Johann Jakob AstorFollowing an Economic Career
Birthplace of Johann Jakob Astor in Walldorf near Heidelberg.
The model biography "from rags to riches" can be applied to Johann Jakob Astor (1763-1848) from Walldorf concerning the end of his career. But regarding its beginning, Johann Jakob could not exactly be called poor when he came to America in 1783. His brother Henry, who was a dealer in music in England, had provided some money to start a new life in America. But he, himself, had left his home country for economic reasons. His hard disciplin as well as his sense for business helped him to get right to the top. By trading music instruments and then primarily furs he made a fortune. He was able to buy large property in Manhatten/New York and built the Astoria branch at the Columbia-River for dealing furs with China. His ample fortune of 20 Million Dollars was indeed an incredible amount for the preindustrial era. He donated 50.000 Dollars for the building of an educational and pensioners home in his hometown.
Article "Johann Jakob Astor" in: Neue Deutsche Biographie, Band 1, Berlin 1953, p. 423ff.