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John Jacob Astor lived through1763-1848 He was a fur trader businessman and real estate investor Astor began life as one of twelve children of a poor German butcher and died the richest man in America The making of a great fortune was the aim and purpose of Astors life and he accomplished it by dominating the American fur trade and investing his profits in the real estate of burgeoning New York City Shortly before his death Astor was asked if he would have done anything differently with his life He is supposed to have replied that his only regret was not having bought all of Manhattan Astor was born in the small town of Waldorf near Heidelberg Germany At twenty he followed his older brother Henry to New York arriving with hardly a penny He became a clerk to a fur trader and mastered that business quickly His employer was impressed with Astors intelligence and energy and entrusted him with more and more responsibilities including buying furs upstate and selling them in London Before long Astor was operating on his own account and prospered at once He began putting his profits into Manhattan real estate investing nearly 7000 a large sum of money in those days between 1789 and 1791 Astors strategy was to buy very cheaply land that lay far beyond the developed area of the city and then to wait for the citys rapid growth to reach his lots In 1803 for instance he paid 25000 for seventy acres located more than an hours ride north of what were then the citys physical limits By the 1870s the land was worth 20 million to the Astor family Today the area is known as Times Square Because China was an excellent market for furs in 1800 Astor entered the China trade and earned large profits from it often as much as 50000 from a single
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