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Series I. Family Papers, 1884-2002, inclusive


.75 Linear feet

Scope and Contents

The series holds documents that relate primarily to Brooke Astor's parents and other ancestors, family history, genealogy, her third husband, William Vincent Astor, and to a lesser extent, her second husband, Charles Marshall. The series includes letters from the 19th century authors Robert Traill Spence Lowell and Mary Lowell Putnam written to Brooke's maternal grandparents; letters written by Brooke's mother, Mabel Russell, from Haiti in 1923-27 where Mabel's husband, John Henry Russell Jr., was the American High Commissioner at the time during what is referred to as the United States' occupation of Haiti; and a 1942 appraisal of Vincent Astor's estate, Ferncliff, in New York State; among other documents. The container list below provides further details on the contents.


The series is arranged roughly by the family member that the documents principally relate to.

Genealogical and family history notes, 1943, 1982, undated, inclusive

Offsite-Box: 1, Folder: 1 (Material Type: Mixed Materials)

Scope and Contents

The principal document is a notebook prepared by Brooke Astor (then Brooke Marshall) for her son, Anthony Marshall, in 1943. Includes a family tree on Brooke's maternal side, with transcribed notes about ancestors, the Carroll family and Robert Traill Spence. Also undated notes on the origin of the name Astor prepared by genealogist Henry Dudley Teeter, and a booklet "The History of Astor on the St. Johns, Astor Park" compiled by A. Wass de Czege (1982).

Letters from Mary Lowell Putnam, circa 1885-1890, inclusive

Offsite-Box: 1, Folder: 2 (Material Type: Text)

Scope and Contents

8 letters to George Howard and 1 to his wife, Roberta, (Brooke Astor's maternal grandparents) from Mary Lowell Putnam. The letters principally refer to family genealogy, exchanges of photographs, health, and references to George and Roberta's children, including Mabel, Brooke's mother.

Letters from Robert Traill Spence Lowell, 1884-1889, inclusive

Offsite-Box: 1, Folder: 3 (Material Type: Text)

Scope and Contents

8 letters to George H. Howard and 1 to George's wife, Roberta, or Bertie (Brooke Astor's maternal grandparents) from Robert Traill Spence Lowell (1816-1891). Subject matter includes references to the dedication of the Washington Monument, the incoming presidential administration, attempts to publish material, apparent distress over a marriage, death of Lowell's son, and other matters. One letter is dated 1844, but this seems clearly incorrect and is likely 1884.

Letters from other Lowells, 1885-1886, 1893, inclusive

Offsite-Box: 1, Folder: 4 (Material Type: Text)

Scope and Contents

2 letters from M.A. Lowell, one to George Howard, the other to his wife Roberta, or Bertie, with thanks for sending a poem and a card, travel plans or impediments on travel plans, health matters, and other family matters (1885-86). 1 letter from Rebecca R. Lowell to Roberta, declining Roberta's invitation to visit because of Rebecca's extensive travel conflicts.

Letter from Cousin Mary to Mabel [Howard/Russell], 1892

Offsite-Box: 1, Folder: 5 (Material Type: Text)

Scope and Contents

1 letter (12 pages) to Brooke Astor's mother, referring to various children in the family.

Scrapbook "Dog and his various uses", circa 1914

Offsite-Box: 1, Folder: 6 (Material Type: Mixed Materials)

Scope and Contents

Small scrapbook with a few pictures of dogs being helpful in some way, notably in connection with World War I. Likely compiled by Brooke Astor when a child.

Charles H. Marshall documents, 1930, 1952, inclusive

Offsite-Box: 1, Folder: 7 (Material Type: Mixed Materials)

Scope and Contents

Notice of Marshall's appointment as Secretary to the Special Commission for the Study and Review of Conditions in Haiti, confirmation of compensation, and authorization to proceed to Haiti (1930). Engrossed resolutions from the Board of Managers of the Seamen's Church Institute, with transmittal sympathy card, to Brooke at the death of Marshall (1952).

Letters from Mabel Russell to Mary, 1923 November-1927 March, inclusive

Offsite-Box: 1, Folder: 8a (Material Type: Mixed Materials)

Scope and Contents

One slip-cased volume of typed letters from Mabel (Brooke's mother) to a Mary. Most of the letters are written from Haiti, where Mabel's husband, John Henry Russell Jr., was the American High Commissioner to Haiti at the time during what is referred to as the United States' occupation of Haiti (1915-1934). Mabel's letters primarily relate to social engagements and social gossip among the Americans in Haiti, but also include references to travel around the country with positive comments on the economic development there; some Haitian politics; references to visits from family and friends (including Brooke and her first husband, Dryden Kuser); travels to Guantanamo, Cuba, and brief returns to the United States; etc. There are a small number of snapshots in the volume.

Note from Port-au-Prince, 1924

Offsite-Box: 1, Folder: 8b (Material Type: Mixed Materials)

Scope and Contents

A 2 page typescript, which appears to have been typed in circa 1990s-2000s, dated October 28, 1924 from Port-au-Prince, of notes on social matters. The writer is likely Mabel.

(William) Vincent Astor. Psalm book, 1902, inclusive

Offsite-Box: 1, Folder: 9 (Material Type: Mixed Materials)

Scope and Contents

A small book of psalms, in Latin, wth notation at front: "psalms learned by heart" (1902).

(William) Vincent Astor. Certificates, 1918, 1924, inclusive

Offsite-Box: 1, Folder: 10 (Material Type: Mixed Materials)

Scope and Contents

2 certificates: Astor's Navy Department certificate of commission as "Lieutenant (jg) (Line Duties Only) for temporary service," signed by Acting Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt (1918); and certificate of appointment of Lieutenant USNRF 2 (1924).

(William) Vincent Astor. Album, 1943-1945, inclusive

Offsite-Box: 1, Folder: 11 (Material Type: Mixed Materials)

Scope and Contents

Album with documents recognizing Astor's service as Observation Craft Officer, Staff, Commander Eastern Sea Frontier, during World War II (photographs, letters, certificate, commendation).

(William) Vincent Astor. Property appraisal, 1942, inclusive

Offsite-Box: 1, Folder: 12 (Material Type: Mixed Materials)

Scope and Contents

Folder holds "Fire insurance valuation report on property of William Vincent Astor Estate, [Ferncliff], Rhinebeck, Dutchess County, New York." Prepared by Home Insurance Company for Edward M. Van Buren. Includes description of each building, approximate replacement value, 77 photos of the buildings, and diagrams. Because the snapshots of the buildings are glued into pages and can become disassociated with their typed captions on the book's page, the processing archivist numbered the captions in [brackets] and wrote the number in the margin of the corresponding photo.

Letters from Vincent Astor to Brooke, 1958 October, inclusive

Offsite-Box: 1, Folder: 13 (Material Type: Text)

Scope and Contents

6 letters and telegrams sent to Brooke while she was in Rome, the "only time we were separated in our brief marriage" as Brooke penned on the envelope enclosure. The letters touch on some business, but are principally expressions of affection and updates on domestic matters.

Condolence letters re: Vincent Astor, 1959, inclusive

Offsite-Box: 1, Folder: 14 (Material Type: Text)

Scope and Contents

Letters to Brooke Astor, including one from Clyde Tolson of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Other condolence letters to Brooke can be found in various correspondence folders in Series II.

Vincent Astor will (3 folders), 1959, 1991, inclusive

Offsite-Box: 1, Folder: 15-17 (Material Type: Text)

Scope and Contents

The folders hold a photocopy of Vincent Astor's probated will (1959); letters, especially from Earl Newson & Company, concerning press notices about the contested will (1959); and unexecuted copies of a release with related estate account report by Bankers Trust (1991).

"Selected letters from Vincent to Brooke on the occasion of Brooke Astor's one hundredth birthday", 2002, inclusive

Offsite-Box: 1, Folder: 18 (Material Type: Mixed Materials)

Scope and Contents

2 copies (of 200 printed) of a booklet published by The Frick Collection in 2002. In addition to the text of letters, there are facsimiles of letters at the front of the volumes. Letters provided for reproduction by Brooke Astor's son, Anthony D. Marshall.

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024