A Titanic Timeline

On this day in 1912, 2208 passengers and crew had five days until their departure from Southampton on the RMS Titanic. They came from 27 different nations and all walks of life. Many of the passengers were returning to the United States following their honeymoons, vacations, or business travels. Most had never been to America, but dreamed of a new life there. For them, these last five days would be filled with preparations, good-byes, tears, and anticipation. No one had any idea of the tragedy that would soon befall them.



April 5, Good Friday. The Titanic had passed her sea trials in Belfast and departed for Southampton, arriving in port on April 3rd. A long coal strike led several shipping companies to cancel their voyages. White Star Line sent coal from their other ships in port to Titanic, and the ship was ‘dressed’ in colorful flags and pennants as a salute to the city of Southampton.



Titanic officers, with their white-bearded Captain Edward Smith

April 6. The coal strike settled and hiring began in earnest for most of Titanic’s crew. The seaman of Southampton, eager to get back to work, jammed the White Star Line hiring hall. Senior officers received assignments. Dishes, cutlery, and glassware began to arrive. Once on board, everything had to be counted and listed on the inventory before it was stored. General cargo started to arrive—crates and cartons of all manner of goods being shipped to North America.



A crane aboard Titanic used to lift cargo to the ship

April 7, Easter Sunday. All work was halted for the day, and the waterfront was deserted. Only the ship’s bell was heard, marking the hours.

April 8. Work resumed, and with only three days left until departure, many final tasks had yet to be completed. Trains brought fresh supplies to the docks, including all the food and beverages required to feed everyone on board for the week-long voyage to New York. Any last-minute problems were addressed, and every detail checked.

April 9. Thomas Andrews, Titanic’s chief architect, worked tirelessly on board, checking that all was in proper working order and noting changes he or the owner, J. Bruce Ismay, wished to make for future voyages. He wrote to his wife that evening, “The Titanic is now complete, and will I think do the old Firm credit tomorrow when we sail.”



Thomas Andrews

April 10. Sailing Day. Captain Smith boarded around 7:30 a.m. Crew members came up the gangways and mustered together on various decks for orders. Passengers began to arrive around 9:30 a.m. Just before noon, Captain Smith gave the order for the whistles to be blown, announcing Titanic’s imminent departure.

Leaving Southampton

Leaving Southampton

The RMS Titanic leaving Southampton

Next time, we’ll look at the following five days for Titanic. They were to be her last.

Photo credits: Encyclopediatitanica.com, Oocities.org, Spitfiresite.com

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The Artist Aboard Titanic

One of Titanic's many famous passengers was Francis Davis Millet. During the Civil War, Millet had served as a drummer boy and later as a surgical assistant. He entered Harvard, became a reporter, and enjoyed drawing portraits of friends in his spare time. He then turned seriously to art and studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Belgium, winning medals for his work. Millet continued to work as a journalist and translator during the Russian-Turkish War, and later published accounts of his travels as well as short stories and essays.



Frank Millet

Millet married, and the couple had four children. He became an accomplished painter and organized the American Federation of the Arts for the National Academy. His paintings can be seen in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Tate Gallery in London, Trinity Church in Boston, and several other public buildings throughout the United States. His many friends included President William Howard Taft, author Mark Twain, and impressionist artist John Singer Sargent.



Millet at work in his studio



A Cozy Corner



A Difficult Duet



Between Two Fires



Playing With Baby

In 1912, Millet persuaded another friend, Major Archibald Butt, 45, to join him on a six-week trip to Europe. Butt, whose health had recently deteriorated, was a close friend and military aide to President Taft. They visited Naples, Gibraltar, and Rome, where Butt met with Pope Pius X. The men booked first class tickets for their return voyage to the US on the Titanic.

While the ship was docked at Queenstown, Ireland, Millet wrote to a friend with his opinion of some of his fellow passengers: "Obnoxious, ostentatious American women are the scourge of any place they infest and worse on shipboard than anywhere. Many of them carry tiny dogs and lead husbands around like pet lambs. I tell you, when she starts out, the American woman is a buster. She should be put in a harem and kept there."

Following the collision and rescue, Colonel Archibald Gracie testified he had seen Millet and Butt playing bridge with two other male passengers before the ship hit the iceberg. He stated the card game had continued with barely an interruption, even as the lifeboats were loaded. Other survivors recalled seeing Millet and Butt helping women and children into lifeboats.

Frank Millet’s body was recovered by the Mackay-Bennett and sent to Boston for burial. He was 65. The body of Archibald Butt was not recovered. A memorial fountain was dedicated to the two men in Washington D.C.



Butt-Millet Memorial Fountain

Photo credits: jssgallery.org, nationalarchives.gov.uk, passionforpaintings.com, Wikipedia.com

Denver's Unsinkable Titanic Passenger

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit Margaret Brown’s home in Denver and learn more about this fascinating Titanic survivor and her family.



Given the name Unsinkable Molly Brown in a stage play about her life, Margaret Brown did much more than help row her lifeboat following Titanic’s collision with the iceberg. She raised funds to help survivors, ensured Captain Rostron of the Carpathia received recognition for the rescue efforts, and erected memorials in New York City and Washington D.C. to honor the victims.



Margaret Brown

Born in 1867, Margaret (Maggie) Ann Tobin hopped a train at the age of 18 and left her family in Hannibal, Missouri to share a cabin with her brother, a miner, in Leadville, Colorado in the hope of finding a husband. She took a job at Leadville’s Daniels and Fisher Mercantile, and met James Joseph (J.J.) Brown at a church picnic. J.J. was a silver miner whose parents had immigrated from Ireland. Margaret and J.J. were married in 1886 and soon welcomed a son, Larry, and a daughter, Helen. Margaret later said those were the happiest years of her life.



Helen, J.J., Margaret, and Larry Brown

While Margaret became active in the women’s suffrage movement in Colorado, the Leadville silver mines suffered under the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. But J.J. Brown had an idea to extract gold from Leadville’s Little Jonny Mine. His idea worked, and the mine began daily shipments of 135 tons of ore. As J.J. became a successful and well-paid mining executive, the family purchased a home in Denver for $30,000. They also bought a vacation home near the mountains.



The Brown's Denver home during the late 19th century

J.J. and Margaret filled their home with an eclectic mix of fine Victorian furniture, art, books, and treasures from their travels abroad. The home had electricity, indoor plumbing, and even a telephone near the formal parlor.





Top row from left: Staircase, Helen's bedroom, Parlor

Bottom row from left: J.J.'s bedroom, Margaret's bedroom

Margaret worked with established organizations dedicated to women’s rights, literacy, and education, or founded them herself. She raised funds to build a local hospital and a cathedral, helped start the first juvenile court in the US, became one of the first women in the US to run for political office, and worked tirelessly for improvements in labor and human rights.

J.J.’s health began to suffer, along with the couple’s marriage. With the children in boarding schools, Margaret spent more of her time in Newport, Rhode Island, where she and J.J. had rented a cottage. In 1909, the couple were separated. Margaret continued her work on the important issues that concerned her. She also traveled extensively and learned five languages. The books in the home's library reflect a wide variety of interests.

In 1912, Margaret and Helen were traveling with John Jacob Astor and his wife in Cairo, Egypt. Margaret received word that her grandson, Larry Jr., was ill. Helen, a student at the Sorbonne in Paris, decided to remain in Europe, but Margaret chose to return to New York with the Astor’s on the Titanic.

Following the collision, Margaret boarded Lifeboat 6. She and other women in the lifeboat helped row and kept the passengers’ spirits up until they were rescued by the Carpathia the next morning. She immediately began raising funds to help the survivors. On my tour of her home, the story was told that Margaret posted a list of the first class passengers and noted the amount of their contributions next to each name. No one wanted to have a blank space next to their name, and by the time the Carpathia reached New York, $10,000 had been pledged.



Carpathia's Captain Rostron with Margaret Brown

Practically overnight, Margaret became known as one of the heroines of the Titanic. She continued working for women’s rights and other causes, and was instrumental in the rebuilding of war-torn areas in France following World War I. She died in New York in 1932 at age 65, and is buried next to J.J. on Long Island, NY.

The Brown’s Denver home, once known as the House of Lions, was often rented out while the family traveled. After J.J.’s death, Margaret was forced to turn it into a boarding house during the Depression, and it was sold after her death for $6,000. It became a rooming house for men, and later, a home for wayward girls. It was scheduled for demolition in 1970, but was saved by a group of concerned citizens who formed Historic Denver Inc. and raised funds for its restoration to its former glory. The home is now open daily for tours, and features many of the Brown family belongings, photographs, and mementos. A display of Titanic memorabilia and the story of the tragedy and Margaret's part in it is also included on the tour.



Souvenirs from the Molly Brown House Museum



My family visiting Molly's house

Contrary to popular belief, Margaret was highly-regarded among most of the upper class during her time. For further reading, please see Unraveling the Myth by Kristen Iverson.

Photo credits: Encyclopedia Titanica, Molly Brown House Museum, Wikipedia.org.

Just Missed the Titanic - Part V

To close out our summer series on some of the well-known celebrities who were supposed to sail on Titanic, we’ll look at three men: two who were business associates, and one of the most popular evangelists of his time.Henry Clay Frick of Pittsburgh was a wealthy industrialist and chairman of Carnegie Steel Company. He and his wife and booked a suite aboard the Titanic in February 1912, but when the time came for the ship’s maiden voyage in April, Mrs. Frick sprained her ankle during a Mediterranean cruise and needed to be hospitalized. They cancelled their passage on Titanic and remained in Italy until she recovered.

hc frick

hc frick

Henry Clay Frick

Financier John Pierpont Morgan had invested in many large corporations and had a great influence on America’s finance during the early 1900s. He helped create General Electric and U.S. Steel, and was a close colleague of Henry Clay Frick. Morgan helped to resolve the U.S. banking system during what came to be known as the Panic of 1907.

Among J.P. Morgan’s business interests was the International Mercantile Marine, which controlled Britain’s White Star Line, owner of the Titanic. He had his own suite aboard the ship, with a private promenade deck. He was to have sailed on her maiden voyage, but instead remained at a French resort.

A conspiracy theory surfaced many years ago, which claimed that men intending to stop J.P. Morgan’s plan to create a large central U.S. bank were aboard Titanic, and Morgan had ordered Captain Smith to deliberately sink the ship. No evidence proving the theory has ever been found.

J.P. Morgan

J.P. Morgan

John Pierpont Morgan

John R. Mott was a popular evangelist to countless university students and a longtime official with the YMCA. He inspired many young people to consider foreign mission work. He and a colleague were offered free passage on Titanic by White Star Line, but they declined, taking the liner Lapland instead. When the men reached New York and heard about the disaster, they looked at each other and said, “The good Lord must have more work for us to do.”

For his work in establishing Christian student organizations that promoted peace around the globe, Mott and another worker shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946.

john r mott

john r mott

John R. Mott

Please join me next time, when we’ll visit the home and hear the story of one of Titanic’s most well-known passengers, Margaret “Unsinkable Molly” Brown.

Photo credits: Encyclopedia Titanica, Smithsonianmag.com, Wikipedia.org.

Just Missed the Titanic - Part IV

Several prominent members of society literally missed the boat. Today, see why one of America’s wealthiest families booked passage on Titanic, then never boarded the ship. In 1805, Cornelius Vanderbilt quit school at the age of 11 to work on his father’s ferry in New York Harbor. At 16, he bought a boat and began his own ferry service. Cornelius expanded his company until 1849, when he switched his interests to ocean-going vessels. He later invested in railroads, increasing his wealth and eventually becoming the richest man in the world.

In 1888, his grandson, George Washington Vanderbilt II, bought land in Ashville, North Carolina and began construction of the famous mansion known as the Biltmore Estate. He and his wife, Edith Stuyvesant, a descendant of New York’s first governor, filled their 250-room home with original artwork and antiques purchased on their travels around the globe. They also donated funds to begin Vanderbilt University.





George Washington Vanderbilt II, Edith and Cornelia Vanderbilt

While in Europe in 1912, George and Edith booked a first class cabin on the luxurious new Titanic for their return home. Their footman, 24-year-old Edwin Charles “Frederick” Wheeler, boarded the ship early and brought along several pieces of the Vanderbilt’s luggage. However, someone in the family strongly opposed taking a ship on its maiden voyage. Too many things could go wrong.

George and Edith decided to take Titanic’s sister ship, the Olympic, instead. By the time word reached Frederick, it was too late to unload the Vanderbilt’s luggage, so he stayed onboard, enjoying his second class accommodations. After the sinking, his body was not recovered.



Frederick Wheeler walking with 2 passengers aboard Titanic while the ship was docked in Queenstown, Ireland

Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, George’s nephew, had also planned to sail on Titanic. The NewYorkTimes reported that he’d boarded the ship at Cherbourg, France. But A.G. sent his mother a cablegram from London on the day of the sinking to let her know he was safe.



A.G. Vanderbilt

Three years later, A.G. boarded the Lusitania in order to attend a meeting of the International Horse Breeders’ Association in England. The ship was hit by a German torpedo off the coast of Ireland and sank in 18 minutes. A.G. gave his lifebelt to a woman holding her baby. He and his valet died in the sinking and their bodies were not recovered.



The Biltmore Estate today

Credits: southeastdiscovery.com, encyclopediatitanica.com, thefreegeorge.com, Wikipedia.org.

Just Missed the Titanic - Part III

We’ve been taking a break this summer from the stories of those who were on board the Titanic to see who literally missed the boat.

At the age of 20, Guglielmo Marconi became intrigued with the discovery of “invisible waves” from electromagnetic interactions. The son of a wealthy Italian landowner, Marconi began building his own equipment and was soon transmitting signals miles away. In 1896, he and his mother traveled to London where he found others willing to invest in his work. Before long, he applied for his first patents and set up a wireless station on the Isle of Wight. By 1899, signals from Marconi’s station had crossed the English Channel.



Guglielmo Marconi

He wanted to improve his wireless system in order to broadcast across the Atlantic. Experts argued that radio waves would only travel in straight lines and the curvature of the earth would not allow transmitting at so great a distance. But Marconi persevered. He set up a wireless station in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, with the hope of receiving a signal sent from England. When that failed, he tried a shorter distance—Cornwall to Newfoundland. In 1901, after several attempts, a faint signal was picked up—3 dots, the letter “s” in Morse Code.

In 1909, Marconi received the Nobel Prize in Physics, which he shared with physicist Karl Braun, the inventor of the cathode-ray tube. In his acceptance speech, Marconi claimed he was “more a tinkerer than a scientist” and wasn’t sure how his invention worked.

Marconi continued to make improvements to his wireless radio system. Shipping companies soon recognized its usefulness for communication and navigation. “Marconi Men,” trained in the operation of the equipment, became a vital part of every large ocean-going vessel. On Titanic, Harold Bride and Jack Phillips, with previous experience at Marconi stations and on ships, prepared for her maiden voyage.



Replica of Titanic's Marconi Room

White Star Line officials invited Marconi to sail on Titanic to New York. He declined, and took the Lusitania three days before Titanic left Southampton. Years later, his daughter claimed he’d had paperwork to do and preferred the stenographer aboard that ship.

During the sinking of the Titanic, Bride and Phillips worked valiantly to send emergency messages to ships in the area. Several responded, but it was the RMS Carpathia who eventually arrived at the scene and saved over 700 lives. Without the Marconi system in place, many more lives, if not all, would certainly have been lost. Although there were reports of Carpathia wireless operators being instructed to withhold information from the press until the ship arrived in New York, Marconi was soon hailed as one of the heroes of the disaster because of his invention.

Marconi message sent from Olympic

Marconi message sent from Olympic

Marconi message sent from RMS Olympic to Titanic

In April 1915, Marconi was aboard the Lusitania once again. A month later, she was sunk by a German U-boat. He continued to make improvements to his inventions, and died in 1937 in Rome. Radio stations in America, England, and Italy observed several minutes of silence in his honor.

Photo credits: History.com, Library of Congress, Titanicpigeonforge.com

Just Missed the Titanic - Part II

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 (young)

dreiser (young)

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.



RMS Kroonland

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.

Just Missed the Titanic

Following the sinking of the Titanic, newspapers were filled with stories of those who had missed boarding the ship for various reasons. Northern Michigan’s Sault Ste. Marie Evening News carried this story on April 20, 1912.



By the following week, more than 118,000 claimed to have cancelled their reservations on the doomed ship or changed their plans at the last minute. However, seven well-known gentlemen did, indeed, miss Titanic.

One of them was Milton Snavely Hershey. He founded the Hershey Chocolate Company and produced the first Hershey Bar in 1900, followed by Hershey Kisses in 1907. The chocolate factory was in the center of Pennsylvania dairy farmland, but with Hershey’s help, houses and other businesses soon surrounded the factory and eventually became the town of Hershey.

As the company expanded, Hershey and his wife, Kitty, traveled extensively. In 1911, while planning a European business trip, he booked a suite on Titanic’s maiden voyage back to New York. The Hershey archives holds a copy of the check Milton Hershey sent as a deposit to the White Star Line.



When April came and the Hersheys were in Europe, a business matter at home forced them to change their plans and take an earlier departure for New York aboard the German liner, Amerika. On the night of April 14, 1912, as Titanic crossed the north Atlantic Ocean, several ships sent warnings of ice to Titanic. One of the ships was the Amerika, with Milton and Kitty Hershey aboard. Their ship reached the United States without incident, but the Hersheys soon learned of Titanic’s fate.



Milton and Kitty Hershey

Next time, we’ll see what famous author just missed the Titanic.

photo credits: cbsnews.com, pennlive.com, smithsonianmag.com.

The Lady and the Pig

Born in Cincinnati in 1879 to a wealthy Jewish family, Edith Louise Rosenbaum took an interest in fashion at an early age. After attending a series of finishing schools, she moved to Paris to become a saleswoman for a haute couture fashion house. Soon afterward, she wrote for a fashion journal connected with Philadelphia-based Wanamaker’s Department Store and designed fashions for Butterick Patterns. Then in 1910, a new trade publication for the garment industry, Women’sWear Daily in New York, hired Edith to be their Paris correspondent. She covered all the style shows and wrote a front-page column about current trends and her impressions of everyone and everything connected with the fashion world.



Edith Rosenbaum in 1911

The following year, Edith became engaged to Ludwig Loewe from Berlin. While riding with him and their friends across France to cover the fashions at the Deauville races, their car crashed into a tree, killing Ludwig and throwing Edith to the back of the vehicle. She suffered a concussion and had no memory of the crash afterward. Her mother later gave her a small stuffed toy pig, perhaps hearing that pigs were a symbol of good luck in France. The pig was covered in black and white fur, and played a popular tune called La Maxixe when its tail was wound. Edith would later give partial credit to the pig for her escape from Titanic.

By 1912, Edith became a buyer in Paris for a number of American firms in addition to her work at Women’s Wear Daily. Anxious to return to New York with purchases for her clients, she booked passage on April 5 on the ship George Washington, which would sail on Easter Sunday, two days later. But her editor called and asked her to delay her return in order to cover a race on Sunday. So Edith changed her ticket to the Titanic, sailing April 10th from Cherbourg.

Edith brought 19 pieces of baggage aboard the ship, and possibly booked a second cabin for them, in addition to her own first class cabin. When the ship struck the iceberg on the night of April 14, Edith locked all her trunks, made her way to the deck, and watched the proceedings from the lounge. When she saw her steward, Robert Wareham, she asked him to retrieve her pig from her stateroom, which he did. When White Star Line’s Bruce Ismay noticed her in the lounge, he insisted she get into a lifeboat. A crewmember threw the pig into Boat 11, and Edith climbed in. Although the pig’s nose and two legs were broken, it helped entertain the children aboard the lifeboat as the survivors awaited rescue.



Edith holding her lucky pig

On April 19, Edith reported in Women’s Wear Daily on the garments worn by Titanic’s most elite passengers, even as they made their escape from the ship. She then sued White Star Line for nearly $15,000 plus $2,000 left in the purser’s safe, but only received 3 cents on the dollar. It took her several years to pay back her clients and recover her losses.

“I’m accident prone. . . I’ve had every disaster but bubonic plague and a husband.”

She continued work as a fashion buyer until 1937, changed her last name to Russell, traveled extensively, and became a well-known celebrity and authority on the Titanic disaster.  She often posed with her stuffed pig, which could no longer be played. She lived in London until her death at age 95.

E Russell later years with pig

E Russell later years with pig

Walter Lord, author of A Night to Remember, a book about the tragedy, inherited Edith’s famous pig. He later bequeathed it to the National Maritime Museum in London. After the 2012 centennial commemoration of the sinking, the museum restored the pig’s music mechanism. Today, La Maxixe can be heard once again.

Photo credits: Encyclopedia Titanica, Wikipedia

A Survivor's Heartache

At 20, Charlotte Tate left her home in Surrey, England and went to work as a cook and housekeeper for the Vicar in a nearby town. She is believed to have met Harvey Collyer there, who was the church sexton and verger, or clerk. Charlotte and Harvey were married, and soon had one daughter, named Marjorie. When the Vicar moved to another church in Hampshire, the Tates followed. Harvey continued as verger, served on the church council, and as bell ringer. He also ran the town grocery store.

collyer family

collyer family

The Collyer Family

Friends of the family had moved to Payette, Idaho, where they had started a successful fruit farm. They wrote of the beauty of the land and climate, urging Harvey and Charlotte to join them. They didn’t take their friends’ suggestion seriously, at first. But Charlotte had developed tuberculosis, and found it increasingly harder to breathe. Finally, for Charlotte's sake, they decided to move to Idaho, and booked passage on the Titanic.

“I had never been on an ocean voyage,” Charlotte later said, “and I was afraid of the sea. But I listened to the people who said, ‘Take the new Titanic. She cannot come to any harm. New inventions have made her safe; and then, the officers will be extra careful on her first trip.’”

titanic advertisement

titanic advertisement

Harvey sold the grocery store and most of the family’s possessions. He took $5,000 in cash, against the advice of a bank teller, who suggested he take a draft note. The church members gave a long surprise sendoff for the family by ringing all the bells for an hour. Charlotte later said, “It was almost too much of a farewell ceremony.”

Like so many others aboard Titanic after the ship struck the iceberg, the family didn’t realize the extent of the danger until well after the first lifeboats were loaded. Charlotte and Marjorie were put into Lifeboat 14. Harvey’s body, if recovered, was not identified. Charlotte wrote to her mother from New York, a few days after arrival on the Carpathia:

My dear Mother and all, I don't know how to write to you or what to say, I feel I shall go mad sometimes but dear as much as my heart aches it aches for you too for he is your son and the best that ever lived. I had not given up hope till today that he might be found but I'm told all boats are accounted for. Oh mother how can I live without him. I wish I'd gone with him if they had not wrenched Madge from me I should have stayed and gone with him. But they threw her into the boat and pulled me in too but he was so calm and I know he would rather I lived for her little sake otherwise she would have been an orphan. The agony of that night can never be told. Poor mite was frozen. I have been ill but have been taken care of by a rich New York doctor and feel better now. They are giving us every comfort and have collected quite a few pounds for us and loaded us with clothes and a gentleman on Monday is taking us to the White Star office and also to another office to get us some money from the funds that is being raised here. Oh mother there are some good hearts in New York, some want me to go back to England but I can't, I could never at least not yet go over the ground where my all is sleeping. Sometimes I feel we lived too much for each other that is why I've lost him. But mother we shall meet him in heaven. When that band played 'Nearer My God to Thee' I know he thought of you and me for we both loved that hymn and I feel that if I go to Payette I'm doing what he would wish me to, so I hope to do this at the end of next week where I shall have friends and work and I will work for his darling as long as she needs me. Oh she is a comfort but she don'trealise yet that her daddy is in heaven. There are some dear children here who have loaded her with lovely toys but it's when I'm alone with her she will miss him. Oh mother I haven't a thing in the world that was his only his rings. Everything we had went down. Will you, dear mother, sendme on a last photo of us, get it copied I will pay you later on. Mrs Hallets brother from Chicago is doing al he can for us in fact the night we landed in New York (in our nightgowns) he had engaged a room at a big hotel with food and every comfort waiting for us. He has been a father to us. I will send his address on a card… perhaps you might like to write to him some time. God Bless you dear mother and help and comfort you in this awful sorrow. Your loving child Lot.



Charlotte and Marjorie following the Titanic disaster

Charlotte and Marjorie were destitute, but with donations from the American Red Cross and other funds, they went on to Idaho as they planned. But Harvey’s loss was too much to bear. Charlotte sold her story to a newspaper for $300, and after friends in New York raised additional funds, she and Marjorie returned to England.

Charlotte remarried, but died of tuberculosis at age 35. Marjorie went to live with an uncle until she was married. The couple had one child who died in infancy. Her husband died at age 41, and she remained a widow, working as a doctor’s receptionist. She was moved to a nursing home in the 1960s due to ill health, and died of a stroke at the age of 61.

Photo credits: Encyclopedia Titanica, Clickamericana.com, Ebay.uk

One Survivor's Happy Ending

  On April 18, 1912, the survivors of the Titanic left the Carpathia after it docked in New York City. Many of the sick and injured were taken by ambulance to nearby St. Vincent’s Hospital. Among them was 26-year-old Sarah Roth, an immigrant from England who had boarded Titanic as a third class passenger.

Sarah had been engaged for several years to Daniel Iles, a grocery warehouseman. Daniel emigrated to New York in 1911 and became a department store clerk, saving money until he had enough to send for Sarah. At home, Sarah waited and sewed her wedding dress. Finally, Daniel purchased Sarah’s third class ticket to New York on Titanic. They would meet in New York, where they would be married.



Sarah's inspection ticket, required for entry into the United States.

Sarah Roth letter

Sarah Roth letter

Letter from Sarah to her mother, written aboard Titanic

On board the ship, Sarah made friends with several passengers her age, including Emily Badman, mentioned in the above letter. When Titanic struck the iceberg, Sarah woke, sensing the ship had stopped moving. She dressed quickly and met her friends in the corridor, where they were initially told by a group of stewards that there was no need for alarm. She recalled later how a ship’s officer had prevented them from ascending a ladder to an upper deck. When they were finally allowed to use the ladder, most of the lifeboats had gone. Sarah and Emily ran toward the bow and managed to board one of the collapsible lifeboats. Sarah’s wedding dress went down with the ship.

At St. Vincent’s, the hospital staff soon learned of Sarah’s engagement to Daniel and wanted to bring some joy to the tragedy. They contacted Daniel, who professed his love for Sarah. A priest from Church of Our Lady of the Rosary agreed to officiate. Fellow survivor Emily would serve as maid-of-honor, and the Women’s Relief Committee would contribute a trousseau and bouquet.



Ambulance transporting a patient to St. Vincent's Hospital



Entrance to St. Vincent's, New York's first Catholic hospital



Titanic survivors at St. Vincent's

A newspaper reported, “The news of the impending wedding spread quickly through the hospital, and doctors, nurses, charity workers, patients and survivors begged to be allowed to witness the ceremony.” One of the volunteers helping at St. Vincent’s was the wealthy Mrs. Louise Vanderbilt. Following the ceremony, she was among the first of the well-wishers to congratulate the new Mr. and Mrs. Iles.

Sarah and Daniel made their home in Manhattan and had one son, named Albert Daniel. They moved to Connecticut, where Sarah died in 1947. Her husband Daniel died in 1966.

Sarah had two brothers, Harry and Samuel Roth. Harry's grandchildren, Sarah's great-nieces, have reached out to me in order to provide an update about the living family members.

Harry had two children, Arthur and Viola. Sarah was their aunt. Arthur is now 96 years old and lives in North Carolina. He and his wife had three children, Karen, Pamela, and Charles Roth. Viola married and had four daughters--Louise, Janet, Joyce, and Carolyn. As children, they heard of Sarah's voyage and her marriage to Daniel Iles. All seven are living.

Albert, Sarah and Daniel's only child, did not have children of his own when he married, but his wife's child from a previous marriage has living descendants.

No doubt, these families will continue to share the story with generations to come of Sarah Roth and her narrow escape from the Titanic.

Photo credits: Wikimedia, Encyclopedia Titanica

The Voyage to New York

The RMS Carpathia, carrying 743 passengers, left New York on April 11, 1912, bound for a Mediterranean cruise. But a different purpose was in store for the Cunard Line ship—rescuing the survivors of the Titanic.


RMS Carpathia

While crossing the Atlantic early on April 15th, Carpathia’s captain, Arthur Rostron, nicknamed “Electric Spark” for his energy and quick decision making, responded to Titanic’s distress calls and sped for her last given location. With six icebergs to steer around, the Carpathia reached Titanic’s lifeboats just before sunrise. Four hours later, the 712 survivors were aboard Carpathia, and the lifeboats were hoisted aboard.

Titanic lifeboats approaching Carpathia

Lifeboats from the Titanic approaching the Carpathia

Women from the Titanic lined the rails, still watching for their husbands, fathers, and sons. As they were led away in tears, the Carpathia set a new course for New York City. While the world awaited the names of survivors and details of what happened to Titanic, the Carpathia passengers and crew set about caring for the injured, cold, and grief-stricken. Passengers shared their clothing, blankets, and toiletries. Some gave up or shared their cabins. Captain Rostron himself gave his cabin to three Titanic women who were now widows, including Mrs. John Jacob Astor. Plenty of hot drinks and meals were prepared and distributed among the various public rooms holding the majority of survivors. Women from both ships turned blankets into long makeshift dresses for children who had been wearing only nightgowns in the lifeboats.


Groups of Titanic survivors aboard the Carpathia

Most Titanic passengers kept to themselves, too exhausted or in shock to want to socialize. Some sent wireless messages to loved ones or employers. Harold Bride, Titanic’s surviving wireless operator, rested his frostbitten feet and helped send the messages.


Partial list of Titanic passengers aboard the Carpathia

The Carpathia arrived in New York in the evening of April 18th, stopping at White Star Line’s Pier 59 to unload Titanic’s lifeboats. Titanic crewmen rowed them ashore, their last task for the ill-fated liner. Dozens of small boats surrounded the Carpathia, as reporters on the boats shouted questions to the crew through megaphones. She then docked at Pier 54, the Cunard Line dock.

crowd waiting for carpathia

Crowd waiting at Pier 54 for the Carpathia

A crowd of close to 40,000 waited in the cold rain. Many were hoping to meet loved ones from the Titanic, not knowing for sure yet if they had survived. Titanic passengers left the ship first, followed by those who had boarded the Carpathia one week earlier. While happy reunions took place for many in the crowd, others waited for hours and finally left in tears when all passengers had disembarked and their loved one was not among them.

H Bride (Lof congress)

Harold Bride is carried off the Carpathia

Those passengers met by relatives or friends were led to cars or taxis. Others who had no one to meet them were taken to New York’s St. Vincent’s Hospital or assisted by relief agencies. Following the Senate inquiry into the disaster, Titanic’s surviving crewmembers returned to England and most returned to work at sea.

pier 54 today

Pier 54 today

Captain Rostron of the Carpathia was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal by the United States Congress, knighted by King George V, and became Commodore of the entire Cunard fleet. The Carpathia served as a troop transport ship during World War I. She was torpedoed by a German submarine in 1918, killing five crewmen. All other passengers and crew were rescued before she sank west of Land’s End in Cornwall.

Photo credits: Encyclopedia Titanica, Library of Congress, Wikipedia

Titanic's Reliable Fourth Officer

At age 15, Joseph Groves Boxhall of Yorkshire couldn’t wait to begin a life at sea like his grandfather, father, and uncle before him. He became an apprentice with the William Thomas Line, and joined ships sailing for ports in Russia, the Mediterranean, North and South America, and Australia. By 1907, at the age of 23, Boxhall earned his Extra-Masters Certificate and joined the White Star Line. As Sixth Officer on the Oceanic, he met another future Titanic officer, Charles Lightoller. Then, after a year aboard WSL’s Arabic on its North Atlantic run, he signed on as Fourth Officer for RMS Titanic. Once at sea, Boxhall’s duties included regular watches, navigation, and assisting passengers and crew.


Officer Joseph Boxhall

Aboard the Titanic on the night of April 14, 1912, Officer Boxhall was having a cup of tea in his cabin near the bridge. He heard the sound of the three warning bells from the crow’s nest and went to see what happened. As he reached the bridge, Captain Smith instructed him to go below and check the forward part of the ship for damage. He didn’t find anything wrong at first, and told a third class passenger holding a chunk of ice to return to bed. Very soon, however, another crewman reported damage to the forward compartments, and the postal clerk came to report that the mail room was quickly filling with water.

Boxhall’s next orders were to determine Titanic’s exact position. As the passengers made their way to the upper decks and the lifeboats were uncovered, he and Quartermaster George Rowe fired distress rockets from the ship’s rail. They used a Morse Lamp as well, in an attempt to signal the ship they saw in the distance, but to no avail.

When Lifeboat 2 was ready for lowering at 1:45 am, Boxhall was put in charge. The following is a transcript of a radio interview as he later described his experience in the lifeboat:

The sea was perfectly smooth when we left the ship. Every star in the heavens was visible, but there was no moon. So it was dark. And then, well everything was very peaceful …  no wind … and no moon, stars, smooth water, until after about an hour then the wind got up and there was a little sea. For a long time we didn't move the boat, when we laid off on the Starboard side. You could see by the ah, by the arrangements of the lights, all the lights were burning and you could see that she was going down. You could see that her stern was, was getting pretty low in the water. She was certainly going down, there was no doubt about it then. And, ah, well we pulled, we got away clear of the ship and we just laid on the oars until eventually they … they, ah … realized that she'd gone and we heard all the screams. We couldn't do anything. And, ah, the screams went on for some considerable time. I can't remember the time when she sank, but it was in the early hours.”

Following rescue, Joseph Boxhall testified at the American and British inquiries into the disaster. He returned to England, served aboard the Adriatic, then joined the Royal Naval Reserve before serving his country during World War I. He married after the war, then continued his career aboard several ships before his retirement in 1940. He acted as technical advisor during the filming of A Night to Remember in 1958.


Advertisement featuring Officer Boxhall

He had suffered from pleurisy periodically since Titanic’s sinking, and his health deteriorated rapidly in the 1960s. He died in 1967 at age 83, and requested that his ashes be scattered over the location he had calculated the night the ship went down.


Photo credits: Encyclopedia Titanica

Titanic's hardworking steward

When John Hardy signed on as Titanic’s Chief Second Class Steward, he brought with him fourteen years’ experience at sea. In my yet-to-be-published novel, Ruth Becker meets Hardy just after Titanic has departed Southampton, and is thrilled to learn he has a pram for her to push her little brother on deck.

john hardy

John Hardy

Hardy had worked for the White Star Line for twelve years, serving aboard four ships. In between his duties, he’d married his landlady’s daughter, Etta, in Liverpool, and had two children, Ronald in 1903 and Norah in 1905. The family moved to Southampton, and were living there at the time of Titanic’s sailing in 1912.

John, 36, was already on board as Titanic made her way from the Harland and Wollf shipyards in Belfast on April 2nd, arriving in Southampton on April 4th. The next day, Good Friday, the ship was decorated with colorful flags and pennants as a salute to Southampton. But before she could begin her maiden voyage on April 10th, most of the crew would be hired, thousands of tons of coal would be loaded, and supplies for the voyage would be brought aboard, including enough food for a small city. Also, any cargo, including crates of goods purchased abroad by American customers, was loaded into the cargo hold.

John Hardy was responsible for overseeing 162 second class cabins. On the night of the sinking, he turned off all unnecessary lights in the second class areas, went to bed around 11:30 pm, then felt a slight shock. Checking the passageway, he found nothing amiss and returned to bed. Then the Chief First Class Steward woke him with the news of what happened. John proceeded to rouse the stewardesses and assist passengers to the lifeboats. He worked on deck until the last lifeboat was launched, followed by the collapsible boats. He managed to board the last one, carrying 25 passengers, just 15 minutes before the ship sank. Later, they tied the boat up together with six other boats and took on ten more passengers.

collapsible lifeboat folded away

Example of a collapsible lifeboat with its sides folded away


Titanic crewmembers following rescue

John Hardy continued to work for the White Star Line, then aboard hospital ships and troop transports during the First World War. Twins were born to John and Etta in 1919, and the family moved to New Jersey, where John continued for twenty years as Chief Steward for various ships in the United States Line.

John Hardy died at his son’s home at the age of 82.

hardy tombstone

Photo credits: Encyclopedia Titanica and New York Times

Dress Aboard the Titanic

When first class passengers boarded the Titanic in April 1912, they did so with large trunks full of clothing for the voyage. It was customary to change clothes several times each day on many of the large ocean liners, and the Titanic would be the most elegant of all. Certainly, fashionable women, and men too, desired to fit in with their peers and show off their finest attire on the grandest ship ever to cross the Atlantic.


Men's Formal Wear in 1912

            Passenger Archibald Gracie later recalled, "Full dress was always en règle; and it was a subject both of observation and admiration, that there were so many beautiful women—then especially in evidence—aboard the ship."


Colonel Archibald Gracie

A well-known fashion designer was aboard, named Lady Duff-Gordon. Famous in New York, London, and Paris, her designs often featured a split skirt, low neckline, less-restrictive corset, and more revealing lingerie. When other first class passengers discovered Lucile, as she was known professionally, would be on board the Titanic, many of them made sure to obtain some her creations to wear during the voyage.


Lady Duff Gordon

The Edwardian style focused on straighter lines and less constricted clothing for women, rather than the bustles and full skirts seen in Victorian days. But the fine details were everywhere, from elegantly trimmed hats and expensive jewelry to silk draping off the shoulder and delicately embroidered footwear.


            Dinner on Titanic was a formal occasion, where men dressed in tailcoat, white waistcoat, and white bow tie. Women wore evening gowns, no hat, long white gloves, kid leather or satin shoes to match their gowns, opera bag, fan, and perhaps a scarf. Hats were worn only during the day.


            After the ship collided with the iceberg on the night of April 14, a steward gave Benjamin Guggenheim a sweater and a lifebelt to wear. When he realized he probably would not survive, he and his valet returned to their cabin and changed into their finest dinner apparel. They then helped load women and children into the lifeboats. Guggenheim told a bystander, "We're dressed in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen."


Benjamin Guggenheim


The White Widow - Titanic Honeymoons Part VIII

The daughter of a Congressman, eighteen-year-old Eloise Hughes met Lucian Smith, 24, at her society debut in January 1912. One month later, they were married in the bride's hometown of Huntington, West Virginia. Their honeymoon included stops in Italy, France, and Holland, plus camel rides around the pyramids in Egypt.

53-Smith (2)

Eloise and Lucian Smith

Blissfully happy, Eloise soon learned she was pregnant. In a letter to her parents, she told them they would sail home on either the "Lusitania or the new Titanic." Choosing the latter, Eloise and Lucian spent their days aboard planning their future on their new farm in Huntington and discussing names for the baby. Eloise didn't feel well on the night of April 14 and went to bed early, while Lucian joined three other men in a card game.

At 11:40 pm, the men heard and felt a scraping along the starboard bow. Checking to see what happened, they saw the iceberg through the port holes. Lucian went to the deck where some ice had fallen, but no one seemed alarmed. Shortly afterward, he ran into John Jacob Astor, who had just spoken to Captain Smith. Passengers were to report to the boat deck and women and children would be loaded into lifeboats. Lucian hurried to awaken Eloise but tried not to worry her. She dressed warmly, and just as she was leaving their stateroom, grabbed her new diamond ring Lucien had bought her in Paris.

Eloise tried to stay on board with Lucian, but he finally told her everyone would be saved and insisted she get in a lifeboat. He kissed his wife goodbye and helped her into Lifeboat 4. As the boat reached the ocean's surface and pulled away from the port side, someone said the men were boarding boats on the starboard side. Eloise thought the cries from the water were from third class passengers who hadn't reached the boats in time.

Following rescue by the Carpathia, a doctor told Eloise to rest and that he would look for her husband. A woman gave Eloise her own cabin, but Eloise couldn't sleep. She questioned other passengers and learned there hadn't been enough lifeboats. She began to realize Lucian had most likely perished.

Robert Daniel of Virginia, another rescued passenger, heard of the young southern woman aboard Carpathia who'd just lost her husband. He sought her out and introduced himself, telling her he'd leaped into the water at the last minute and made his way to a lifeboat. When the Carpathia docked in New York, he escorted Eloise off the ship and looked after her until her father met them. Eloise stoically testified at the US inquiry, wearing a white dress. Reporters called her "the white widow."

Eloise gave birth to a little boy, Lucian Smith, Jr. Robert Daniel continued to call on her, and they announced their engagement a year later. The marriage lasted until 1923, when Eloise discovered Robert had been seeing a woman in New York. She married two more times, with both marriages ending in divorce. She changed her name back to Smith, her son's name and that of the man she had loved. Eloise died of a heart attack at the young age of 46. Her granddaughter told a reporter, "She never completely recovered emotionally from Lucian's death or from witnessing the tragic deaths of the other people on that ship."

A Last Minute Passenger

Lady Lucy Duff-Gordon never planned to sail on Titanic. But with urgent business in New York, she needed the first ship available. With homes in London and Paris and a thriving fashion design business, she and her husband, Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon, boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg, France. They registered as Mr. and Mrs. Morgan and occupied two first class cabins.

Born Lucy Christiana Sutherland, she married James Wallace at age 18 and had a child. When they divorced, she began a dressmaking business in 1888 to support herself. Her talent for creating unique and fashionable dresses led to her shop, The Maison Lucile, becoming one of the great fashion houses of London by 1900. Well-known clientele included the Duchess of York, who later became Queen Mary. Madame Lucile opened another shop in New York in 1910 and one in Paris in 1912.


Madame Lucile's designs, 1912

Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon first became Lucy's business partner. They then married in 1900, giving her financial security as well as aristocratic connections.

In her autobiography, Discretions and Indiscretions, Lady Duff-Gordon remembered the last evening on the Titanic:

“We had a big vase of beautiful daffodils on the table, which were as fresh as if they had just been picked. Everyone was very gay, and at a neighbouring table people were making bets on the probable time of this record breaking run. Various opinions were put forward, but none dreamed that Titanic would make her harbour that night ...I had been in bed for about an hour and the lights were all out, when I was awakened by a funny, rumbling noise...”

She and Sir Cosmo boarded Lifeboat 1, along with her maid. The boat had a capacity of 40, but was lowered with only 12 people aboard, 7 crewmen and 5 passengers. It’s believed it may have been lowered quickly in order to make room for the ship’s two collapsible boats to be readied.

Later, when Sir Cosmo paid the crewmen, he and his wife were accused of bribing them to not go back for more passengers. The Duff-Gordons testified at the British inquiry and were vindicated. The crewmen in the lifeboat had decided it was too dark to go back for anyone, and Sir Cosmo had paid them five pounds each, not as a bribe, but to help them during their search for new employment.


Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff Gordon, 1914

Sir Cosmo died in 1931, and Lady Duff-Gordon’s business eventually collapsed. She died in 1935 at the age of 71 in a London nursing home, and is buried alongside her husband near London.


Lady Duff-Gordon

Titanic's Crew

The list of the RMS Titanic crew named 869 men and 23 women as crewmembers, in addition to her officers. Most of the crew boarded in Southampton, England, just after sunrise on the day of her maiden voyage, April 10, 1912. All of the officers, except for Captain Edward Smith, had already spent the night on board. They would be in charge of all the day-to-day navigation duties. Captain Smith said goodbye-to his wife and daughter at his home in Southampton and boarded the ship around 7:30 am.


Titanic officers. Captain Smith is seated, 2nd from right

The crew included seamen, who assisted the officers; firemen (or "stokers"), who shoveled the coal into boilers; engineers, who helped run the engines and machinery; saloon stewards, bedroom stewards, and chefs. The women included 18 stewardesses, two cashiers, a masseuse, a Turkish Bath attendant, and a woman who chaperoned the single women in third class.


Titanic crew members wearing lifevests

Several teenage boys, a few as young as 14 and 15, were employed as crewmembers. They worked as bellboys (also called “buttons”) and carried luggage, as pageboys, running errands and delivering telegrams, or as “liftboys” operating the elevators.

Only 214 crew members survived the sinking of the Titanic, 194 men and 20 women. None of the bellboys, pageboys, or liftboys survived. Most of the crew came from Southampton. On one street alone, 20 families lost loved ones in the disaster. Their families could not claim any compensation from the Titanic’s White Star Line. However, over $2 million was raised by the British Titanic Relief Fund and other British charities to help the families of those hardest hit. In the United States, $261,000 was raised.

Do you have a question about the crew, or something else related to the Titanic? Leave a comment and I'll do my best to answer it next week. Thanks!