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

Book - 2014
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Hillsboro_RobP Jun 28, 2020

Two Astor-funded expeditions to the Pacific coast of the united states face horrible obstacles, unknown wilderness, and the particular hubris known only to white settlers of foreign land. A wonderful slice of American history that's part adventure story, part warning, and packed to the rims with fascinating accounts.

Oct 03, 2019

Here are my two favorite lines from Peter Stark's "Astoria," about John Jacob Astor's fur and trading empire:
"I bought two dogs," he recorded with satisfaction at one stop, "and we ate one for breakfast."
"The last time the ill-fated gentleman was seen," wrote Cox, "his head was hanging over the side of a canoe, and three savages, armed with pautumaugans, were battering out his brains."
I though this would be more about the founding of Astoria, but it's mostly about Astor funded expeditions, one by sea and one overland, to the Northwest, both of which met significant obstacles. The guy who wrote it must really like canoes because it felt like there was a lot about canoes. It's very much in the "Undaunted Courage" vein and more about the explorers than Astor, empire, and fur trading. Still, if you're a Northwester, it's worth reading.

Apr 29, 2018

I can’t recommend this book.

This is the type of book I should love, but instead, I kept increasing the speed, hoping a faster talking pace/speed would keep me interested. Since I really dig Oregon/Pacific NW history, I just didn’t want to give up. I ended up listening at 2.1 speed....outrageously fast.

I guess since the author is a historian and NOT a story teller... it’s just dry. There’s too many one dimensional characters, too many facts, when I want interesting story telling.

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.

May 29, 2016

This is an excellent historical account of the first American attempt to colonize the Pacific Northwest, by linking an overland passage to a ship's voyage around South America. Final resting place is now Astoria, Oregon, which turned out not to be a great place to build John Jacob Astor's colony.
The sacrifices in human life are hard to believe in today's view.
I enjoyed the audio version but borrowed the ebook to complete my understanding of this story after I finished listening.

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.'

Jan 31, 2015

First off: I did not like the reader - he did not keep the same pace, much of it was too fast. Based on journals of the men involved in this perilous voyage of exploration. IMO it surpasses the account of Lewis & Clark (PBS series excellent.) Many times I thought this can't be fact, as the events seemed so drastic. Powerful account!!

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.

Jul 29, 2014

An excellent treatment about American businessman J. J. Astor's attempt -- in the early 1800's -- to monetize the Lewis and Clark expedition. Astor believed the key to a very profitable world-wide trading business lay in the Pacific Northwest. The idea was to send boats in a big loop around the world, from NYC to Oregon loaded with items native Americans need; trade that for sea otter furs; trade the furs for porcelain and Chinese artwork in Shanghai; sell the Chinese items in London, and bring the proceeds home to NYC. Astor envisioned a big cash cow each time the loop was completed. The only missing link -- this was in 1810 -- was the lack of a fur trading outpost in Oregon. So Astor took a two prong approach, sending a boat around the tip of South America, and sending an overland party. Let's just say it was a good idea in principle, in practice, not so much. The biggest problem was the leadership styles of the boat and overland captains. The sea captain was the "do it my way or else" kind; the overland captain was an "avoid confrontations" kind of guy. What was needed on both fronts was something in the middle. If Astor had found better leaders, we'd be able to drive from San Francisco to Anchorage Alaska and never leave the USA. But it was not to be. A modern treatment of an American story well known in the 1800's by most everyone then, but now, mostly forgotten. Suspenseful drama on the high seas and on land. Recommended.

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