DATE: 24 July, 1811; 11 February 1813
CREATOR: Astor, John Jacob (1763-1848); German-American business magnate, merchant and investor who was the first prominent member of the Astor family and the first multi-millionaire in the United States.
SCOPE: Two letters. The first written to Charles Gratiot, Esq., St. Louis, Indian Territory concerning fur trade. The second to Ant. C. Cazenove, Alexandria, VA., concerning a business offer.
EXTENT: Two letters, both dated autograph letters signed
HISTORY: Astor came to the U.S. in 1784 and built a fur-trading empire that extended to the Great Lakes, Canada, and later to the American West and Pacific coast. His fur trading post of Astoria in 1811 was the first U.S. settlement on the Pacific coast. In the early 19th century he diversified into New York City real estate and later became a patron of the arts.
Charles Gratiot Sr. (1752-1817) was a French merchant in St. Louis during the American Revolution and the decades following. Born in Lausanne, Switzerland, he was a descendant of Huguenots. He emigrated to Montreal to work with an uncle involved in the fur trade. He later moved to the Illinois country and started his own business in 1777, opening a store at Cahokia and becoming an influential trader. When George Rogers Clark arrived in 1778, Gratiot provided supplies to Clark's men and loaned him $8,000 for his campaign against the British at Vincennes, Indiana. In 1781, Gratiot relocated to St. Louis, where he married Victoire Chouteau, a daughter of Pierre Laclede Liguest, (the influential founder of St. Louis as well as a respected business man), and his common law wife Marie Therese Bourgeois. They had 13 children, including General Charles Gratiot, Jr and Henry Gratiot.
For an extended history on the subjects of this letter, please click here to view a PDF document.
Special thanks to Roman Beuc, St. Louis Mercantile Library Docent, for transcribing the letters and putting this information together.
ACCESS: Due to rarity and condition, access to this collection is limited. Please contact the staff in advance of your visit to coordinate access to these materials for research purposes.
However scanned images of the letters and transcriptions are available for download:
M-002 John Jacob Astor.pdf
M-002 John Jacob Astor Transcripts.pdf
M-002 Extended History.pdf
A digital copy is also available online: View in the UMSL Digital Library
The collection is available for on-site use only in the Rare Book and Manuscripts Reading Room. Some of the material in Special Collection M-002 may be photocopied, digitally scanned or photographed, subject to condition. For collections marked limited access, researchers are advised to contact the library at least three business days in advance of their visit to submit a request to view the physical material.
Researchers are advised to call ahead concerning changes in hours due to University intersessions and holidays. The St. Louis Mercantile Library is located on levels one and two of the Thomas Jefferson Library building.
In observance of security procedures, certain services may not be available shortly before the daily closing time.
Preferred Citation: When citing the material from this collection, the preferred citation is: From the Special Collections of the St. Louis Mercantile Library at the University of Missouri – St. Louis.