The Publisher and the Pekinese

Beginning this week, I wish to to introduce you to some of the real Titanic passengers and crewmembers who have a role in my pre-published novel, which is based on the true story of 12-year-old passenger Ruth Becker. (Some of the real-life characters in the novel have already been featured on the blog, such as Captain Edward Smith, passenger John Jacob Astor, and orchestra leader Wallace Hartley.) We’ll start with a man Ruth meets on her first venture onto Titanic’s Promenade Deck, as he struggles to hold a very wiggly Pekinese...


Henry Sleeper Harper was the director of Harper and Brothers Publishing House, which his grandfather had founded in the 1800s but was not formally dedicated to publishing until 1900. The firm published several magazines, including Harper’s Weekly and Harper’s Bazaar. Henry also served on the board for the protection of the Adirondacks, and was instrumental in preventing logging of the area.

Forty-eight-year-old Henry and his wife, Myra, boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg, France, along with their Egyptian interpreter and guide, Hammad. The Harpers had been in Paris, where their Pekinese dog, Sun Yat Sen, had won a top prize at a dog show.


Sun Yat Sen

On the night of the sinking, the couple were finishing a late dinner when they were told to return to their cabin for warm clothes and lifebelts and report to the Boat Deck. They headed for the starboard side and boarded Lifeboat 3, along with Hammad and Sun Yat Sen. All were rescued by the Carpathia. Sun Yat Sen was one of three dogs that survived the sinking of the Titanic. In regard to being allowed to board the lifeboat with a dog, Harper replied later, “There seemed to be plenty of room at the time and no one offered any objection.”

myra and sun

Mrs. Henry Harper with Sun Yat Sen

The Harpers did not have children, and Myra died in 1923. Henry married Anne Hopson and had a son, also named Henry. Henry Sleeper Harper died at the age of 79 after a lengthy illness. He is buried in New York City, along with Myra and Anne.

In the 1990s, the company merged with William Collins & Sons of Great Britain to form HarperCollins.

photo credits: Encyclopedia Titanica

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."