Astor, John Jacob (1763-1848) Fur Trader and Financier: John Jacob Astor was born in Walldorf, near Heidelberg, in Germany. As a young man, he worked in his father's farm. At the age of sixteen, he went to London and worked with his brother, who build musical instruments. Astor sailed to the United States in 1784, and invested the small amount of capital he had in a fur business in New York. His fur trading business became a major success.
In 1811, he founded the settlement of Astoria. Astor became one of the wealthiest and most powerful individuals in the United States. By the end of his life, he was worth about $20 million. At his death in 1848, Astor left about $350,000 for the founding of a public library in New York.