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Autographed Letter signed by Wm. B. Astor

Inv# AU1527   Letter
Autographed Letter signed by Wm. B. Astor
State(s): New York
Years: 1865

Letter signed by Wm. B. Astor. Civil War Dated, February 2, 1865.

William Backhouse Astor, Jr. (July 12, 1830 – April 25, 1892) was a businessman and a member of the prominent Astor family. He was the father of John Jacob IV, who died aboard the Titanic.

The younger son of William Backhouse Astor, Sr., he was joint heir to the Astor real estate empire, though he left its active management to his elder brother John Jacob Astor III (1822–1890).

In 1853 he married the socially ambitious Caroline Webster Schermerhorn, who reigned over New York and Newport society as simply "the Mrs. Astor." William, however, had little interest in society parties, and his wife would try to have him kept late at his club to prevent him coming home and throwing the orchestra out and sending his children to bed.

He supported the abolition of slavery before the Civil War, and during the war, he personally bore the cost to equip an entire Union Army regiment.

Unlike his business oriented father, William Backhouse Astor, Jr. did not aggressively pursue an expansion of his inherited fortune, preferring life aboard the "Ambassadress," at the time the largest private yacht in the world, or horseback riding at Ferncliff, the large estate he had built on the Hudson River. Astor's horse "Vagrant" won the 1876 running of the Kentucky Derby.

William Astor often spent winters in Jacksonville, Florida aboard his yacht and was responsible for the construction of a number of prominent buildings in the city. Liking the area, in 1874, he purchased a land tract of around 80,000 acres along the St. Johns River north of Orlando in an area now called Lake County, Florida. There, on what had once been a 16th century Huguenot settlement destroyed by the Spanish, he and two partners used 12,000 acres to build an entire town that he named Manhattan but was later changed to Astor in his honor.

His project, which would come to include several hotels, began with the construction of wharves on the river to accommodate steamboats. These steamboats attracted a steamship agency that could bring in the necessary materials and supplies. William Astor enjoyed his development and purchased a railroad that connected the town to the "Great Lakes Region" of Florida. He donated the town's first church and the land for the local non-denominational cemetery, and he also helped build a schoolhouse, both of which are still standing today. In 1875, one of the many nearby lakes was named Lake Schermerhorn after William Astor's wife, Caroline Schermerhorn Astor.

The town of Manhattan, Florida boomed, and William Astor, with an eye on the large New York market, expanded his interests to a grapefruit grove, a fruit that at the time was only available on a very limited basis in other parts of the United States. But William Astor did not live long enough to see the orchard grow to production. Following his death in 1892, the property fell to his son, John Jacob Astor IV. By then though, rapid changes were taking place throughout Florida. New railroads had been built in 1885 through the central and western part of the state, and in the late 1890s, Henry Flagler built a railroad line running down Florida's east coast from Daytona Beach. All this expansion left the town of Astor isolated and was all but abandoned after train service to Astor was discontinued.

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Condition: Excellent
Item ordered may not be exact piece shown. All original and authentic.