John Jacob Astor arrived in the United States as a poor immigrant in 1783 but went on to become one of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs. He made his first fortune in the fur trade in the Great Lakes region, shipping the furs, particularly beaver, to Europe. In 1811 he sent two expeditions to Oregon and founded the first American settlement on the Pacific coast, Astoria.

After the War of 1812 (1812–15) and the British departure from the Northwest Territory, Astor’s American Fur Company established a trading post on Mackinac Island, in present-day Michigan, which became the center of the booming fur trade. Astor increased his fortune through trade with China and the accumulation of New York real estate, becoming the wealthiest man in the United States in the 1830s. “It’s all a matter of habit,” he said, “and good habits in American make any man rich."


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