cover image The Astors, 1763-1992: Landscape with Millionaires

The Astors, 1763-1992: Landscape with Millionaires

Derek Wilson, Author St. Martin's Griffin $24.95 (439p) ISBN 978-0-312-09744-8

Wilson ( Rothschild: A Story of Wealth and Power ) here offers another saga of money and power, tracing the Astor dynasty in a heavily footnoted and densely written study. John Jacob Astor (1763-1848), a German immigrant to the U.S., established his fortune in real estate and the fur trade. Investments by his heirs increased the family's holdings, and another branch of the Astors was founded in England, when William Waldorf Astor (1848-1919) emigrated and became a British subject. Wilson, who had access to the family's private papers, attempts, with little success, to establish that the early Astors were not slumlords, and he depicts Nancy Astor (1879-1964), who was reputed to be a Nazi sympathizer, as an innocent victim of the leftist press. Wilson's lack of objectivity and overly sympathetic attitude towards the Astors is a serious detraction from his book. Photos not seen by PW. (Sept.)