John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire : A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival

Book - 2014
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In 1810, John Jacob Astor sent out two advanced parties to settle the wild, unclaimed western coast of North America. More than half of his men died violent deaths. The others survived starvation, madness, and greed to shape the destiny of a continent. At a time when the edge of American settlement barely reached beyond the Appalachian Mountains, two visionaries, President Thomas Jefferson and millionaire John Jacob Astor, foresaw that one day the Pacific would dominate world trade as much as the Atlantic did in their day. Just two years after the Lewis and Clark expedition concluded in 1806, Jefferson and Astor turned their sights westward once again. Thus began one of history's dramatic but largely forgotten turning points in the conquest of the North American continent. Astoria is the harrowing tale of the quest to settle a Jamestown-like colony on the Pacific coast. Astor set out to establish a global trade network based at the mouth of the Columbia River in what is now Oregon, while Jefferson envisioned a separate democracy on the western coast that would spread eastward to meet the young United States. Astor backed this ambitious enterprise with the vast fortune he'd made in the fur trade and in New York real estate since arriving in the United States as a near-penniless immigrant soon after the Revolutionary war. He dispatched two groups of men west: one by sea around the southern tip of South America and one by land over the Rockies. The Overland Party, led by the gentlemanly American businessman Wilson Price Hunt, combined French-Canadian voyageurs, Scottish fur traders, American woodsmen, and an extraordinary Native American woman with two toddlers. The Seagoing Party, sailing aboard the ship Tonquin, likewise was a volatile microcosm of contemporary North America. Under the bitter eye of Captain Jonathan Thorn, a young US naval hero whose unyielding, belligerent nature was better suited to battle than to negotiating cultural differences, the Tonquin made tumultuous progress toward its violent end. Unfolding from 1810 to 1813, Astoria is a tale of high adventure and incredible hardship, drawing extensively on first-hand accounts of those who made the journey. Though the colony itself would be short-lived, its founders opened provincial American eyes to the remarkable potential of the Western coast, discovered the route that became the Oregon Trail, and permanently altered the nation's landscape and global standing. - Jacket flap.
Documents the 1810 to 1813 expedition, financed by millionaire John Jacob Astor and encouraged by Thomas Jefferson, to establish Fort Astoria, a trading post on the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest.
Publisher: New York, NY : Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2014]
Edition: First edition
Multiscript Copyrightdate: � 014
ISBN: 9780062218308
Branch Call Number: 978.02 S7956a 2014
Characteristics: xv, 366 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color), maps, portraits ; 24 cm


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The story of John Jacob Astor's innovative money making scheme is not nearly as interesting as the story of people who he hired to carry it out.

Shortly after the return of Lewis and Clark, wealthy fur trader John Jacob Astor attempted to establish a trading empire on the NW Pacific Coast. It all went dramatically wrong: was it the stern ship captain who distrusted his passengers so much he tried to abandon them in the Falkland Islands, w... Read More »

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Jun 11, 2016

I loved this book and it introduced me to a part of American history that I didn't know much about before I read this book. The author does a great job of moving the story along with exciting details and definitely left me wanting to learn more about Astoria.

Sep 17, 2015

Well-done, all-around history of Astoria documenting all sides of the issue and what was a stake. A huge canvas of material is well researched and written with good storytelling suspense. A few repetitive phrases here and there, but nobody's perfect. A good starting point for beginning to learn about Pacific Northwest history for younger readers as well.

Jul 08, 2015

This book is great! Though someone reserved it and I'm not done yet, so y'all are just going to have to wait!

Jun 23, 2015

Astoria is an amazing historical novel that I could not stop reading! This is one of very few lengthy, fact-filled historical books that kept my attention every minute. In fact, I was fascinated, not only by the strength and endurance of these people, but with the power of individual personality to shape the destiny of a continent. I am taking a trip down the Oregon coast which includes Astoria. I am so glad that I read this book so I understand the detailed history about this site. Amazing story & excellent writing.

Feb 13, 2015

Fascinating recount of the dual expeditions mounted with Astor's conciderable finacial backing in the fur trading experience to establish an international business foothold in the ,as yet, unproductive west.
Engrossing updated material that peaked emotion and understanding of the first American attempt to attain 'magnificant destiny.'

Sep 25, 2014

This riveting history of early Northwest commercial activity is told from the point of view of a modern day business person. Any other perspective would have been less interesting because motive is what captures the tale.The clash of cultures which took place in this narrative is handled deftly. The men and woman portrayed are real life people and we feel for them as they struggle against the incredible landscape, the politics, and the human foibles that interrupted so many dreams. History is always so much more fun than fiction when told so well.


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