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© 2011 New-York Historical Society logo

Guide to the Astor Family Papers
1719-1943
 MS 25

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Sherry Cortes; finding aid created by Sherry Cortes

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on April 09, 2018
Description is in English

Biographical/Historical

For years, the Astor family was the wealthiest family in the world thanks to both the fur trade and real estate market.

The Astor family was established in New York City by John Jacob Astor in 1784. Although Astor bought his first piece of land in 1799, he derived most of his wealth from his American Fur Company (founded in 1808) until the 1830's. At that point, foreseeing the rapid northward expansion of New York City, Astor began to buy and develop large tracts of Manhattan real estate.

His son, William Backhouse Astor, followed in his father's footsteps, and was rumored to know every single inch of land in his possession -- not as farfetched as it sounds, as he kept precise books detailing these properties which can be found in this collection.

The Astor family largely remained in New York, although in 1891, William Waldorf Astor moved his family to Britain, creating an Astor lineage in Europe. Even after moving, William Waldorf Astor kept a close eye on the family's real estate dealings, depending a great deal on correspondence between John Coode-Adams, his London agent, and C.W. Baldwin, his agent in New York. Many of their letters concerning the business transactions of the Astor family are also found in this collection of documents.

The family's land holdings were not limited to New York, and they had properties stretching across the country to Oregon, where there is a city named after the original trading post John Jacob Astor had established in 1811, Astoria, located at the mouth of the Columbia River.