In 1784, twenty-one-year-old John Jacob Astor left his home in Walldorf, Germany and came to the fledgling United States to make his fortune in an unknown land. He quickly became aware of the vast sums to be made trading animal furs and established a company based on that knowledge, bartering with Native Americans and trappers. As a result, by the turn of the century, he became one of the most influential and affluent men in the United States. A canny businessman, Astor was conscious of the massive untapped potential of the west coast, and developed a plan with the support of President Thomas Jefferson to stake a claim to the area's wealth: He would send two parties, one via sea and the other over land, to the mouth of the Columbia River (in what is now Oregon - see 'Beyond the Book') to set up a large fur trading post, with the overland party also establishing a series of posts ...
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