NEW YORK: The Richest Boy

After escorting his pregnant second wife to a lifeboat, coolly waving to her as the boat was lowered to the calm sea, jaunty, mustachioed Colonel John Jacob Astor IV went down with the unsinkable ship Titanic while the orchestra played "Hold me up, mighty waters, / Keep my eye on things above." That left a nervous, narrow-chested youth of 6 ft. 4 in., perhaps the greenest freshman at Harvard, to inherit a fortune of approximately $87.2 million, organized around vast and spreading holdings, including some of Manhattan's finest hotels—the Astoria. St. Regis,...

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