Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival by Peter Stark
(Ecco Press, 2014, 384 pages)
Astoria by Peter Stark is the true story of John Jacob Astor’s plan to form an American empire on the yet unsettled West Coast. In Jefferson’s final term as President, John Jacob Astor consulted with him about building an empire in the West. Lewis and Clark had already made their historic journey. Jefferson was interested in having an American presence in the West. Astor wanted to build a fur trading empire out there. Astor took it upon himself to plan and finance the making of a West Coast empire with a trading post to be established at the mouth of the Columbia River.
Astoria covers the years 1810-1813. Astor sent 140 men (and 1 Indian woman with 2 small children) to create this empire. Some were sent by sea. The rest were sent by land. Both routes presented hardships and danger including starvation, Indian attacks, and stormy seas. Of the 140 men, nearly half died. Ships were lost. For a short time, a trading post was established on the Columbia River and the surrounding territory was called Astoria after John Jacob Astor. But the War of 1812 and other circumstances intervened and the Astor enterprise was lost.
Astoria is an interesting tale of adventure, hardship, and determination. It is well written. I would recommend this book to those interested in U.S. history or anyone who likes to read about adventure.