This Day In History: October 30

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Caroline Schermerhorn Astor, wife of businessman and racehorse breeder William Backhouse Astor, Jr., dies at the age of 78.

Even before her union with William Astor—the grandson of the American fur magnate John Jacob Astor—Caroline Schermerhorn was prime American aristocracy: She was the daughter of a wealthy merchant and descended from Dutch nobles.

Caroline’s death marked the end of old-style high society in New York City. She had ruled over the upper crust as an un-crowned American queen, and an invitation to one of Mrs. Astor’s famous balls was the ultimate symbol of one’s social rank.

HISTORY Vault: The Astors: High Society

A look at five generations of the colorful and wealthy family. Follows their story from its 18th-century beginnings, when fur trader John Jacob Astor became the richest man in the world.