Long before Bill Gates, there was the Astor family. At the height of its nineteenth-to-twentieth-century power, this clan epitomized wealth and the authority which comes with it.
ASTOR FAMILY, a famous American family representing one of the three or four greatest private properties in the world. A family in the Old World sense, — a territorial aristocracy, impossible to destroy, and fortified with legal immunities and privileges, — can hardly be founded in America; but the Astors have approached it as nearly as our institutions will admit. They form a group of immense hereditary real-estate owners, with holdings so solidly based and well distributed in the metropolis of America that no apparent catastrophe save a failure of heirs could extinguish it; and though originally springing from mercantile business, removed by some three-quarters of a century from its actual conduct.
For many years they were known as “the landlords of New York,” and the best of landlords, prompt, just and courteous; they still probably form the largest set of individual real-estate holders. The family is also connected with notable municipal charities and public foundations.
Encyclopedia Americana, 1920