ichthyologist Vincent Astor, whose considerable fortune stemmed from New York
City realty, was a Dutchess County neighbor of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The two
men, linked by marriage, had known and respected each other for years and
shared a love for the sea as gentlemen sailors. It was only natural that Astor
should favor Roosevelt's candidacy for the governorship of New York State in
1928 and 1930, and the presidency of the United States in 1932.
In January 1933
the man acknowledged to be the wealthiest member of the President-elect's
"inner group" invited his good friend to accept the hospitality of the
Nourmahal. On February 4, Roosevelt came over her side for the first time.
After 10 pleasant
days at sea, the party went ashore at Miami for a triumphal parade before the
cheering populace, and there an attempt was made on the President-elect's life.
Roosevelt was neither wounded nor visibly shaken, but Mayor Anton Cermak of
Chicago and four others were hit by the would-be-assassin's bullets.
During the next
two years, as President, Roosevelt was to make several somewhat less eventful
excursions aboard the Astor craft.
Early in 1935,
when the President was once again invited to relax aboard the Nourmahal, he
remarked that the cruise would hardly justify the expense of commissioning the
big yacht. "The Nourmahal is always in commission," Astor is said to
looks." quipped Roosevelt, "as if we'll have to increase taxes on the
Late in March,
Roosevelt and Harry Hopkins accepted Astor's hospitality and boarded the
Nourmahal for a two-week fishing cruise. Not long after, the President sent his
"soak-the-rich" tax program to Congress. That message ended the
intimacy of the two Hudson River seigneurs, and taxes soon made it all but
impossible for any yachtsman to operate much more than a runabout on income
In 1937 a joint
Congressional committee investigating income tax avoidance and evasion called
in several big-yacht owners, including Mrs. Cadwalader, whose huge Savarona,
after a few brief appearances in the Caribbean, had disappeared from public
view—which had it all over Houdini's disappearing-elephant act.
committee disclosed that, by incorporating her yacht, Mrs. Cadwalader had
established a six-year operating loss of nearly 5800,000, saved income taxes
estimated at a quarter of a million dollars. It was further pointed out that
the Savarona had never been brought into American waters, which would have made
her subject to a record import duty. Not that very many resort harbors could
have accommodated her bulk!