Sunday is the 106th anniversary of the tragic sinking of the RMS Titanic, which hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean while on her maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York in 1912. Approximately 1,500 died, including first class passenger Col. John Jacob “Jake” Astor IV, 47.
A billionaire by today’s standards, he was an inventor, author (“A Journey in Other Worlds: A Romance of the Future”), property developer, successful businessman — and great-grandson of Astoria’s founder, John Jacob Astor. Jake and his second wife, Madeleine Talmage Force Astor, who was pregnant, took the trip as a belated honeymoon. At first he wasn’t too worried after the collision, and the couple sat on the mechanical horses in the gymnasium waiting for updates. Even when the lifeboats were being loaded, Astor felt “safer here than in that little boat.”
When he realized the situation was dire, he helped his wife onto Lifeboat 4, but was not allowed to accompany her. He was last seen standing quietly, alone on the deck, smoking a cigarette.
Astor went down with the ship, and his body was initially lost. However, the sea eventually gave the colonel up, and he was found April 22 or 23 (depending on which account you read), by the cable ship Mackay-Bennett.
Astor was dressed in his blue serge suit, handkerchief intact. He also wore a belt with a gold buckle, boots and a flannel shirt with a monogrammed collar. His gold watch was still on him, as well as his gold and diamond cuff links, a diamond ring, cash and notes, a gold pencil, and a pocketbook.
Astor’s body was delivered to New York City on May 1, 2012, where he was buried at Trinity Cemetery. His son, John Jacob Astor VI (V was already taken) was born Aug. 14, 1912. (tinyurl.com/JJAIVa, tinyurl.com/JJAIVb)