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After John Jacob Astor makes a fortune in New York, he plans Astoria, a trading post on the Pacific coast.

His explorers face storms, mutinies, shipwrecks, starvation, murders and insanity, and finally give up. Astor's vision of Pacific Rim trade is put on hold for a couple of centuries. Astonishing history!

Astoria: Astor and Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival  By Peter Stark ($27.99, Ecco Press), recommended by Helen, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.