William Vincent Astor (1891 - 1959) MP

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Birthplace: New York, NY, USA
Death: Died in New York, NY, USA
Managed by: Ian
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About William Vincent Astor

William Vincent Astor was a businessman and philanthropist and a member of the prominent Astor family.

Called Vincent, he was born in the Fifth Avenue mansion where his grandmother Caroline Astor reigned over American society.

Vincent endured a difficult childhood. His vain mother was embarrassed by his resemblance to his father and would humiliate him in public. In addition his parents' marriage was less than perfect. Vincent's only sister, Ava Alice Muriel Astor, was reportedly Ava Astor's child by a New York society man named Sidney Hatch—though others argued her biological father was Ava's future second husband, Lord Ribblesdale—while Vincent's father, a friend wrote in a letter to her husband, had numerous affairs and morals shockingly loose for a warden of the Episcopal church. They divorced in 1909 and on September 9, 1911 Jack Astor married Madeleine Talmadge Force, an 18-year-old beauty a year younger than his son. In 1919, Ava married a recently widowed English nobleman, Thomas Lister, Baron of Ribblesdale. While a student at Harvard University in 1912, Vincent inherited an estimated $200 million when his father went down with the Titanic. After his father's death, he quit college to manage his family's vast properties. Astor at the time was called "the richest boy in the world."

Vincent Astor was, according to Astor family biographer Derek Wilson, "a hitherto unknown phenomenon in America: an Astor with a highly developed social conscience." He was 20 when his father died and having inherited a massive fortune, Astor dropped out of Harvard University. He set about to change the family image from that of miserly, aloof slum landlords who enjoyed the good life at the expense of others. Over time, he sold off the family's New York City slum housing and reinvested in reputable enterprises while spending a great deal of time and energy helping others. He was responsible for the construction of a large housing complex in the Bronx that included sufficient land for a large children's playground, and in Harlem, he transformed a valuable piece of real estate into another playground for children.

Astor appeared as number 12 on the first list of America's richest people compiled by Forbes Magazine. His net worth at the time was estimated at $75 million.

Amongst his holdings was Newsweek magazine which had for a time its headquarters in the former Knickerbocker Hotel that had been built by Vincent Astor's father; he was the magazine's chairman. He also inherited Ferncliff, the Astor family's estate in Rhinebeck, New York, where his father had been born. However, Vincent Astor would be the last occupant of Ferncliff. On his death in 1959, Vincent Astor bequeathed the main house at Ferncliff to the Benedictine Hospital in Kingston, New York, and in 1964 his widow, Brooke, donated the remaining land to become Ferncliff Forest Game Refuge and Forest Preserve.

Astor died on February 3, 1959, of a heart attack at his apartment at 120 East End Avenue in Manhattan. He left all of his money to his wife Brooke, surprising many. She continued his philanthropic work. He was the last person born into the American branch of the Astor family to rank amongst the richest individuals in the United States according to People magazine. John Jacob Astor VI, Vincent's half brother and with whom he had never been on good terms, contested Astor's will; John Jacob Astor VI lost the case. -------------------- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vincent_Astor

William Vincent Astor (November 15, 1891 – February 3, 1959) was a businessman and philanthropist and a member of the prominent Astor family.


Early life


Called Vincent, he was born in the Fifth Avenue mansion where his grandmother Caroline Astor reigned over American society. He was the son of John Jacob Astor IV, millionaire and inventor; and his first wife, Ava Lowle Willing, an heiress from Philadelphia.


Childhood and inheritance


Vincent endured a difficult childhood. His vain mother was embarrassed by his resemblance to his father and would humiliate him in public. In addition his parents' marriage was less than perfect. Vincent's only sister, Ava Alice Muriel Astor, was reportedly Ava Astor's child by a New York society man named Sidney Hatch—though others argued her biological father was Ava's future second husband, Lord Ribblesdale—while Vincent's father, a friend wrote in a letter to her husband, had numerous affairs and morals shockingly loose for a warden of the Episcopal church. They divorced in 1909 and on September 9, 1911 Jack Astor married Madeleine Talmadge Force, an 18-year-old beauty a year younger than his son. In 1919, Ava married a recently widowed English nobleman, Thomas Lister, Baron of Ribblesdale. While a student at Harvard University in 1912, Vincent inherited an estimated $200 million when his father went down with the Titanic. After his father's death, he quit college to manage his family's vast properties. He also wore his father's recovered gold pocket watch and wore it the rest of his life. Astor at the time was called "the richest boy in the world."


Philanthropy


Vincent Astor was, according to Astor family biographer Derek Wilson, "a hitherto unknown phenomenon in America: an Astor with a highly developed social conscience." He was 20 when his father died and having inherited a massive fortune, Vincent Astor dropped out of Harvard University. He set about to change the family image from that of miserly, aloof slum landlords who enjoyed the good life at the expense of others. Over time, he sold off the family's New York City slum housing and reinvested in reputable enterprises while spending a great deal of time and energy helping others. He was responsible for the construction of a large housing complex in the Bronx that included sufficient land for a large children's playground, and in Harlem, he transformed a valuable piece of real estate into another playground for children.


Vincent Astor appeared as No. 12 on the first list of America's richest people, compiled by Forbes Magazine. His net worth at the time was estimated at $75 million.


Amongst his holdings was Newsweek magazine which had for a time its headquarters in the former Knickerbocker Hotel that had been built by Vincent Astor's father; he was the magazine's chairman. He also inherited Ferncliff, the Astor family's 2,800-acre (11 km2) estate near Rhinebeck, New York, where his father had been born. Vincent Astor, however, would be the last family owner of the estate and occupant of the "Ferncliff Casino", a Stanford White—McKim Mead & White designed 1904 Beaux Arts style 40,000 square feet (3,700 m2) building, inspired by the Grand Trianon at Versailles.[2][3] On his death in 1959, Vincent Astor bequeathed a main house at Ferncliff to the Benedictine Hospital in Kingston, New York, and later his widow, Brooke, donated "Ferncliff Casino" to the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, and sold off many parcels of the estate. In 1963 Homer Staley, a local retired businessman in the area, asked Brooke Astor to preserve the remaining natural acreage of woodlands from development. She donated the land to the Rotary Club of Rhinebeck, to become the Ferncliff Forest Game Refuge and Forest Preserve.


Marriages


Astor married Helen Dinsmore Huntington, on April 30, 1914. At the ceremony, he was stricken with the mumps, a disease that made him sterile; as for the bride, her friend Glenway Wescott, the novelist, admiringly described her in his unpublished diaries as "a grand, old-fashioned lesbian." At the outbreak of World War I, Vincent took advice from his friend and Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt and joined the Navy. He served overseas with his wife, who did charity work with the YMCA in France. Vincent was promoted from an ensign to a lieutenant during the War. The couple divorced in 1940. A year later, Helen Astor became the second wife of Lytle Hull (?-1958), a real-estate broker who was a friend and business associate of her former husband.

Shortly after his divorce, Astor married Mary Benedict Cushing, known as Minnie. She was a daughter of the prominent Baltimore surgeon, Dr. Harvey Cushing and sister of Babe Cushing Paley and Betsey Cushing Roosevelt Whitney. They divorced in September 1953, and the following month, Minnie Astor married James Whitney Fosburgh, a painter who worked as an art lecturer at the Frick Museum.
On 8 October 1953, several weeks after divorcing his second wife, Astor married the once-divorced, once-widowed Brooke Russell Marshall, whom he called Pookie. According to an oft-told story in society circles, Astor agreed to divorce his second wife only after she had found him a replacement spouse. Her first suggestion was Janet Newbold Ryan Stewart Bush, the newly divorced wife of James S. Bush, who turned Astor down with startling candor, saying, "I don't even like you." Astor proceeded to tell her that he was not well and, though only in his early 60s, he couldn't be expected to live for very long, whereupon she would inherit his millions. At that, Janet Bush reportedly replied, "What if you do live?"

Minnie Astor then proposed the recently widowed Brooke Marshall. Together, Brooke and Vincent Astor developed the Vincent Astor Foundation, a foundation that was designed to give back to New York City. Brooke Astor would live to be 105 years-old.


Death


Vincent died on February 3, 1959, of a heart attack at his apartment at 120 East End Avenue in Manhattan. Astor left all of his money to Brooke, surprising many. She continued his philanthropic work. Vincent Astor was first interred on his "Ferncliff Courts" estate ("Astor Courts") on the Hudson River near Rhinebeck, New York. When Brooke later disposed of the property he was reinterred in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York. Vincent was the last person born into the American branch of the Astor family to rank amongst the richest individuals in the United States, according to People magazine. John Jacob Astor VI, Vincent's half brother and with whom he had never been on good terms, contested Astor's will but lost the case.


Mount Astor


A mountain in Antarctica bears Astor's name. Rising to a height of 3,710 m, Mount Astor is located in the Hays Mountains of the Queen Maud Range, and was named by Rear Admiral Richard Byrd on his November 1929 expedition flight to the South Pole. Astor had been a contributing philanthropist to the expedition.