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Guide to the Brooke Astor Papers
 MS 3157

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

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Eri Matsuda and Larry Weimer

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on July 01, 2022 using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Biographical / Historical

Brooke Astor (then Roberta Brooke Russell) was born in 1902 in New Hampshire to John Henry Russell Jr. (1872-1947) and Mabel Cecile Hornby Howard Russell (1879–1967). John Russell joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1894 and certain of his career postings pertain to documents in the collection and to Brooke's life. In particular, John Russell was stationed (with his family) in Honolulu, Hawaii, during Brooke's early childhood; in China during Brooke's early teenage years; and in Haiti during the U.S. occupation of that country, where the adult Brooke apparently visited. Brooke would document her recollections of her early years in a 1962 book "Patchwork Child."

Brooke married at the age of 17, in 1919, to John Dryden Kuser (who went by the call name "Dryden"), the son of a wealthy New Jersey businessman. They had one son, Anthony, but the marriage was an unhappy one, ending in divorce in 1930. Brooke married a second time, in 1932, to Charles "Buddy" Marshall. It was a happy marriage and Brooke Marshall's son by Dryden Kuser, Anthony, eventually took Marshall as his surname. During this marriage, in the 1940s, Brooke worked as an editor for House & Garden magazine. Marshall died in 1952 and Brooke married a third time, in 1953, to William Vincent Astor, taking the name Brooke Astor. Brooke recounted these marriages and more of her life in her 1980 memoir "Footprints."

Vincent Astor (he seems generally not to have used William) was a member of the wealthy Astor family. His father, John Jacob Astor IV, died in 1912 on the Titanic, leaving a fortune to Vincent, who left Harvard to pursue business and philanthropic interests with his riches. Vincent served with the Navy in both World War I and World War II, and even his yachts were re-purposed by the Coast Guard for military duty. Brooke was Vincent's third wife, and perhaps anticipating that his life would be short, engaged her in his philanthropic endeavors through the Vincent Astor Foundation. Vincent died in 1959, leaving the substance of his estate to Brooke, who also controlled the Foundation. For the last decades of her life, Brooke Astor pursued her philanthropic interests, among them the New York Public Library, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Zoological Society, and others. Brooke Astor died in 2007 at the age of 105.

(The above note was based on various on-line sources, including Wikipedia.)