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John Jacob Astor was pre-eminently the opener of new paths, a breaker of trails. From his first tramp alone through the Black Forest of Baden, at sixteen, his life never lost this typical touch. In America, both shores of the Hudson, and the wilderness to the Northwest knew his trail. The trees of the forests west of the Mississippi were blazed by his hunters and trappers; and his partners and agents planted through this vast region the flag of the American Fur Company. The Atlantic and Pacific Oceans were invisibly lined by the path of his vessels. His were the first American ships to habitually circle the globe, trading around the earth. With his far-sighted vision withdrawn from distant scenes, and centered on Manhattan Island, he led the way toward the upbuilding of the largest, and most important city in the new world. (Summary from book's Foreword)