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

Book - 2014
Average Rating:
Rate this:

In the tradition of The Lost City of Z and Skeletons in the Zahara, Astoria is the thrilling, true-adventure tale of the 1810 Astor Expedition, an epic, now forgotten, three-year journey to forge an American empire on the Pacific Coast. Peter Stark offers a harrowing saga in which a band of explorers battled nature, starvation, and madness to establish the first American settlement in the Pacific Northwest and opened up what would become the Oregon trail, permanently altering the nation's landscape and its global standing.

Six years after Lewis and Clark's began their journey to the Pacific Northwest, two of the Eastern establishment's leading figures, John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson, turned their sights to founding a colony akin to Jamestown on the West Coast and transforming the nation into a Pacific trading power. Author and correspondent for Outside magazine Peter Stark recreates this pivotal moment in American history for the first time for modern readers, drawing on original source material to tell the amazing true story of the Astor Expedition.

Unfolding over the course of three years, from 1810 to 1813, Astoria is a tale of high adventure and incredible hardship in the wilderness and at sea. Of the more than one hundred-forty members of the two advance parties that reached the West Coast--one crossing the Rockies, the other rounding Cape Horn--nearly half perished by violence. Others went mad. Within one year, the expedition successfully established Fort Astoria, a trading post on the Columbia River. Though the colony would be short-lived, it opened provincial American eyes to the potential of the Western coast and its founders helped blaze the Oregon Trail.

Publisher: New York : Ecco, c2014.
ISBN: 9780062218292
Characteristics: xv, 366 pages, [16] pages of plates :,illustrations (some color), map ;,24 cm.


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
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.

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.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at Library

To Top