Like any other successful businessman, Jacob has his story. He saw a lot of ups and downs in his career. And in the end, he became first-ever America’s multi-millionaire to inspires lives and the next generations.
Astor tried several careers before entering the fur business.
After working for many years alongside his dad in the family’s dairy business, Astor left Germany to join his brother. For five decades, he helped his brother manufacture and sell musical instruments, eventually traveling to the USA in 1784 to function as a business’ U.S. agent. Astor allegedly carried more with him than a shipment of seven flutes. Once stateside, Astor worked with another older brother, Henry, a butcher in the Bowery place of New York. Disillusioned with all other lines of work, Astor began trading for furs with local Native American tribes. A commercial treaty between the United States and Great Britain opened up new markets in the west at the 1790s, Astor sprung into action, stabilizing himself as the exporter for one of Canada’s quality fur firms and by the end of the decade, he was meriting more than $250,000.
He lost his fortune during the War of 1812.
From the early 1800s, his business expanded, establishing trade routes to Europe and China. Still, Astor turned for opportunities when the 1807 Embargo Act resulted in the closure of several ports to American ships. In 1808, he opened the first of many fur companies, the American Fur Company, followed shortly after by subsidiaries such as the Pacific Fur Company. In 1811, the Pacific Fur Company established the first American settlement on the Pacific coast, Fort Astoria. Astor’s held on the region’s fur trade but did not last long the men in Fort Astoria panicked, selling the company and its holdings into a firm when war broke out in 1812 between Great Britain and the USA. It was then that their fears were well-founded; a warship came intending to occupy the fort. Astor’s northwest fantasies were in tatters, and the British would keep control of the outpost for another forty years.
Astor sought help from the U.S. government to get him back into the fur business.
After the end of the war in 1815, Astor urged the U.S. Congress for a series of protectionist legislative bills that had been devised to avoid a repeat of his financial losses in the Pacific Northwest. When Congress passed an 1816 law prohibiting non-U.S. citizens from owning fur companies in U.S. land, the same Canadian company that had purchased Fort Astoria was forced to sell their holdings below the Great Lakes to Jacob Astor. Six years later, Astor received additional aid by the U.S. government when Congress voted to close all trading posts operated by foreign authorities, leaving Astor with a near-monopoly on the fur trade.
Jacob Astor happened to make part of his fortune by smuggling drugs. Owing to his friendship with Aaron Burr, he entered the NYC Real Estate. A library created by Astor became a part of New York’s Public Library System. He was the one to develop the first-ever family trust in American History.