What the Doctor Saw

Dr. Washington Dodge boarded the Titanic in Southampton with his wife and five-year-old son, following a short European vacation. They were on their way home to San Francisco, where Dr. Dodge had been elected to his fourth term as city assessor following a successful career as a physician.


Dr. Washington Dodge 

Following Titanic’s collision with the iceberg, Mrs. Dodge and her son were helped into Lifeboat 5. Dr. Dodge managed to find a seat in Lifeboat 13. Twelve-year-old Ruth Becker was put into the same boat, after she was separated from her family. In my novel, Ruth learns Dr. Dodge’s name as they await rescue.


Mrs. Dodge and son Washington Jr.

He is quoted in the San Francisco Bulletin later that week, after his return home.“I watched the lowering of the boat in which my wife and child were until it was safely launched…and I remained on the starboard side where the boats with the odd numbers from one to fifteen were being prepared…I waited until what I thought was the end. I certainly saw no sign of women or children on deck when I was told to take a seat in boat No. 13.”

Dodge account of sinking from Gilder Lehrman Collection

Dr. Dodge's account of the sinking, written aboard the Carpathia

He described a gushing stream of water from Titanic’s condenser that sent Boat 13 into the path of Boat 15 as it was lowered. He then told what happened after the lifeboat was finally rowed away from the ship.

“We saw the sinking of the vessel. The lights continued burning all along its starboard side until the moment of its downward plunge. After that a series of terrific explosions occurred, I suppose either from the boilers or the weakened bulkheads."

Dodge voiced his opinion of the lifeboats. "Only one of the boats had a lantern...If a sea had been running I do not see how many of the small boats would have lived. For instance, on my boat there were neither one officer or a seaman. The only men at the oars were stewards who could no more row than I could serve a dinner."

Aboard the Carpathia, Dr. Dodge was reunited with his family. Back in San Francisco, he gave interviews and spoke about his Titanic experience to several local newspapers, citing what he considered to be the many reasons why so many lives were lost. He claimed he’d seen at least one officer fire shots at male passengers from third class as they attempted to board the last boats. Other survivors gave similar stories, although they were inconsistent and none could be proven.


San Francisco Bulletin column, April 19, 1912

Seven years later, Dr. Dodge was involved in a lawsuit and was distraught over the defamation of his character, according to close friends. He shot himself at his home and died a week later at the age of 60.

Everything she owned

After running a nursing home in England for 20 years, Lucy Ridsdale looked forward to moving to her sister’s house in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with a stop in Marietta, Georgia to see another sister. She packed everything she owned, including several family heirlooms and other items that had been gifts from friends, paid all the necessary excess baggage fees, and sent everything to be loaded aboard the Titanic for her journey to America.

replica of titanic's hold

Replica of Titanic cargo hold

Single at 58, Lucy occupied a second class cabin with 28-year-old Mary Davis, who was emigrating to New York where her siblings lived. Lucy had a club foot, and on the night of the sinking, Mary helped Lucy to the Boat Deck where they boarded Lifeboat 13.

In my pre-published novel, the main character, passenger Ruth Becker, meets Lucy in the lifeboat after it moves away from the sinking ship. As Lifeboat 13 was lowered to the ocean’s surface, a heavy stream from a condenser sprayed the boat and pushed it ahead, right underneath another lifeboat as it descended. The frightened passengers could almost reach up and touch the other boat, until someone cut Boat 13’s ropes, still attached to the davits up on deck. Finally free of Titanic, the boat's 64 occupants rowed about until morning. Passengers agreed if the sea had not been calm, many of the lifeboats could not have made it through the night.

After rescue, Lucy was first listed among the missing, until she sent a telegram to her sister in Marietta. Not long after the disaster, she made a detailed claim for her belongings, for a total value of $3,146.00. She had saved a claim ticket given to her as she boarded, which she presented with other documents. Today, these original records are housed in the U.S. National Archives in Washington D.C. Here is a part of her list of lost items:

LR's list.png

She states in a letter to the White Star Line, “This list includes household and personal effects which the two ladies I am inclosing addresses from England know I possessed...This lady has known me for 20 years and can testify as to my having had a nursing home of my own at Harrogate, Yorkshire, England. I brought everything expecting to make my home here with my sisters in Marietta and Milwaukee…”

The White Star Line made every effort to pay passengers who filed claims for loss of property, although there is no record if Lucy herself received anything. She is listed as residing at a Chicago hotel in the 1920 census, and a resident in an Old People’s Home in 1930. Lucy Ridsdale died at age 91 in Chicago.

Photo credits: National Archives and Howard Digital


Mysterious Rescue – Titanic Honeymoons Part X

At 14, Ethel Clarke of Norwich, England wasn’t ready for marriage. But the thought of emigrating to America appealed to her, so when Edward Beane proposed and asked her to wait until he saved enough money, she said yes.

Edward, 27, crossed the Atlantic with his two brothers and obtained work as a bricklayer in New York, earning better wages than at his old construction job in England. He wrote to Ethel and came home to visit when he could, traveling in steerage to save money. After six years, he and Ethel had saved 500 dollars plus enough for two second class tickets on the Titanic to New York. They were married in Norwich, said goodbye to their families, and left for Southampton.


Edward and Ethel Beane in a 1930s photo

Edward and Ethel were in their cabin when the ship struck the iceberg. They didn’t think much of the jolt they felt until a woman in a nearby cabin came to tell them about the order to come to the boat deck with lifebelts, and to wear warm clothes. Edward urged Ethel to hurry and not worry about bringing any of their few valuables. Most of their savings was locked in the purser's office.

On the boat deck, Ethel was quickly ushered to Lifeboat 13 and had no time for more than a quick kiss from Edward. Three or four more passengers were loaded before it was launched, but Ethel lost sight of her husband. He would surely take another lifeboat, she thought.

Edward was indeed rescued, but the stories conflict of how it happened. He and Ethel told different versions of that night to reporters. In one, Edward stated he kept an eye on his wife’s lifeboat from the deck of the Titanic. Then, as the ship sank, he jumped and swam “for hours” until he reached it and was pulled aboard. The problem with this story is that a passenger in Lifeboat 13, Lawrence Beesley, wrote a detailed account of the entire night shortly afterward and never mentioned rescuing anyone from the water. Some passengers had wanted to return to help those in the water, but most refused, feeling their boat would be swamped.

Another version the Beane’s gave the press stated that Edward was picked up by another lifeboat and he didn’t find Ethel on the Carpathia until after it docked in New York. This seems unlikely, however, because great care was taken to compile accurate passenger lists and roll calls were taken to help passengers find each other.

It’s possible that Edward did jump aboard Lifeboat 13 at the last minute before launch, when no other women or children were available or willing to board. Like other male survivors, he probably encountered public ridicule for not being “a gentleman” and going down with the ship, and he and Ethel made up the other stories to ease his guilt.

Edward Beane is listed as a Lifeboat 13 passenger by Encyclopedia Titanica, one of the main sources I use in my research of the Titanic, and in several other written accounts.


Edward and Ethel with their two sons

The Beanes managed to make a new life in Rochester, New York, raised two sons, and vowed to never cross the ocean again. Edward died at the age of 67 and Ethel at the age of 90.


Beane family descendants in a replica of the Titanic wireless room