Born on July 17, 1763, John Jacob Astor made a fortune as a major fur trader and became the richest man in his era, and the United States' first millionaire. John Jacob was born in Waldorf, West Germany but moved to England when he was only 16, and subsequently moved to New York City in 1784, just after the Revolutionary War had ended. In New York, he started his own business and eventually became a leading fur trader in North America by 1800.

Astor was smart and motivated. His knowledge allowed him to reach new markets and expand his monopoly on fur trading. For example, Astor's knowledge of the Jay Treaty between the United States and Great Britain allowed him to take advantage and move in quickly to secure the markets in Canada and the Great Lakes region. Astor also traded goods such as teas, sandalwoof and furs with China, which proved to be especially profitable.

Astor had become a prominent member of society, and in 1808, with the permission of President Jefferson, he created the American Fur Company with the subsidiaries Pacific Fur Company and the Southwest Fur Company. In addition, Astor's operations benefited from a new protectionist law passed by the U.S. Congress in 1817 that banned foreign merchants from the U.S.

By 1834, demand had fallen for fur and Astor decided it was time to focus on a new area he was interested in: Manhattan real estate. Astor had amassed a fortune of several millions of dollars from his fur trading activities, but recognizing the urbanization trend from farms to cities, Astor began purchasing real estate all across New York. Although he made substantial profits, he famously quoted that "could I begin life again, knowing what I now know and had money to invest, I would buy every foot of land on the island of Manhattan." Astor wasn't the only one to profit from appreciating real estate though, others who made a fortune in New York real estate include Peter Goelet, the Lorillards, and the Rhinelanders. (Owning property isn't simple, but there are plenty of perks. Find out how to buy real estate in our article, Investing In Real Estate.)

Related Articles
  1. Economics

    How Warren Buffet Made Berkshire Hathaway A Winner

    Berkshire Fine Spinning Associated and Hathaway Manufacturing Company merged in 1955 to form Berkshire Hathaway.
  2. Entrepreneurship

    10 Characteristics Of Successful Entrepreneurs

    Do you have the qualities of a successful entrepreneur? Those who do tend to share these 10 traits.
  3. Investing

    5 Up and Coming Social Media Startups

    Although the days of Facebook's dominance aren't close to being over, here are some new creative platforms gaining traction on the worldwide web.
  4. Entrepreneurship

    Are You Really an Entrepeneur? A Reality Check

    If you are going to be an entrepreneur, and you’re doing it on a shoestring, you’ll need more than a good idea. Here are some skills to master.
  5. Entrepreneurship

    Digital Nomads in the Modern Economy

    Digital nomads compose a growing portion of the modern economy.
  6. Career Education & Resources

    Laws & Regulations To Know Before Changing the Name of Your Business

    Discover some of the most important steps you need to take after making a decision to change your legally established business name.
  7. Entrepreneurship

    What is a Franchise?

    In a franchise, the franchisee acquires access to the proprietary knowledge, processes and trademarks of an established business – the franchisor.
  8. Term

    What Is Seed Capital?

    Seed capital is the money used to start a business.
  9. Your Clients

    Solo 401(k) vs. SEP: Which is Best for Biz Owners?

    Owners of small businesses have several choices when it comes to saving for retirement. When does it make sense to choose a Solo versus SEP plan?
  10. Entrepreneurship

    How To Make Money With Domain Names

    Domain names are hot commodities in today’s tech-centric world, and for good reason.
RELATED FAQS
  1. Can I buy insurance to reduce unlimited liability in a partnership?

    Partnership insurance is actually quite common. Most of the time, partners buy insurance to safeguard against the possibility ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What are the benefits of prorating expenses?

    When a person prorates expenses between personal and business expenses, he is able to capture the maximum amount of tax benefits ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What is the relationship between research and development and innovation?

    Although it's possible to achieve innovation without research and development and it's possible to conduct research and development ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. According to the neoclassical growth theory, what factors influence the growth of ...

    The neoclassical growth theory builds five major variables into its time-sensitive production formula. The first is total ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How does the notion of the American Dream influence the US economy?

    The notion of the American Dream influences the U.S. economy because it creates the driving force behind the free enterprise ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What industries are typically considered infant industries?

    Infant industries are those considered vulnerable to established competitors. Some examples of infant industries include ... Read Full Answer >>
Trading Center