The Car Aboard Titanic

Titanic’s cargo consisted of a wide variety of items being exported to America—everything from “dragon’s blood” used in cosmetics, cases of ostrich feathers for women’s hats, and even a rare copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Passengers, of course, brought along their trunks, furniture, other household items, and pets. The total value of the cargo would be valued at over $200 million today. Many artifacts have been found during expeditions to the wreck site, but one of the largest, a 1911 Renault Coupe de Ville, remains buried beneath the north Atlantic.



The Renault was produced from 1905-1914 and had a top speed of 35 mph. It was listed on the Titanic cargo manifest, a copy of which was safely aboard the Cunard liner Mauritania. It had been purchased in Europe by William Carter of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Lucile, boarded the Titanic at Southampton, along with their two children, a maid, a manservant, and a chauffeur.



Portion of Titanic's Cargo Manifest

In addition to the new Renault, the Carters also brought with them two dogs, a Spaniel and an Airedale. The family had previously moved to Europe, but spent summers in Bryn Mawr and Newport, Rhode Island. They planned to return to Bryn Mawr when the Titanic reached New York.

Shortly before Titanic sank, Carter managed to secure a place in the Collapsible Lifeboat C. His wife claimed he reached the Carpathia before she and the children did, and that he had deserted them during the loading of the boats. They were later divorced.



William Carter

The Renault, made famous in the film Titanic, was not conveniently parked in the hold but had actually been shipped in a large case, according to the cargo manifest, perhaps with some assembly required. Following rescue, Carter filed a claim with the White Star Line for $5000 for the car, and $100 and $200 for the dogs.

A fully restored Renault, made to the same specifications as Carter’s, sold in 2003 for $269,900.

Photo Credits:,

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:,,,

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,

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,,

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


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:, Library of Congress,

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:,,

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:,,

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,,

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

When the World Heard the News

On this day in 1912, those aboard the Titanic had only one more night to sleep on the ship, one more morning to greet the day from their cabins. That day, no one could know what was to come as the beautiful ship sped across the Atlantic. Yet, April 14 would be the last full day on Earth for almost 1500 men, women, and children onboard.On Sunday, April 14, at 11:40 pm, as most of the passengers had retired for the night, the ship struck an iceberg. By 2:20 am on April 15th, the RMS Titanic went to her grave, taking 1500 souls with her. During those 2 ½ hours, the ship's wireless operators sent repeated messages to any nearby ships asking for help. They used the letters CQD, indicating an emergency, then the new code, SOS. Their calls were picked up by other ships, some too far away to reach Titanic in time. The new Marconi wireless system passed on the signals to receiving stations as far away as New York, but some of the messages were garbled with other ships' messages using the same system. It was like a party line, loaded with codes of dots and dashes rather than voices.


A replica of Titanic's wireless room

In New York, the messages were received in the Associated Press newsroom, where editors and reporters immediately scrambled to obtain more information about what happened to the Titanic. Soon, the New York Times received this wire dispatch:

''CAPE RACE, Newfoundland, Sunday Night, April 14 (AP)  At 10:25 o'clock tonight the White Star Line steamship Titanic called 'CQD' to the Marconi station here, and reported having struck an iceberg. The steamer said that immediate assistance was required.''

Although the fate of the ship and its passengers and crew wouldn’t be confirmed for many hours, the Times and other papers hurried to print early editions. With the lack of all the facts and the varied messages coming in over the wireless receiving stations, many newspaper headlines played it safe, while others guessed at what may have occurred.






Not until the Carpathia rescued the survivors and began transmitting their names via the ship’s wireless did anyone know for certain who had survived. Yet it would still be several days before the fate of every passenger and crew member was known on both sides of the Atlantic.

I hope you'll join me in two weeks when we’ll revisit the day the Carpathia arrived in New York.

Photo credits:,,,

Lifeboats on the Titanic

One of the reasons so many individuals perished on the Titanic was the lack of enough lifeboats for everyone. Titanic had a maximum capacity of 3327, but on her one and only voyage, around 2224 passengers and crew were on board. However, her 20 lifeboats were capable of carrying 1178 at most. And because most of the boats left the ship less than full, only 712 survived the sinking.

titanic boats approaching carpathia

Titanic lifeboats carrying survivors

Larger davits had been proposed for the new White Star Line ships, including Titanic, allowing for 48 lifeboats. But regulations issued by the Board of Trade required only 16 lifeboats for all British vessels over 10,000 tons. Titanic’s designers opted for 20 lifeboats, wanting to save on unnecessary costs and provide plenty of space for passengers to stroll the open decks. Twenty boats were more than the law required, and that seemed more than sufficient. After all, they could practically guarantee there would be no need for them.

Titanic carried 16 regular lifeboats, numbered 1 through 16. Eight even-numbered boats were mounted along her port side, and the eight odd-numbered boats along the starboard side. Four collapsible boats were stored near the bow, with two on either side.


Diagram showing lifeboat placement. Two collapsible boats (red) are not seen. The pink boats are emergency cutters.

Fourteen lifeboats each had a capacity of 65. They were 30 feet long, 9 feet wide, and 4 feet deep. They were supposed to be equipped with oars, blankets, provisions, and flares, although some survivors claimed their boats lacked one or more of these items. Two emergency cutters, boats 1 and 2, were built to hold 40. They measured 25 feet long and 7 feet wide. Their purpose was for immediate emergencies, such as a man overboard, and were permanently swung out, ready for lowering. The four collapsible boats, A, B, C, and D, were 27 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 3 feet deep. They had canvas sides that could be raised in use and could be stored almost flat.

A number of mistakes and misconceptions led to the boats leaving Titanic at less than capacity:

1) The one lifeboat drill had been cancelled due to cold weather.

2) When Captain Smith ordered passengers to be loaded into the lifeboats, many refused, not aware of the real danger. They felt it was safer to remain onboard the ship than climb into a small boat and be lowered to the sea. Many women didn’t want to leave their husbands, brothers, or sons.

3) Crewmen had not been given adequate lifeboat training. Some charged with filling the boats weren’t sure of how many the boats could hold and lowered them half-full.

4) Some crewmen strictly enforced the ‘women and children first’ rule, and when no more women and children were immediately available for boarding, they lowered the boats as the men watched.

5) Third class passengers reached the boat deck late, due to a lack of information and language barriers. Some were purposely kept back by crewmen until first and second class passengers filled the boats. By the time more third class passengers reached the boat deck and the true urgency of the situation was realized, most of the boats had already gone.

Titanic-lifeboats after

Lifeboats dropped at White Star Line pier in New York following arrival of the Carpathia, carrying 712 survivors  

Only two lifeboats returned to the scene after the Titanic sank to rescue a few people in the water.

Following the inquiries into the sinking, a new ruling required every passenger vessel to be equipped with more than enough boats to carry every passenger and crewmember, and for crewmembers to be fully trained in lifeboat use. Also, lifeboat drills for all passengers on every voyage is now required by law.

Note: Beginning today, I will be posting on this blog every other Wednesday. As soon as my novel about Titanic survivor Ruth Becker is accepted for publication, I will share the news with you here. Thank you to all my readers! I look forward to bringing you more of the Titanic on April 13th, one day before the 104th anniversary of the sinking.

Photo credits:,, Wikipedia

The First to See the Iceberg

Three watch groups of two men each took turns in Titanic’s crow’s nest during her maiden voyage. At 10:00 pm on the night of April 14, 1912, Frederick Fleet, 24 and Reginald Lee, 42, climbed 75 feet to their station. They’d each served several years aboard other ships in various capacities and were considered experienced lookouts. The air temperature hovered near 30 degrees, but with Titanic running at 22.5 knots, Fleet and Lee were bound to feel much colder in their perch high above the ship.

fleet on titanic

Frederick Fleet


Reginald Lee

A half hour before they came on duty, a message had been sent to the crow’s nest to watch for ice. But the warning was not passed on to Fleet and Lee. Perhaps if they’d been aware of the possibility of ice, they would have paid closer attention. Another mistake that caused much discussion after the disaster was that the binoculars normally available for the lookouts to use were missing. They may have aided the men as they scanned the horizon, although from the crow’s nest it was possible to see a distance of 11 miles, especially on such a calm, clear night.


Titanic's bridge (center) and crow's nest on mast (right)

For the first 1 ½ hours into their watch, the men saw nothing. Then around 11:30, Fleet noticed a slight haze along the horizon. It almost didn’t seem worth mentioning to Lee. But a few minutes later a black object suddenly appeared in their path. It could only be an iceberg. Fleet rang the bell three times, indicating something directly ahead. He picked up the telephone which rang in the wheelhouse.

Sixth Officer Moody answered. “What do you see?”

Fleet replied, “Iceberg right ahead!”

From the bridge outside the wheelhouse, First Officer William Murdoch saw the iceberg by then himself. He gave the order, “Hard a’ starboard,” which would cause the ship to turn to port. Fleet waited in the crow’s nest, watching the bow gradually swing to port. At first, it seemed Titanic would clear the 60-foot berg, but as it moved alongside the starboard bow, Fleet and Lee heard it scrape the hull as ice fell on the decks. The time between the sighting of the iceberg and the collision had been less than a minute.


Frederick Fleet

Both Fleet and Lee survived the sinking and later testified at the inquiries into the disaster. Reginald Lee died a year later of pneumonia while working aboard the Kenilworth Castle. Frederick Fleet returned to sea for the next 24 years, then worked for Harland and Wolff as a shipbuilder. His wife died in 1964, and his brother-in-law, with whom the couple lived, evicted him. He committed suicide two weeks later and was buried in a pauper’s grave. In 1993, donations for a proper headstone were made to the Titanic Historical Society.


Headstone for Frederick Fleet. Binoculars were left by a visitor.

Photo credits: Encyclopedia Titanica and

Who Built the Titanic?

The idea for building Titanic was born one evening in 1907 at the London home of Lord Pirrie, head of the Belfast shipbuilding company, Harland and Wolff. His dinner guest, White Star Line director J. Bruce Ismay, wanted to find a way to compete with Cunard Line’s newer, faster ships, the Mauritania and Lusitania. Knowing they couldn’t build a faster ship, Pirrie and Ismay turned to planning a series of bigger and more luxurious vessels—the most elegant ships the world had ever seen. The ships would be named the Olympic, the Titanic, and the Gigantic.


Lord Pirrie and Bruce IsmayWithin six months, construction began on Olympic and Titanic at the Harland and Wolff shipyard on the River Lagan in Belfast. Fifteen thousand workers arrived at 6:00 am every day but Sunday, and clocked out at 5:30 pm. They took a short breakfast break at 8:30 am, and a lunch break at 1:00 pm. Each man was allowed only a certain number of trips to the toilet and was timed in the process. Their pay, averaging two English pounds per week, was deducted if they were ever late for work, damaged company tools or equipment, or broke any shipyard rules. A day’s pay could be lost if a worker went to watch the launch of a ship. Everyone received one week off in summer and two days off at Christmas and at Easter.

Boys as young as 14 were often hired as apprentices. After five years of learning a specific trade, the apprentice could be qualified to join a workers’ union as a plumber, electrician, coppersmith, riveter, plater, joiner, caulker, or one of many other kinds of tradesmen.


Workers leaving Harland and Wolff at the end of a long day

Casualties were common. When Titanic was completed, 254 incidents had been recorded, with 8 fatalities. At the time, these numbers were well within the accepted rates. Two of the deaths were on the riveting squads. The squads each consisted of 4 or 5 men, and were responsible for heating, transporting, and pounding into place many thousands of rivets inside and outside the entire structure. They were paid by the rivet, so each man hurried to keep up his part of the job all day long. The fatalities occurred when two boys, aged 15 and 19, died as a result of falling while they carried red-hot rivets in their tongs to the other men on their squads.

Harland and Wolff normally chose a group of workers who were familiar with the ship to sail on its maiden voyage, called the guarantee group. No one knew the ship like they did, and who better to fix a sticking door or explain the function of some device to the crew than the ones who built it? Being selected for the guarantee group meant the worker had shown excellent skill on the job and was trusted to represent the company in a professional manner. It was a reward for a job well done, and was practically a guarantee of a good future with the company.


Titanic's Guarantee Group

Titanic’s guarantee group was led by its head designer, Thomas Andrews. At 39, Andrews was Lord Pirrie’s nephew and the man most likely to take over at Harland and Wolff one day. The eight other members of the group were:

Roderick Chisholm, chief draftsman, 43.

Anthony Frost, fitter foreman, 38.

William Parr, electrician, 29.

Robert Knight, leading hand fitter, 39.

Ennis Hastings Watson, apprentice electrician, 19.

Francis Parks, apprentice plumber, 21.

Alfred Cunningham, apprentice fitter, 21.

William Campbell, apprentice joiner, 21.

Some of the members of the guarantee group had never been far beyond Belfast, and were thrilled and honored to be taking their first transatlantic voyage on a ship they helped to build. Sadly, none of the men survived the sinking.

Photo credits:, Discovery Channel

One Family's Story

Dozens of families with third class tickets boarded Titanic at Southampton, Cherbourg, and Queenstown, with the hope of making a new start in America. Instead, some went to their graves, with every family member being lost in the sinking. For those that survived, many lost family members. Only a handful of third class families reached New York Harbor intact.Frank Goldsmith, 33, worked as a machinist in Strood, England. He and his wife, Emily, had one son, nine-year-old Frankie. They’d lost a younger son, Bertie, to diphtheria in 1911, and Emily’s father encouraged the family to come to Detroit, where he had emigrated, for a new start. All the publicity about Titanic and her comfortable third class accommodations won Frank over, and the decision was made. Frank’s coworkers in Strood gave him a new set of tools as a parting gift, Emily packed her Singer sewing machine, and Frankie dropped his new cap pistol into their packing case.

Goldsmith family

Frank and Emily Goldsmith with Frankie and Bertie in 1907

In Detroit, an English neighbor of Emily’s father arranged for his younger brother, Alfred Rush, to travel with the Goldsmiths. Alfred would turn 16 during the voyage. Another friend from Strood, 34-year-old Thomas Theobald, also traveled with them.

Frankie couldn’t wait for his big adventure ahead. His mother bought a seasickness remedy called Gibson’s Fruit Tablets, and Frankie ate them like candy on board Titanic, even though he didn’t feel the least bit seasick. He was thrilled to learn they would stop in Cherbourg and Queenstown before heading to America.


Frankie with his mother

Frankie recalled, “Not only were we going to America, we were going to another land, France! Then bonus wise, we would also be going to Ireland next, two fairy-tale places that tripled the joy in the eyes of a nine-year-old boy.” As Titanic left Queenstown on their second day at sea, Frankie said, “Mummy! At last we’re on the ‘lantic!” He soon made friends with several other English-speaking boys in third class. They climbed the baggage cranes and sneaked into the lower decks to watch the stokers at work.

When the Titanic struck the iceberg, Frank Goldsmith managed to quickly usher his family, Alfred, and Thomas to the lifeboats. Emily and Frankie were put into Collapsible C. Frank told his son, “See you later, Frankie,” and stepped away to allow women and children to board. Alfred had celebrated his birthday and proudly wore his first pair of long pants. He was small for his age, according to Frankie, and may have passed for a child and been allowed to board. But Alfred declared, “I’m staying here with the men!” Thomas gave his wedding ring to Emily, asking her to send it to his wife back in England.

Frank Goldsmith, Alfred, and Thomas did not survive. Only Thomas’ body was recovered.

Emily Goldsmith and Frankie made their way to Detroit with the help of the Salvation Army. For a long time, Frankie hoped his father would somehow walk through their door, until he gradually accepted the fact that his father had perished in the disaster.

He and his mother moved to a home near Detroit's Navin Field, which later became Tiger Stadium. For years, whenever the Detroit Tigers scored a home run, the roar of the crowd reminded Frankie of the screams from the dying passengers in the water as the Titanic sank. He married and had three sons, but never took his children to baseball games for that reason. He later moved to Ohio and in 1981, wrote Echoes in the Night: Memories of a Titanic Survivor. It became the only book written by a third class passenger about the sinking.


Frank Goldsmith in 1980

Frankie Goldsmith died in 1982 at age 79. That April 15th, the 70th anniversary of the sinking, his ashes were scattered over the area where Titanic rests, and where he lost saw his father. Today, the Goldsmith family continues to share the story with Titanic enthusiasts around the US and the world.

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