Sunday, November 29, 2009

Lost Blog

I had an entire listing, interesting, pertinent...and 'shoot', it went the way of all data saved incorrectly, into data heaven and I am too tired to recreate it.

Tomorrow is a only a day awayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!
I read newspapers for two hours. Mostly, still about the Spanish-American War...and mostly I already read the articles, so nothing new to report. I did learn a neat trick at Amazon that lets me look at more pages than usual. Some of the books I have on my list, I just need need a line or two. What you do is do a search with a keyword on a book that lets you "look inside" and all the references pop up. I had like 10 references on Astor in a book and only one was really the kind of information that I could use. Knowing that now is going to save me a ton of money on old books. I still will buy the ones with photos or with lots of info.

Funny, I have learned so much about researching after the fact...after I don't need it, or don't remember where I got that very interesting fact or photos that I really should go back and document now that I know I am writing a non-fiction book. Or save for the group photos. I hadn't decided that until *after* I started finding so much information. At first, I just collected photos and printed them out, without saving them. Now, I want to share and I am going to have scan them in before I *can* share them at about 5 times the trouble. I will be glad when I finish the listing of my photos on my group. Over a thousand photos that had to be labeled and then sorted in some kind of order. And I still have about 10 directories to finish up. I should stop babbling now.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Astor's Battery

I read newspapers today, mostly from the Spanish-American War. I learned something that I had not known. JJ Astor's Astor Battery had both better food than the usual soldier -- better than JJ himself was eating, actually, -- and that JJ Astor was paying the wages of the Astor Battery during the entire time that it served. Mind you, the agreement was that he would raise the Battery and equip it until it mustered in. He also let the government have free passage on his railroad and volunteered his yacht as a gunboat.

I had had suspicions that he went to war, he was so insistent on going to Cuba, because a few months earlier the papers had reported him stating that Cuba would be a wonderful place to develop if the US would annex. It had gotten me to thinking that he might have wanted to go to scout out the lay of the land, so to speak. But, learning this about his Battery and how well care of he took of them, well, it makes me think differently. He didn't have to feed them so well -- his men had lamb chops and milk and other things the other troops could only wish for (and this in the field) -- that if it had been the work of a man just wanting a first foot in the door, he would have let them eat just what the rest of the Army ate. He also provided pipes and tobacco.

He worked hard, and shared in the daily life of the men he served with. Granted, the rest of the men did not have valets and private secretaries along with him, but he did eat the food, sleep in a tent and all the rest. He even developed a liking for pork n' beans. I think that this would have changed him and made him more sensitive to the working man, and what it was to work hard for a living. I think that this would have stripped off the entitlement veneer that most very rich people grow up with. But it probably took off some of his romantic idealism as well. That would have been a loss, but gaining clarity about his place in the world...well, as the commercial says....priceless.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Two New Books

Got home from Nebraska this morning, and found that two books that I had ordered had come in. Just like with any book you order without being able to see if they will be useful, one was perfectly what I wanted, and the other was not.

The first one is "The Astors" by Harvey O'Connor, published in the 1940s. I read the chapters! over Colonel Astor and I could not find any mistakes. He had a bit of what I didn't know, while the rest was clear, factual and non-sensationalized. Mostly. I have found some information on Colonel Astor that wasn't in the book, but I don't blame poor Mr. O'Connor as I have the Internet to help me and he didn't. Also, he researched all the Astors and I am going after a particular one which makes things for me much easier. I think I will use this particular book as a frame to help me structure my own book correctly. I have never written a biography before and I want to be sure to do it correctly and well. It would be useful if it were interesting in spots, too.

Now the other book--A 1912 book called "The Sinking of the Titanic and Great Sea Diasters." It is in poor shape, and pages are coming out...while the cover looks like it was well read. One edge is showing a lot of wear. I bought this one because it seemed to promise more information on Astor, and it didn't keep its promise. It doesn't look like the author did any real deep research...but it does have some cool pictures. If I wasn't so tired from my trip, I would post some for you.

One Winner, one loser...mostly.

Still not too bad for a day's acquisition.

I did mention to my husband that I am going to be purchasing the books that I can't get otherwise. I have mentioned it to him before without telling him how many. Tonight, I causally threw in the number of 40 or so. He didn't say anything and I breathed a sigh of relief.

More Astor. More Astor. More Astor. :)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

His Child?

I have to go off for a quick trip to Nebraska. We'll be picking up the grandchild and bringing him to stay with us until Christmas. It's been a long time since I have had a child in my life so needless to say, I am a bit nervous about having him in the house. Not will *he* survive it, but will I?

But this blog is about looking for Colonel Astor. When I was in Nebraska the last time, I found that he had come through Omaha on an inspection tour in Oct. of 1903. (I have it printed out somewhere and will post it when I find it.) Mainly it said the directors walked around Omaha a bit, said they were impressed with Omaha's growth as a city, and that they were pleased with the condition of the lines of the Illinois Central Railroad. The article gave the names of the private railroad cars as well. Astor was described as tall, atheleticly built, and quiet. I know now that his marriage to his wife was in trouble during this time, and that they had just had a child together that some wags had said belonged to someone else. So he had a lot to be quiet about.
After thinking about this for a while and studying the photos of the child, I think the child was Astor's. For these reasons--he had *big* feet, so did she, poor thing. She looks like her brother in her older age, and John Jacob Astor did provide for her, even though he divorced her mother a while bit later.

I'll post some pictures and show you what I mean.

Do you see the big feet...and yes, I know what they say about big feet....
I put the pictures in and I haven't yet figured out how to put them where I want, so I guess we'll just have to make do...
The one on top is of Alice Murial Astor and her brother Vincent when they were older. Notice how much they look alike.
The little girl is Alice when she was about 10? or 12? See those big feet?
And the bottom left is of John Jacob Astor and Madeleine Astor soon after getting married. You can see the big feet there. So, what do you think? His or not?
Next post, I'll put up one of her grandmother, since one of my friends could see a resemblance between the two...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Reason for the blog.

I am a writer. That is a pretty hard thing to have out there in print for everyone to see. Not a hesitant -- I think I am a writer or I want to be a writer, but plain and simple: I am a writer. As a writer, I have written several books -- most trash, some good, and just enough really good stuff that I want to hold it up and wave it around for everyone to see. But I won't. I promise.

But I digress...About 2 years ago, I was reading up on the Titanic prior to a museum visit and I got captivated by the story of the Astors, i.e. John Jacob Astor and Madeleine Force Astor. Her-- a young pregnant bride; him--an older, rich man. Both seeming in love, willing to defy the world--which made me want to find out who these people were. But every book gave me little information other than a handful of lines about how Col. Astor had divorced his wife, dared to marry a girl half his age, and then had the audacity to die on the Titanic, which promptly revitialized his reputation with the public. After that, nothing much would be said about his young widow except, mostly, how she had had a posthumous child that grew up to be a playboy like his father. I got to thinking how utterly sad Madeleine must have been to lose her husband of less than a year to the ocean. How in a moment everything changed for her. How did everything happen? What was the truth in all of it? Was Col. Astor a lothario who had a 'harem' in New York City who made passes at his friend's wives or was he the religious, patriotic soldier who had put his wife on a life boat, stepped back and helped other women to board as well. Was Madeleine a gold-digger pushed into a loveless marriage by her mother or was she the loving, young wife who morned for her husband for the rest of her life?....I wanted to KNOW! And since I am a writer, I wanted to write about it. To write, meant research and more research. After a lot of digging, I realized there was still more out there about both of them that nobody had ever seemed bothered to look over. Books usually had a scant chapter on Col. Astor, and those usually referring back to the same few sources. What I found in the Newspapers didn't agree with what I read in those short chapters. Sometimes, they were wrong.

Being the obcessive that I am, I turned to the Internet and found Newspaper Archives, which I haven't finished yet. Two years doing this, looking and checking and checking some more and I still haven't yet gotten all the informtion printed out, to get to the place where I can organize it, to actually write a fiction and a non-fiction book. In the mean-time, I have collected over a thousand period photographs, artifacts, and I still haven't found everything I want to find. Two years, I been doing this. At least two hours a day, sometime more.

My family accepts my obcession now, and while my husband teases me by calling me the 'Astor Channel' since sometimes its 'All Astor, all the time.', he has been supportive.

Whew! All that, to get to the reason for the blog. I wanted somewhere to chronicle my search and to perhaps, if I am very lucky, to share with other Astorphiles out there the information that I have found. (Or maybe, just to get *them* to share with me!)

I plan to go to California, Florida, South Carolina, Washington, then New York and Maine to finish the research up. I will have the money to do so in a year in the spring. *Cross my fingers.* I also plan a Titanic cruise in 2012, to retrace that last journey of the Titanic ..already a cruise line plans to offer this and I imagine they will not be alone. I hope to finish this all in another year or two. The research, the books, all of it. Then, done, put it down for something else.
I hope.

You know that quote don't you? To make God laugh, tell him your plan...