This biography analyses Astor's adaption to his American host culture and his rise from poor immigrant in 1784 to the first millionaire of modern times--he earned his money before the term ""millionaire"" was introduced to the English language. Many consider him to be the fourth wealthiest American of all times. In the mid- to late 1800s, American society did not understand a ""millionaire""; after his death, learning that he had $20 million, the public began to discuss the ""responsibility"" of a millionaire. Some argued that he must have been greedy and cold. Some voices demanded that he should have given back all his money to the United States. More liberal thinkers praised him for his genius and vision. This biography presents a more balanced picture of him. Astor was the founder of the first American settlement on the Pacific (Astoria, Oregon) and of New York's finest hotel (The Astor House) and a developer of the American West and fur trader. Many American cities and sites are named after him. He donated the Astor Library to the city of New York (it became the first public library of the city), which is now renamed and part of the New York Public Library.
Alexander Emmerich teaches transatlantic cultural history at the University of Augsburg. He has written several books in German about American history, the history of the German-Americans, and the history of the Wild West.