Beautiful New York

A Celebration of the City

The Top 100 Greatest New Yorkers — #19

John Jacob Astor (1763 – 1848)


The first multimillionaire in the U.S., John Jacob Astor, made his fortune in the fur trade. The beaver skins that were plentiful in the New York area made Astor a prominent business figure of the turn of the 19th century in a city that had been built on commerce. Later, he began buying land and became the most infamous landlord of his day. By the time of his death, he was the wealthiest man in America and said on his deathbed that his only regret was not purchasing every last available plot of real estate in Manhattan. The patriarch of a legendary family whose fortune continued to build in the hotel industry, John Jacob Astor is the namesake of Astor Row, Astor Place, and the neighborhood of Astoria in Queens. His legacy also includes the founding of the Astor Library for the public of the city, which ultimately combined with other foundations to become the New York Public Library.


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