The letters are addressed to Edmund Lang, chairman of the Race Committee of the New York Yacht Club during the 1930s, from Vincent Astor, son of John Jacob Astor, and a Commodore of the New York Yacht Club. The first letter, dated August 19, 1938, sent with a photograph of “Nourmahal” inscribed by Astor, expresses Astor’s pleasure in having Lang and other committee members on board during a cruise together. The second letter, sent August 25, 1938, thanks Lang for snapshots he had received. Both are typewritten and hand-signed “Vincent.”
The inscribed photograph shows the yacht anchored over the open sea, with the following handwritten message from Astor: “To:- Edmund Lang and the Race Committee from ‘Nourmahal’ and Vincent Astor.” The inscribed photograph is by the famous maritime photographer Edwin Levick, New York, with his blind stamp lower right. There other three photographs are 1. side view of yacht; 2. front view of yacht; 3. picture on board of 3 gentlemen in yachting outfits and caps (possibly captains?).
Vincent Astor commissioned the yacht Nourmahal from Krupp Iron Works in Germany in 1928. Astor appeared on the cover of Time magazine on February 6, 1928, accompanying an article about the Nourmahal, the finest private yacht of its era. The Nourmahal was involved in a variety of interesting adventures. In 1930, Astor and a group of curators from the New York Aquarium, American Museum of Natural History and Brooklyn Botanic Garden made an expedition to the Galapagos Islands, returning with 255 reef fishes, a pair of penguins, tortoises, iguanas, as well as a large botanical collection that is still housed at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden .
Astor was friends with Franklin D. Roosevelt, and it was to the Nourmahal that FDR retreated after an assassination attempt in 1933. Thereafter, he joined Astor on the yacht once a year.
In August 1940, Astor transferred the ship to the Coast Guard Reserve fleet for use as a weather station. In January 1942, she was transferred to Navy control and was purchased by the Navy in 1943 in accordance with an option in the original charter agreement. Transferred back to the Coast Guard in 1944, she served as a convoy escort ship until the April 1946 in the U.S. Atlantic fleet, and was transferred to the Maritime Administration in 1948. The ship was sold for scrap in 1964.
William Vincent Astor (1891-1959) (known as “Vincent”) was the son of John Jacob Astor IV and Ava Willing. While a student at Harvard University in 1912, his father died in the Titanic shipwreck and Vincent inherited a $75 million estate at age 20. From the start, he exhibited a strong social conscience, serving in the Navy during World War I, and selling off the family’s New York City slum housing and reinvesting in more ethical enterprises. He also owned Newsweek magazine and served on the boards of Western Union, Chase Manhattan Bank and The United States Lines, as well as a trustee of the New York Public Library and New York Zoological Society. A longtime friend of Franklin D. Roosevelt, he was an unofficial advisor to him during Roosevelt ‘s presidency and served as part of an espionage ring during World War II. This chapter of his life, including the participation of the Nourmahal, is discussed in Roosevelt’s Secret War: FDR and World War II Espionage (Random House, 2001) by Joseph E. Persico. In the 1950s, with his third wife, Brooke Astor, he founded the philanthropic Vincent Astor Foundation, designed to benefit the residents of New York City.
Bruce, Robert. “Capt Vincent Astor.” Find a Grave. 18 April 2004. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=8652807&pt=Vincent%20Astor (10 May 2004).
“Herbarium Collections: The Astor Expedition to the Galapagos (1930).” Brooklyn Botanic Garden . http://www.bbg.org/sci/herbarium/collections/astor.html (10 May 2004).
Mason, Heather. “Passenger Research: Vincent Astor.” Post to Encyclopedia Titanica Message Board. 8 December 2003. http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/discus/messages/5811/80143.html?1070851267 (10 May 2004).
“Nourmahal, USS, WPG-72; WPG 122.” U.S. Coast Guard. November 2001. http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g-cp/history/Nourmahal_PG72.html (10 May 2004).
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