In 1780, a young man traveled from his provincial hometown in Baden-Württemberg to London to meet his elder brother who had settled there two years previously as a wooden instrument maker. The many small states that constituted Germany at the time had a reputation for developing and producing musical instruments. The export of technology was an important feature of German design and many craftsmen had migrated to London (and eventually to New York and other American cities).
The seedy location of his brother’s workshop must have come as a shock to the youngster and he was eager to better himself. Four years later he left the capital for the docks of Southampton, carrying few belongings and a number of flutes with him, and set sail for America. Half a century later he owned large parts of Manhattan.
This remarkable tale could have served as one of the “rags to riches” stories that made Horatio Alger such a popular author in America during the later decades of the nineteenth century. [Read more…] about The Astor Dynasty: Rag Street to Broadway, A Waldorf Tale of New York