William Backhouse Astor, Jr. (1829-1892)

William B. Astor Jr., of New York

Associated Houses

William B. Astor House

Lafayette Place, New York City

The House of "The" Mrs Astor








He was brought up between the W.B. Astor House on Lafayette Place, New York City, and his family's country estate in the Hudson Valley, Rokeby. William was bright, finishing near to the top of his class at Columbia College. But, being kept as nothing more than a junior partner under his imperious elder brother, John Jacob III, their once close friendship began to fray and not helped by their political differences either: William was a Republican like all the Astors, but John became a Democrat. This animosity spread to their wives and then to their sons, dividing the family.

William quickly became disinterested in business and neither did he care for his wife's increasingly ambitious social aspirations. He dedicated his life to the pursuit of pleasure through women, drink, horse-racing, hunting, yachting and gambling - except not even that made him happy. William mixed with a bad crowd and was an absent husband and father. He spent most of his time on his yacht in Florida or at Ferncliff, leaving his wife to hold court in the city as the leader of "the 400" at the Mrs Astor House, although he was also listed as one of the 52-"Patriarchs" in 1889, hosting the most fashionable balls. He and his wife had a son (John Jacob Astor IV who was lost on the Titanic) and four daughters: (1) Emily, Mrs James Van Alen (2) Helen, Mrs James Roosevelt (3) Charlotte, married J. Coleman Drayton and then Geordie Haig (4) Caroline, Mrs M. Orme Wilson.       
Contributed by Mark Meredith on 04/10/2018 and last updated on 07/03/2024.