “The Titanic Baby”, was left $3 million, to be inherited when he turned 21. The trust had a value of $5 million when Jakey reached 21 in 1933, which is equivalent to $103 million today. Jakey felt betrayed by not being named the inheritor of what had grown to be a sizable wealth when Vincent Astor passed away without having children in 1959. He really filed a lawsuit against Vincent’s wife, and a $250,000 settlement was reached.

Jakey would be remembered for being engaged many many times and marrying four times. At the age of 79, he passed away in 1992.