Of all the insanely wealthy passengers booked in first class on the Titanic in April 1912, John Jacob Astor IV, 48, was at the top of the financial heap.
Great-grandson of the John Jacob Astor who came to New York in the 18th century and made a fortune in beaver pelts and opium, Astor IV was accomplished in his own right: He was an inventor, builder of the Astoria (later Waldorf-Astoria) Hotel, and author of a sci-fi novel set in the year 2000.
He had also knocked up his 18-year-old second wife, Madeleine Force, and the scandal of divorce and remarriage forced the couple to bide their time in Europe and Egypt. But with a baby due later that year, the Astors decided to return to New York City.
They settled in to a first-class room (reportedly costing about $4,000 a night, more like $50,000 today) with a manservant, maid, nurse, and their dog, Kitty.
After the ship hit the iceberg and women and children began getting into lifeboats, Astor supposedly asked a crew member if he could sit with his wife in one of the empty lifeboat seats, citing her pregnancy. He was refused but reportedly took it like a man.
Days later his crushed body was found in the Atlantic; he’s buried in Trinity Cemetery. His son, John Jacob Astor VI, was born in August 1912.
Astor, at left, waiting for the train that would take him to the Titanic for boarding.