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© 2011 New-York Historical Society logo

Guide to the Astor Family Papers
 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

Scope and Contents

This collection spans a time period from 1758-1943 of the Astor family real estate business. It includes deeds, leases, agreements, receipts, work orders, lease renewals, mortgages, ledgers, balances, daybooks, letterbooks (both personal and business), ticklers, and maps of Astor owned properties. Individual documents in boxes are organized alphabetically, and volumes are organized alphabetically by person. Oversize documents are organized in each folder alphabetically by location listed on the document.

Areas of interest in the Astor Family Papers collection:

1. Copy of assignment and lease from Aaron Burr to John Jacob Astor 1803. In an infamous purchase, Astor was able to provide Burr with quick cash he needed after killing Alexander Hamilton.

2. William Backhouse Astor's Letterbook, dated 1852-1855. In a letter addressed to Robert Neilson, London, February 16, 1854, Astor references political unrest in Europe during the time and speculates that should war break out, America would most likely remain a neutral party as it was in its best interest, until other 'Powers' joined in the war and put pressure on the United States. In March, France declared war on Russia, marking the start of the Crimean War. Astor's prediction of US neutrality proved true.

3.William Backhouse Astor's Letterbook, dated 1859-1864. There are two letters addressed to Salmon P. Chase, the Secretary of Treasury in Abraham Lincoln's cabinet, regarding transfer of moneys. (Pages 187 and 278) In a letter to his friend Robert Neilson in November, 1862, Astor makes references to the new form of currency (the 'Greenback') that had been released in April of that year and assures him that the banks would be able to cover this expansion. He also comments that the banks had been the government's principal creditors since the 'rebellion commenced.' Civil War. (Page 270) In another letter to Neilson, Astor comments on the Astor library, still a relatively new institution at the time, encouraging him to return for a visit as there were more volumes than when Neilson had previously visited it.

4. Map Book, dated 1891-1892. Includes newspaper clippings of articles from this time period concerning the Astor family history, John Jacob Astor III, William Waldorf Astor, and the scandal of the false reporting of WW Astor's death.

5. James Madison commission to soldier John Bateman. Includes James Madison's signature from during his tenure as president.


The Astor Family Papers has been arranged into the following two series:

Series I. Property Documents: Leases, Deeds, Mortgages, Maps Series II. Letterbooks, Daybooks, Rent Rolls, Journals, and Ledgers