Madeleine Astor—Wife of John Astor - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Madeleine Astor—Wife of John Astor

Second wife of Colonel John Jacob Astor IV, socialite. Born Madeleine Talmadge Force on June 19, 1893, in New York, New York. Only in her late teens at the time, Madeleine Astor made quite a stir as the second wife of Colonel John Jacob Astor. Unfortunately, the union was short-lived as the couple was torn apart by the Titanic disaster of 1912.

Madeleine's mother had hoped that she would marry well. To that end, she attended elite private schools for girls and learned to play tennis. During a visit to Bar Harbor, Maine, in 1910, she met John Jacob Astor IV, part of the legendary New York family. In his forties and recently divorced, John Jacob Astor took a liking to the young schoolgirl. That same year, Madeleine was formally introduced to society at her debut event in December. In addition to attending social events, she also involved with amateur theatrical productions.

The following year, Madeleine's father announced the engagement of his daughter to John Jacob Astor, which was not warmly received by some. There were concerns about their age difference-John Jacob was 47 and Madeleine was 19 at the time of their engagement. Class also seemed to be an issue as well. The Astor family was part of the well-established "old money" set while William H. Force was the head of a Brooklyn-based shipping and forwarding firm.   

The couple faced many obstacles while trying to wed. According to the terms of his divorce, they could not marry in New York. Then the couple had difficulty locating a minister who would officiate. Finally, after offering $1,000 as a fee, John Jacob Astor got a pastor to perform the ceremony. The wedding took place at Beechwood, an Astor summer home, in Newport, Rhode Island, on September 9, 1911. After the ceremony, the newlywed Astors left on the steam yacht Noma.

To escape all of publicity surrounding their nuptials, the Astors went abroad for their honeymoon. They spent time in Egypt and Europe. With Madeleine pregnant with their first child, the couple decided to return to New York on the maiden voyage of the Titanic. They boarded the ship in Cherbourg, France, on April 10, with some of their servants and their dog, Kitty.

On the night of April 14, around 11:40 p.m., the Astors were in their suite of rooms when the Titanic struck an iceberg. After investigating the incident, John Jacob Astor had his wife get dressed and join other passengers waiting to get off the sinking vessel. Then he saw to it that Madeleine got on one of the lifeboats and then he helped other women and children get aboard. One of the world's richest men stayed behind and met his end when the Titanic sank in the early hours of April 15.

Madeleine Astor and the other survivors on Lifeboat 4 were rescued and taken aboard the Carpathia. In all, the crew of the Carpathia was able to save 705 people from the Titanic disaster, according to the ship's captain, Arthur Henry Rostron. That June, Astor had a special luncheon in the captain's honor at her New York home to thank him for his efforts. The other guests of the intimate event included two other women widowed in the disaster, Mrs. John B. Thayer and Mrs. John Bradley Cumings. 

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