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By Justin Kaplan

During this brilliant anecdotal heritage, Justin Kaplan''Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Mark Twain''vividly brings to existence a glittering, bygone age. Endowed with the most important deepest fortunes in their day, cousins John Jacob Astor IV and William Waldorf Astor vied for primacy in ny society, generating the grandest inns ever visible in a wedding of ostentation and potency that remodeled American social Read more...

summary: during this incredible anecdotal background, Justin Kaplan''Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Mark Twain''vividly brings to existence a glittering, bygone age. Endowed with the most important inner most fortunes in their day, cousins John Jacob Astor IV and William Waldorf Astor vied for primacy in manhattan society, generating the grandest inns ever visible in a wedding of ostentation and potency that remodeled American social habit. Kaplan exposes all of it in beautiful element, taking readers from the Eighteen Nineties to the Roaring Twenties in a mixture of biography, heritage, architectural appreciation, and natural studying excitement

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As portrayed by the press, and as indelibly fixed in the public mind, like the Greek poet’s famous hedgehog, John Jacob Astor had known one thing and known it supremely well, and that was “To get all he could, and to keep nearly all he got,” as the popular biographer James Parton wrote two decades later. “The roll-book of his possessions was his Bible. He scanned it fondly, and saw with quiet but deep delight the catalogue of his property lengthening from month to month. ” This predatory, stony-hearted, parsimonious monster of greed, as he was remembered, allegedly enjoyed nothing better than to count his wealth down to the last penny, drive up tenement rack rents, foreclose mortgages, and put widows and orphans out on the street.

Still a relatively poor man, Astor admired a row of newly erected buildings on Broadway, far to the west of his shabby street. ” After fifteen years in business for himself Astor was worth about a quarter of a million dollars and moved his family and fur business to a three-story brick building in the row he admired. By then Astor and his network of agents virtually monopolized the trade, but he lived pretty much the way he and Sarah had at Water Street, frugally and without show. He watched every penny, conducted business in a malodorous shop and warehouse on the ground floor, and employed his son William to beat and air the furs to dispel moths.

Stead; copper-mining and smelting magnate Benjamin Guggenheim, who reputedly left a fortune estimated at $95 million; Isidor Straus ($50 million), owner of Macy’s, the world’s largest department store; and rare-book collector and Philadelphia Main Line socialite Harry Elkins Widener ($50 million). Astor’s fortune was reported to be about $150 million. ) A few doom-crying clergymen claimed the sinking of the Titanic spoke for a judgment of God on a society that had lost its way. They had in mind Astor’s divorce, scandalous as well as unholy because it involved an act of adultery; his subsequent marriage, additionally unholy because he was a divorced man and his wife a teenage girl less than half his age; and his earlier years of supposedly unbridled pleasures as playboy, social butterfly, and yachtsman.

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