Mrs Astor portrait

Who was the Real Life Mrs. Astor in HBO’s The Gilded Age? (pictures)

Mrs. Astor made her debut appearance in HBO’s The Gilded Age during the charity bazaar. Mrs. Astor reigned over New York’s society. Everyone from Aurora Fane to Bertha Russell sought approval from Mrs. Astor. To fall out of favor, was social suicide.

Was Mrs. Astor a Real Person?

Mrs. Astor is a real-life New York socialite during the gilded age. Similar to HBO’s The Gilded Age, she reigned as the most influential socialite, throwing lavish parties and balls. In fact, she threw so many parties that her ultra exclusive guest list became known as the Astor 400.

Was Mrs. Astor Rich Growing Up?

Mrs. Astor grew up very wealthy and had a privileged upbringing. Her family, before she married Mr. Astor, was wealthy and was one of the most prominent families of New York. Her family members were old money families. They were patrons of the art and served on boards of great New York institutions. The women in her family, the Schermerhorn ladies, her maternal side, were notable New York hostesses.

Mrs Astor gilded age
Mrs. Caroline Schermerhorn Astor (“Mrs. Astor”). Portrait by Carolus-Duran, 1890

What Kind of Education did Mrs. Astor Get?

Mrs. Astor grew up receiving her primary education from a French teacher, learning domestic skills like needlework, penmanship and dancing. After that, she was sent off to France for school. Mrs. Astor was a francophile, she spoke french fluently and learned to entertain like the french. In fact, her parties were inspired by the French salon.

What was Mrs. Astor’s Maiden Name?

Mrs. Astor’s maiden name was Caroline Schermerhorn. The Schermerhorn were a prominent old money family.

How did Mrs. Astor Meet Her Husband?

They met as neighbors! Mrs. Astor knew her would-be husband, William Astor Jr. all her life. William Astor Jr. was the boy who lived next door to Caroline’s Georgian-style house on Lafayette street. A year older than Caroline, the couple married on September 20, 1853, two days before her 23rd birthday.

How Rich were the Astors?

The Astors were the richest family in America during the gilded age. Mrs. Astor’s father in-law was the head of the family and the richest man in America at the time. The Astors made their fortune from the fur trade, shipping and New York City real estate. In fact, the Astors were known as “The New York’s landlords.” They were one of the biggest landowners in Manhattan.

The Astors grand staircase
The Astors Grand Staircase

How Many Children Did Mrs. Astor Have?

Mrs. Astor had five children. After their marriage in 1853, the young Astors immediately started a family. Mrs. Astor’s first born was Emily Astor (born in 1854), followed by Helen Schermerhorn (born in 1855), then Charlotte Augusta, Caroline Schermerhorn (born 1861) and finally the heir, John Jacob Astor IV (born 1864).

Where did Mrs. Astor Live?

Mrs. Astor lived in a 4 story brownstone at 350 Fifth Avenue corner of 34th street (where Empire State Building is now). Built in 1859, Mrs. Astor’s 350 Fifth Avenue house was the home in which she entertained lavishly in and where the Astor 400 originated from.


What is the Astor 400?

The Astor 400 is an exclusive list of the crème de la crème of New York society. During the gilded age, Mrs. Astor had so much influence over New York society that she decided who was and who was not a member of New York’s elite society. Her rational for restricting her guest list to 400 was because she could only comfortably fit 400 guests in her mansion’s opulent ballroom.

Who was in the Astor 400?

The Astor 400 is Mrs. Astor’s exclusive guest list was actually a list of 319 guests from 169 families. The list includes prominent old money families as well as new money with very little social credentials.

The Astor 400 old money families were the Van Cortlandts, Schuylers, Van Rensselaers, Beekmans, Schermerhorn, Suydams, de Peysters and Rhinelanders. Mrs. Astor’s maternal family were the Van Cortlandts and Schermerhorns while her husband descended from the Schuylers and the Beekmans. New Money families, like the Vanderbilts made it to the Astor 400.

The Vanderbilt family
The Vanderbilt Family

Can Newcomers Get into the Astor 400?

Newcomers can get into the Astor 400. Mrs. Astor’s guest list was fluid and not set in stone. Guests fall in and out of favor. Newcomers without aristocratic lineage like the Vanderbilts were able to get on the Astor 400.

And like any great hostess, Mrs. Astor knew that to throw a successful party she needed to mix it up by introducing new blood to the party. She could not have achieved that with the same old money families as her sole guests.

In HBO’s The Gilded Age, Bertha Russell tries to get into Mrs. Astor’s inner circle with hand delivered invitations and notes, encouraging her son Larry Russell to be friendly with Mrs. Astor’s daughter and by offering up her ballroom for the charity bazaar.

What Parties Did Mrs. Astor Throw?

Mrs. Astor is known for her annual ball which is usually held at the end of January or early February. It was the ball of the season, the most fashionable and exclusive party of New York society during the gilded age. Mrs. Astor also threw other lavish parties through out the season but none as fancy and sought after as her annual ball.

Mrs. Astor with her  Guests at a Ball
Mrs. Astor with her Guests at a Ball

What was Mrs. Astor’s Social Calendar Like During the Gilded Age?

In the winter, Mrs. Astor throws her annual ball and hosts numerous dinner parties in New York. In the Spring, she entertains from her Paris apartment in Champs-Élysées. Mrs. Astor’s guests in Paris were notable French families as well as visiting elites from America.

Then in the summer, Mrs. Astor entertains from her mansion in Newport. She is back in her New York townhouse in November where she reigns as queen of New York society.

The Astor 400

Below is a list of the Astor 400.

Last Names of Astor 400Names of Astor 400
AllenFred H
AppletonMr. and Mrs. F. R.
AstorMr. and Mrs. John Jacob
AstorMr. and Mrs.William
BaldwinMiss Louisa
BaldwinC.C. Jr.
BarbeyMrs. Henry
BarbeyMiss Eva
BarclayMr. and Mrs. James
BayliesMr. and Mrs. Edmund L.
BendMiss Amy
BendMiss Beatrice
BerrymanMiss Georgina
BishopMiss Mary Cunningham
BowdoinGeorge S.
BronsonMr. and Mrs. Frederic
BrownWilliam Harold
BryceMr. and Mrs. Lloyd
BurdenMiss Evelyn Moale
BurdenMr. and Mrs. I. Townsend
BurnettGeneral and Mrs. Henry L.
CameronThe Misses (Margaret, Isabel, Catherine N., Judah Howe Sears and Anne F. Cameron)
CameronSir Roderick
CannonMr. and Mrs. Harry
CarrollMr. and Mrs. Charles
CaryMr. and Mrs. Clarence
Cavendish-BentinckMrs. Elizabeth
ChanlerMr.and Mrs. Winthrop
ChanlerThe Misses (Elizabeth, Margaret and Alida)
CooperMr. and Mrs. Edward
CosterWilliam B.
CrosbyMiss Angelica Schuyler
CrosbyCol. J. Schuyler
CrossMr. and Mrs. James
CrugerMr. and Mrs. S. Van Rensselaer
CushingMiss Edith
CushingThomas F.
CuttingMrs. Brockholst
CuttingF. Bayard
CuttingF. Brockholst
CuttingMr. and Mrs. W. Bayard
CuttingRobert L. Jr.
CuttingWilliam Jr.
DanaMr. and Mrs. Paul
De ForestMr. and Mrs. George B.
DelafieldMiss Elizabeth Ray
DelafieldDr. and Mrs. Francis
DepewMr. and Mrs. Chauncey M.
De PeysterMr. and Mrs. Frederic J.
DyerMr. and Mrs. Elisha, Jr.
ElliottMr. and Mrs. Duncan
FishMr. and Mrs. Hamilton Jr.
FishMr. and Mrs. Stuyvesant
ForbesH. De Courcey
FrancklynMr. and Mrs. C.G.
GoeletMr. and Mrs. Ogden
GoeletMr. and Mrs. Robert
GrantMiss Julia Grant
GriswoldFrank Gray
GurneeAugustus C.
HaddenAlexander M.
HaddenJohn A. Jr.
HallMiss Elizabeth Livingston
HallMr. and Mrs. Valentine G.
HavemeyerMr. and Mrs. Charles F.
HawkesRobert F.
HewittMr. and Mrs. Peter Cooper
HoffmanMrs. Charles P.
HoneRobert Jr.
HowardMr. and Mrs. Thomas
IrvinMr. and Mrs. Richard
IselinMr. and Mrs. Columbus
JaffrayMiss Helen
JaffrayMrs. William
JayCol. And Mrs. William
JonesMiss Beatrix
JonesMr. and Mrs. F. Rhinelander
KaneMr. and Mrs. De Lancey
KaneS. Nicholson
KernochanMr. and Mrs. Frederick
KernochanMr. and Mrs. J. P.
KipCol. and Mrs. Lawrence
KipMiss Edith
KnowltonMiss Mary
KountzeMr. and Mrs. Luther
LanierMr. and Mrs. James
LeiterMiss Mary Victoria
LivingstonMiss Clarissa
LivingstonEdward de Peyster
LivingstonMr. and Mrs. Henry B.
LivingstonMrs. Maturin
LuskMiss Anna H.
MarshallMr. and Mrs. Charles H.
MartinMr. and Mrs. Bradley
McAllisterMiss Louise Ward
McVickarMr. and Mrs. H.W.
MillsMr. and Mrs. Ogden
MooreMr. and Mrs. Clement C.
MorganMiss Anne
MorrisMr. and Mrs. A Newbold
MorrisMiss Eva C.
MortimerMr. and Mrs. R.
NelsonMrs. Frederick
NewboldMr. and Mrs. Thomas
OelrichsMr. and Mrs. Charles M.
OlinStephen H.
OtisMiss Mary
ParkerJames V.
PendletonMr. and Mrs. Francis Key
PerryMiss Bertha
PerryMrs. William A.
PiersonMiss Marguerite
PiersonGeneral and Mrs. J. Fred
PorterMr. and Mrs. Benjamin C.
PostMr. and Mrs. Charles A.
PostEdward C.
PortMr. and Mrs. George B.
PotterMr. and Mrs. H.N.
RandolphMiss Cora
RedmondGoold H.
RhinelanderT.J. Oakley
RichardsRobert Kerr
RipleyMr. and Mrs. S.D.
RitchieJames W.
RivesMr. and Mrs. George L.
RobertMr. and Mrs. Christopher
RobinsMr. and Mrs. H
RobinsonMr. and Mrs. Douglas Jr.
RocheMrs. Burke
RogersMiss Julia Fish
RooseveltMr. and Mrs. James
RutherfurdMr. and Mrs. Lewis
SandsMiss Edith Cruger
SchuylerMr. and Mrs. Philip
ShepardMiss Agnes
ShepardMr. and Mrs. Edward
ShermanMr. and Mrs. William Watts
SloaneMiss Adele
SloaneMr. and Mrs. William D.
SmithJ. Clinch
StevensMr. and Mrs. Byam K.
StevensMiss Elizabeth
StewartMr. and Mrs. William Rhinelander
StokesMiss Olivia Eggelston Phelps
StokesMr. and Mrs. Anson Phelps
SturgisMr. and Mrs. F.K.
SuydamMr. and Mrs. Walter Lispenard
TailerMiss Fannie Bogert
TalleyrandMarquise De
TookerMiss Emily M.
TookerG. Mead
TwomblyMr. and Mrs. Hamilton McKown
VanderbiltMr. and Mrs. Cornelius
VanderbiltGeorge W.
Van RensselaerMrs. A.
Van RensselaerMiss Alice
Van RensselaerMiss Mabel
VarnumJames Mitchell
WaterburyMr. and Mrs. James M.
WebbAlexander S.
WebbGeneral and Mrs. Alexander S.
WebbMiss Carrie
WebbMr. and Mrs. W. Seward
WellesMr. and Mrs. Benjamin
WellsMr. and Mrs. W. Storrs
WetmoreMiss Edith
WetmoreGovernor and Mrs.
WhitneyMr. and Mrs. William C.
WhittierMrs. C.A.
WilksMatthew Astor
WillingMiss Susan
WilmerdingMiss Georgiana L.
WilsonMiss Grace
WilsonMr. and Mrs. Orme
WilsonRichard T. Jr.
WinthropMiss Marie Austen
WinthropMr. and Mrs. Buchanan
WysongMr. and Mrs. J.J.
List of Astor 400

The Gilded Age is Streaming on HBO, Mondays at 9pm

Bibliography: The First Four Hundred: Mrs. Astor’s New York in the Gilded Age by Jerry E. Patterson

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