Last week we visited with Milton Hershey, the founder of the Hershey Candy Company, and learned how urgent business back home caused Hershey and his wife to miss their scheduled voyage on Titanic and book an earlier ship. Today, we’ll see what famous author almost sailed on Titanic. One of thirteen children, Theodore Dreiser was born in Terre Haute, Indiana. He attended Indiana University but dropped out and soon became a journalist for the Chicago Globe newspaper, followed by the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. He wrote articles on writers and public figures, then turned to writing novels. Sister Carrie was published in 1900, followed by JennieGerhardt in 1911. Both novels featured female protagonists, a rare occurrence in novels of that time.
Dreiser went to Europe in 1912 to conduct research for his novel, The Financier, and to work on his memoir, A Traveler atForty. For his trip back to the US, he planned to book a cabin on the luxurious new Titanic. But his publisher insisted he take the cheaper ship, Kroonland, leaving from Dover on April 13, three days after Titanic had begun her maiden voyage.
On the night of April 14, word came over the Kroonland wireless that Titanic had struck an iceberg and had gone down. Dreiser was playing cards when a passenger entered the room with the news. Dreiser wrote, “And with one accord we went to the rail and looked out into the blackness ahead.”
“The terror of the sea had come swiftly and directly home to all. I am satisfied that there was not a man of all the company who heard but felt a strange sinking sensation as he thought of the endless wastes of the sea outside—its depths, the terror of drowning in the dark and cold. To think of a ship as immense as the Titanic, new and bright, sinking in endless fathoms of water. And the two thousand passengers routed like rats from their berths only to float helplessly in miles of water, praying and crying!
That night, Dreiser wrote that he lay in his berth, feeling “a great rage in my heart against the fortuity of life—the dullness or greed of man that prevents him from coping with it.”
Dreiser continued writing many non-fiction books, plus several other novels, short stories, and poems. His most well-known work, An American Tragedy, was published in 1925. His writing was often seen as controversial, but he is remembered as one of America’s great literary giants. Theodore Dreiser died in 1945 at the age of 74.
Photo credits: kids.brittanica.com, searlecanada.org, Wikipedia.org.