Thursday, November 13, 2014

"You men get out of that boat or I'll kill you." FOUND: Daniel Buckley's long-lost deposition.

As a former newspaper reporter, I've always been interested in how the newspapers of 1912 covered the Titanic disaster.

I recently began paying special attention to coverage of the Senate Titanic hearings, to compare the formal transcript with newspaper stories on the testimony of witnesses.

I was reading of steerage passenger Daniel Buckley's appearance at the Senate inquiry ---in the Connecticut newspaper, The Day, of May 4, 1912---when I was struck with the feeling that something seemed odd about the story.,392126

Odd how? While the gist of the story was what I remembered, there were details that sounded new. So I checked the transcript, and, sure enough, the newspaper story was radically different.  It was way beyond the normal disparity between what appears in the press and the formal transcription of the (alleged) words spoken at the hearing.

Was it a case of bad reporting? Or something more?

After weighing all the options, only one answer made sense.  The reporter wasn't reporting Buckley's testimony!  

What was printed in The Day as the purported account of Buckley's questioning before the Senate Titanic Inquiry was actually a long-lost deposition given by Buckley to Senate investigators before the Inquiry was in session!

Of course.  No wonder the opening sentence ("I, with three companions from County Cork, Ireland, took a steerage passage on the Titanic.") read more like a sworn legal document than the words of a Irish immigrant barely out of his teens.

Titanic researcher Senan Molony has called the missing depositions 'the holy grail' of Titanic  research.

"Raising to the light of day the missing depositions – if, indeed, they still exist - ought to be a prime goal of Titanic research. Two have recently seen the light of day, and are enough to encourage a certain hope. They also inspire the possibility that this material may be the Holy Grail… with inherent power to rewrite history."

Molony was writing specifically of the depositions taken for the British Inquiry from 212 crew members who returned to England following the disaster. The Buckley deposition, if that is what it is, was taken for the earlier Senate Inquiry and would be the earliest on record.

But how and why did it appear in the middle of an obscure story in an east coast state and nowhere else?

As a former newspaper court reporter, I can hazard a guess.

Buckley gave his official evidence on May 3, 1912.  According to the Senate Report on the sinking of the Titanic,  on that day Senator William Alden Smith, Inquiry chairman, took testimony from six witnesses. He questioned them separately---that is, alone, without the rest of the committee present.

The reporter for The Day accurately names five of the six.

"Among the witnesses yesterday were Daniel Buckley, a steerage passenger; Melville E. Stone, of the Associated Press; Jack Binns, wireless operator on the steamer Republic, when she went down ... and George Harder, of Brooklyn, a first cabin passenger."

Elsewhere in the story he mentions "Olaus Abelse, who was in the Titanic steerage".  This is obviously Olaus Abelseth, the second steerage passenger to testify that day.

There is no mention of Norman Chambers, another first cabin survivor.

The snippets of testimony from four of the five men that he names in his story can reasonably be found in the transcript of the session.  Only Buckley's account stands out.

The best explanation I can give is that the reporter wasn't there for Buckley's questioning.  He approached Senator Smith afterward for help in recreating what Buckley said.  Instead, Smith gave him the depostion, which covered the same ground, and the reporter ran with it.

For a comparison with how Buckley's testimony was covered in other newspapers, see this story in The Telegraph, May 4, 1912.,5421140

As an added curiousity, the same story in The Day reported on the testimony of "Thomas Watkins, another steerage passenger."  Here, in its entirely, is what the newspaper said:

"Thomas Watkins, a professional swimmer, testified."

"I swam about 14 miles, the night the Titanic went down, before I was rescued. I take these accidents as a matter of business. I have been in similar accidents before, but I lost $2,200 this time."

There was nobody named Thomas Watkins on the Titanic passenger list. Nor was Thomas Watkins mentioned in the official Senate Inquiry Report.   Was Senator Smith duped by a phony survivor to the point of taking his sworn testimony?

I initially thought that Thomas "Watkins" was actually Thomas McCormack, another Irish survivor, who, like Buckley, travelled in steerage.  In his accounts, he said he swam for hours before being rescued. I considered the possibility that he said in his deposition that he swam "about 14 miles."

But, although you can find many first, second and third-hand accounts of McCormack's experience on the Titanic, there is never a mention of his being a professional swimmer, having swum 14 miles, or losing $2,200.  So, who was the Thomas Watkins who testified at the Senate Inquiry?  We'll probably never know.

Here, then, is what I believe to be the deposition taken from Daniel Buckley, as reported in The Day, May 4, 1912:

I, with three companions from County Cork, Ireland, took a steerage passage on the Titanic. The night of the tragedy I was awakened by a grating noise. That was when our ship hit the iceberg. My friends and I dressed hastily and started for the boat deck.
We found that officers of the ship had locked a gate to prevent steerage passengers from going up on the first cabin deck. The water was rising fast. We broke the gate and rushed up on deck.
One of the first class passengers said to me: 'here buckle this preserver on; you will need it.' I helped to lower lifeboat No. 6. There being no women around men started to fight their way into it. An officer fired several shots over their heads.
Just as we lowered the boat and stood ready to shove off we saw a group of women on deck. The officer ordered 'you men get out of that boat or I'll kill you.'
Almost all the men except myself got out. I was crying when I jumped into the boat and fell face forward on the floor.
Mrs. John Jacob Astor took pity on me. 'Stop crying,' she told me 'and take this shawl and wrap it over you.'  Officers saw me wrapped in Mrs. Astor's shawl. They thought  I was a woman and let me be. Then they loaded a lot of other women in the boat.
 We had rowed about 200 yards away when the Titanic went down, with a noise like thunder.
I would be dead today if it were not for the mercy of Mrs. Astor, and her goodness," said Buckley.
The witness, 21 years old, told his story without shame and apparently with no realization of the light in which he was placing himself.
"Was any preference shown as regards first cabin and steerage women," asked Senator Smith.
"Not that I could see, " replied Buckley. "The women were loaded into the lifeboats as fast as they came on deck. It made no difference who they were just so they were women."
"What sort of people were with you?" inquired Senator Smith.
"There were 20 or 30 passengers, all classes, I should say, and some firemen and stewards."
"Were there any women left on deck?"
Yes, there were some.The officers ordered us out and when we didn't go one of them shot his revolver over us six times. Then they threw us out,  until there were only six men left,  and the women began to climb in, mostly steerage passengers."
"A fireman in my boat said that she hadn't been sunk by ice at all. He said that they had been trying to make a record with her and her boilers burst."

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Snoopy reporters paid to solve a Titanic puzzle

Toledo News-Bee
April 24, 1912
                                                    It Costs the Newspapermen
                                                    $100 To Learn They're Stung

The joke is on those wise New York newspapermen, and it cost them just $100 to find it out. One of the enterprising journals of the metropolis dispatched a tug to meet the liner Carpathia as it neared New York with survivors of the wrecked Titanic.
On its way the press boat caught this wireless code message directed at Carpathia:
"If any rurhuman alegroness pessimabe herkeluaur buauing nbonrd claiming have alforjin from me ospiinylle false overgordel to orbing with all compnrsero consistent with procedidng nestilvitas minde sinturnus ipsuillees modify entedrntess and eninbindo procedure and ditifico egogue enerveinis or enerveront.
Scenting mystery, the newspaper promptly printed the dispatch and offered $100 reward for a correct translation. Manager Sumner of the Cunard Line, which owns the Carpathia, telephoned the paper to send a representative and $100 to him.
"I think I can translate the cipher,"he said,"as I wrote it myself."
Then he informed the paper that the message merely warned the Carpathia not to let any newspaper boats send reporters aboard, and ordered the Captain to rush to New York.
The joke was all the funnier when it came out that the press boat in question relayed the code message to the Carpathia, thus killing its own chances to board the rescue ship and interview survivors.

How Far South Was The Iceberg That Holed The Titanic?

The Sunday Morning Star
Wilmington, Delaware
April 28, 1912
                                                 The Titanic's Position
   It will probably surprise most persons to know how far south the Titanic was when it encountered the iceberg that gave the steamship its death blow. The location of the boat given by the wireless call for help was 41:46 north and 50:14 west. A reference to the map will show that this point is south of all the New England states. A map of Europe will show the location of the Titanic when it went down ever more strikingly. The ship sailed from Southampton, England, in latitude about 50 north, and she was at least 9 degrees, or about 600 statute miles, south of that latitude when she struck the iceberg. She was in a latitude not only far south of the English channel, but farther south than any part of Germany, France, or Austria. She was about the same latitude as Rome and Constantinople. The Riviera, where many Europeans and Americans go to find a mild winter climate is farther north than was the Titanic when she ran into the ice field.
    In fact the Titanic was in the same latitude as the Adriatic Sea and the northern part of the Mediterranean. She was not more than 100 miles north of the Azores, which is on the southernmost course across the Atlantic, even for ships bound for the Mediterranean. If a line was drawn from New York City to Madrid, Spain, that line would pass near the point where the Titanic sank in a great field of ice. All reports show that the ice field was fast moving south.
    These facts raise and interesting question: How far south would the Titanic have had to go to have escaped the ice?

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Two Tales of Mrs. Coutts Reveal A Heroic Act By Moody, Titanic's Junior Officer

There's nothing more frustrating for a Titanic researcher than finding a first-hand account by a Titanic survivor that's clear and detailed---only to discover another first-hand account by the same survivor that's just as clear and just as detailed but which completely contradicts the first one.


Take the two tales of Winnie Coutts.

The first appeared in the Washington Post (and can be found on Encyclopedia Titanica in their biography of Winnie Coutts):

 (all emphases mine)

The Washington Post
Saturday 20 April 1912 

From the lips of the woman who was saved from the Titanic came today one of the most glowing tributes yet paid to the heroism and self-sacrifice of the brave men who gave their lives that women and children might be spared a watery grave. 

Mrs William Coutts, of this city, described in graphic manner how she and her two sons, Neville and William 3 and 9 years old, respectively, were rescued through the bravery of men aboard the doomed vessel. 

“My husband had sent me money to buy second-class passage for the children and myself.” Said Mrs Coutts, “but I went in the steerage. I wanted to save the difference in passage money to help build up our home.” 

“I was asleep when the ship struck. The crash was slight that I thought little of it. I lay awake for fully fifteen minutes before I got up. I dressed myself slowly, and then went out on deck to see what the trouble was.” 
“Every one was hurrying, but there was no disorder. I heard some talk about lifeboats, and then I hurried back to the children. I tied life preservers on the boys and then looked around for one for myself. There was none in sight.” 

“I rushed out on deck with the children following me.” 

“Just when I had given up hope of finding my way a seaman came along and said “Hurry now; all women and children to the lifeboats.” 

“He took us to the side of the ship but I wanted a life preserver. Just then an American gentleman who had heard me asking for a life preserver stepped up to me. He raised his hat, and then slowly removed the life preserver he had strapped to himself.” 

“Take my life preserver, madam,” he said. Then he reached over and put his hand on the children’s heads. “If I go down, please pray for me.” He said. 

“There were other brave men on board the Titanic, for I saw them helping women into the lifeboats as our boat pulled away. After kissing those they helped into the boats the men stepped back and did everything they could to load the boats quickly.” 

“I was in the first boat that was picked up by the Carpathia. There were seventeen in our boat. It was frightfully cold, but neither I nor the children suffered as much as the others, because we were fully dressed.” 

“When we got on board the Carpathia every one did everything possible for us. There was no discrimination, the poorest women receiving as much attention as the wealthiest.”

That story may have come "from the lips" of Winnie Coutts, but the next came "from the pen" of the same woman. It's in the form of a letter written by Mrs. Coutts to a friend in England. The letter is dated April 26, 1912.

The entire letter was reprinted in George M. Behe's terrific book of first-hand accounts 'On Board RMS Titanic' (P. 254). You can hear the sections of the letter relevant to this article read by Winnie Coutts'
granddaughter at

Here is a story about that letter containing those parts read by the granddaughter:

(All emphasis mine)

Mon April 23, 2012

ENC (East North Carolina) ties to the Titanic / Public Radio East

New Bern, NC – Sunday was the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking, a British passenger liner that met a watery grave after it struck an iceberg. The vessel was on her maiden voyage across the Atlantic to New York City. This week, we set out to discover any ties the Titanic had with eastern North Carolina. In New Bern, we found a woman whose family survived that disaster. Fay Coutts Blettner reads from a letter written by her grandmother, Minnie Coutts written to a friend in England after the incident. 
"the crash was so slight that I thought little of it. I lay awake fully 15 minutes. Presently, I could hear people opening their cabin doors and inquiring what was the matter. Some of the stewardesses assured them that there was no danger."

Many people during this time believed the Titanic was an unsinkable ship.

"However, I got up just to find out all about it. I was surprised to see foreigners carrying all their belongings---rugs, blankets and even small trunks up on deck. Children were crying." 

Around 11:40 pm on that April 14th night, the Titanic ran into an iceberg, ripping a large hole in the starboard side of the ship. Blettner says her grandmother became concerned when an order for life preservers was issued. Alarmed, she awoke her two sons, Willie and Neville, who were ages 9 and 3 at the time. Blettner continues her letter:

"I pulled Neville out of bed, put on his knickers and coat over his sleeping suit and put on his boots, no time to lace them up. There were only two life preservers in my cabin and I put one on Willy, and the other on Neville. I mentioned to an officer that I had not gotten one, and he said he was afraid that there were not anymore."

The Titanic didn't have enough life jackets or lifeboats on board for the two thousand two hundred and twenty three people. 

"we were just going, when I saw the same officer. I said to him again that I had not gotten one of the preservers. He told me to follow him. He took us through quite a number of corridors and passages right into the first class saloon, to his own quarters. There, he got his own lifebelt and tied it on me saying at the same time, 'There my child, if the boat goes down, you'll remember me.'" 

The "American gentleman" has become one of the Titanic's officers.

The story of how he "removed the life preserver he had strapped to himself” is now a story of being led through "quite a number of corridors and passages" to the officer's "own quarters" where "he got his own lifebelt and tied it on me."

The Good Samaritan's last words were either "If I go down, please pray for me.” or "if the boat goes down, you'll remember me.'"


Which story to believe? Both come across as credible. But they can't both be true?

Here's where a Titanic researcher earns his stripes.  To refuse to pick one story over another is a cop-out and is not an option.  What tips the balance?

One story was in the public sphere; the other was private. You always lean toward a story told in private to a friend or relative.  Witnesses will be more open and revealing with confidantes. But that's not enough. You still need to examine the competing story to try to identify its defects.

In the Coutts case, the answer lies in the mechanics of news gathering.

The story is dated April 20, 1912. The rescue ship Carpathia arrived in New York the evening of April 18, 1912. Steerage passengers, including Mrs. Coutts, were the last to be released from the ship after it docked.  One newspaper story says all were off the Carpathia within an hour after the first passenger left at 9:35 p.m.  Mrs. Coutts was undoubtedly met by her husband, William Coutts, and rushed to their home at 143 Fourth Avenue, Brooklyn.

The reunion between a fearful husband and his wife and children would have been as irresistable a story then as now.  Yet the Washington Post story doesn't mention her husband. This suggests to me that a reporter spoke to Mrs. Coutts at the pier April 18, and not at her home the following day.

New York was a madhouse for reporters the night the Carpathia arrived and even the day after.  Reporters acted as legmen who would  buttonhole any survivor they could find, collect a few anecdotes, then phone them in to a rewrite man who would blend their work into a single story.

Some reporters teamed up, each getting what he could with each of  them eventually sharing their stories with the other. With 700 survivors scattered to the winds, even that wasn't easy.

The goal initially was quantity, not quality. There are many ways to snag stories in such a chaotic environment. You can stop a witness and ask as many questions as possible before he or she walks away.
You can be part of a mob of reporters lobbing questions at a witness while you copy down the answers. You can eavesdrop on witnesses talking to family members. You can eavesdrop on other reporters phoning in to their rewrite men.

If we accept that Mrs. Coutts' letter details the true version of events, simply because there's no middleman who can misconstrue or misquote her, then we can see that the Washington Post tale was a product of a flawed reporting process.

It's possible another woman's account of getting a lifebelt from an American man was spliced onto Mrs. Coutt's account by a rewrite man. Or something she said was misinterpreted. Or even that a reporter invented a detail or two to spice up the story.  We'll never know.

But determining which tale is true is not the an end in itself.  Who was the officer who gave his lifebelt to Mrs. Coutts?

From her description of events, it was someone who led her from the back of the ship, to the first class saloon (which was on D Deck, unless Mrs. Coutts was actually referring to the first class lounge on A Deck), to his quarters at the front of the ship. He wasn't wearing his lifebelt; he retrieved it from his room.

Only one officer fits the bill---Sixth Officer James Moody.

Chief Officer Henry Wilde and Second Officer Charles Lightoller had lifebelts. Lightoller wrote in  The Christian Science Journal ,Vol. XXX, 10/1912, No. 7, that while in his room handing out guns to the senior officers he heard Wilde say he was going for his lifebelt, prompting him, Lightoller, to grab his own.

Third Officer Herbert Pitman was off the ship in Lifeboat No.5. Fifth Officer Harold Lowe left in Lifeboat No. 14. Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall was sending off rockets before being ordered to Lifeboat No. 2; he was never at the stern of the ship.

First Officer William Murdoch loaded the aft starboard lifeboats, then went forward and wound up briefly at No.2, in which Mrs. Coutts and her sons escaped. But a reconstruction of the timing of events shows his priority was on getting passengers into six still-unloaded lifeboats, not on helping one mother find a lifebelt.

That leaves James Moody. As I demonstrated in the above article, Moody's role during the sinking of the Titanic has been underestimated. His role in lowering the aft port lifeboats has been completely overlooked.  He was ordered by Lightoller to get the aft boats ready for loading, so he left the area of the officers' quarters before the order for lifebelts was given by the Captain.

After lowering Boat No. 12, it's possible he met up with Murdoch at No. 10 and was tasked with going below decks to find more women, something he had done for Murdoch at the aft starboard boats.  This would explain how he met up with Mrs. Coutts.

Thus, unravelling the true story of Mrs. Coutts and her sons has led to the discovery of an unknown heroic act by James Moody, Titanic's most junior officer.

It also explains how she, a third-cabin passenger, wound up in Lifeboat No. 2, a boat in the first-class section of the ship.  The other occupants were three groupings of first cabin passengers (Mrs. Appleton and Mrs. Cornell, Mrs. Douglas and her maid, and Mrs. Robert, her daughter, her niece and her maid) as well as steerage passengers Mr. and Mrs. Kink and their daughter.  The Kinks were among the first to abandon their steerage quarters and get to the boat deck, and had been waiting for a lifeboat almost from the beginning, explaining how they were present. (Mr. Kink dove into No. 2 at the last moment as it was being lowered to the sea.)

That's how Titanic's Secrets Unfold.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

"She is absolutely unsinkable"

The Lewsiston Daily Sun
April 15, 1912   Page One

                                                     Franklin Not Worrying

New York, April 15---P.A.S. Franklin, vice-president of the International Mercantile Marine, stated early today that it was difficult to credit the report that the Titanic had met with an accident in view of the fact that the White Star Line had received no wireless message from her.
"We received a wireless from the Titanic early yesterday, giving her position," said Mr.Franklin, "and I am sure if she had met with an accident since, we would have heard from her. We are absolutely satisfied that if she has been in collision with an iceberg she is in no danger. With her various water-tight compartments, she is absolutely unsinkable and it makes no difference what she hit. The report should not cause any serious anxiety.,5067134

United States Senate Inquiry
Day 3

Testimony of Philip Franklin
(Mr. Franklin was sworn by the chairman.)

Senator SMITH.
What is your full name?

Philip A. S. Franklin.

Senator SMITH.
And where do you reside?

I reside in New York.

Senator SMITH.
What is your business?

I am the vice president in the United States of the International Mercantile Marine Co.

Senator SMITH.
How old are you?

Forty-one years of age.

Senator SMITH.
What composes the International Mercantile Marine Co.?
In a general way, the International Mercantile Marine Co., through its various ramifications, owns the White Star Line, the American Line, the Red Star Line, the Atlantic Transport Line, and the National Line, and the majority of the stock of the Leyland Line

Titanic Widow Gives Clew To Great Jewel Theft

The Independent (St.Petersburg, Florida)
Tuesday, Aug. 5,1913    Page Six

                                           Titanic Widow Gives Clew To Great Jewel Theft

Newport, Aug. 4---Mrs. Daniel Marvin, a fashionable young widow, whose husband lost his life in the Titanic disaster, has given the police an important clew that may aid them in tracing (sic) down the thieves who perpetrated the robbery of $125,000 worth of gems from the boudoir of Mrs. Charles G. Ramsey. Mrs. Marvin was returning in her automobile from a marshmellow bake, and while spinning along Ford road she saw a machine standing near Gunning Rock Cottage, the place occupied by Mrs. Ramsey, who is the daughter of the late E.H. Harriman. In the machine was a strange woman, and as Mrs. Marvin's auto drew close by two men rushed up, jumped into the car with the woman and sped away at breakneck speed. Mrs. Marvin was able to describe the car and its occupant, but the police refuse to state whether he (sic) had noticed the license number on the rear of the supposed thieves' machine.


New York Times
Aug. 1, 1912
                                       Trail Gem Suspect to Big Hotel Here

                                           Burns Detective After Clue to
                                           the Stolen Jewels of Mrs. Rumsey]
                                           and Mrs. Hanan
                                           Haul Worth Over $250,000
                                     "Gentleman Burglar" sought---M.s.
                                        Hanan won't suspect servants---
                                        Humors of Amateur Sleuthing
                                       Special to the New York Times
NARRAGANSETT PIER, R. I., July 31---The search for the thieves who rifled the jewel collections of Mrs. C.C. Rumsey and Mrs. John H. Hanan continued unsuccessfully today, though the detectives sent here by the different agencies picked up a thread that took them out of town. Out of the many shadowy rumors current at the Pier tonight is a fairly definite one about a possible clue followed. It is understood here that one of the Burns detectives has shadowed a man to one of the big hotels in Forty-second Street, New York City.
Usually several days after such a robbery or series of robberies it is found that the loss has been overestimated. The reverse seems true in the Narragansett cases, for it now seems probable that thieves made way with gems worth more than a quarter of a million dollars. An extra necklace is missing from the Rumsey collection, a rope of pearls which cost in the neighborhood of $40,000 and which brings the total theft from the Gunning Rock cottage to $115,000.The omission of this second necklace from the list as originally published was not due to any attempt to conceal its loss---nor was it due as was rumored here for a while, to a second theft in the same house. The first publication of the loss, it will be remembered, was made from New York by C.C.Tegethoff, the representative of Mrs. Harriman in the administration of the Harriman estate, and before coming to Narragansett Pier he had not known that the second necklace was missing.
The impression is growing here that the thief was of the type known as "gentleman burglar", or, more picturesquely, as "Raffles."
"I would be willing to wager," said one of the Burns men today, "that the man, or possibly the woman, who went into the Rumsey house and stole those jewels was in evening clothes."
The impression is growing too that the two robberies were done by members of a band of skilled gem thieves. It is regarded as inconceivable that a mere sneak-thief, having accomplished so rich a haul at the Hanan home on Friday night, would have risked another twenty-four hours in Narragansett Pier to rob the Rumsey cottage. Closer study of the Hanan case suggests less of hurry and more of skill than it did at first. It has been noticed that most of the jewels that were passed by for no apparent reason were of a distinctive nature difficult to efface in the markets where stolen jewels are bought.
Mrs. Hanan was told to-night that in the minds of some of the detectives suspicion was narrowing down to one her twenty-two servants, but she continued to express confidence in them all.
"It would almost destroy my faith in human nature" she observed.
She added that if one of her household were found guilty, and were to surrender the plunder, she would let him or her take the next train out of town unmolested. The servants are all restive under the searchlight, and Mrs. Hanan has lamented their demoralization more than the loss of her gems.
The summer colonists whose jewels have been safely stored in vaults elsewhere are in a position to enjoy the amusing features of the thief hunt.
Besides the men from the three or four private agencies engaged, the Pier is overrun with amateur and independent detectives, all following the most amusing clues, all extraordinarily mysterious and many of them reduced to the point of soliciting on the street an opportunity to be put to work on the cases. The horde of detectives alone means many strangers in town and many are unknown to each other. The gayety of the Pier was added to measurably to-day by the discovery that two detectives from rival agencies had been shadowing each other all day long.
One of those who saw the automobile which detectives believe figured in the Rumsey robbery, was Mrs. Daniel Marvin, the young widiow of a Titanic victim, who is now staying with her aunt, Mrs. Wheelock, in a cottage near the Rumseys. Mrs. Marvin gave a marshmallow roast on the rocks in front of the cottage last Saturday night, and she and her party were returning from the shore shortly before midnight when they came upon an automobile standing unlighted in the fork of the road.
The machine was a long gray touring car. A woman who was sitting in the back seat was the only occupant, but two men appeared and hastily climbed into the car. One of the Marvin party shouted, "Who are you?" and received the answer in a gruff voice, "None of your business." as the automobile shot down the road.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Titanic Whale Spotting.

Not every Titanic mystery is a big one.
Take whales, for example. They're big, but whether Titanic survivors saw whales or not is neither here nor there.
Still, in the interests of historical truth, let's look at the evidence.
On the night the rescue ship Carpathia reached New York City, survivors Lord and Lady Cosmo Duff Gordon booked into the Ritz-Carlton hotel and had supper with a group of friends.
"Six ladies," said Lady Duff Gordon, at the British Inquiry into the sinking.  And Abraham Merritt, the assistant editor of the American Weekly, "a great friend of ours."
Lady Duff Gordon, of course, regaled her friends with the story of her trip and her safe escape.  After supper,  publisher William Randolph Hearst phoned Merritt to get the lowdown, and after hearing what Merritt heard gave him an earful,  reminding him that the Duff Gordon's story wasn't just gossip, it was NEWS.
" - After he had left us about half-an-hour he telephoned to me, and he said, "Mr. Hearst has just rung me up, and must have your story of the 'Titanic' wreck for tomorrow morning's newspaper." He said, "May I tell your story as I have heard it?" testified Lady Duff Gordon.
She said "Yes."  And the next day the story appeared in the daily New York American newspaper, under her byline as if she wrote it, and with a reproduction of her signature to certify its authenticity.
But remember, Merritt heard the story at a social gathering; he didn't take notes and wasn't expecting to write a formal story. He would have just repeated to a rewrite man what he remembered and let the other man craft the story.
What about the whales?  Getting there...
Lady Duff Gordon was aghast.  Although she wrote a weekly fashion column for the newspaper, she wasn't about to sink to so low as to be a common reporter. At the Inquiry she denied much of what appeared under her name.
One reference in the story went unmentioned:

Saw a School of Whales.
At last –– morning. On one side of us were the ice flows. On the other we were horrified to see a school of tremendous whales. As the mist lifted we caught sight of the Carpathia looming up in the distance. We were too numbed by cold and shock to cheer, or even utter a sound.

An even more florid version of her story ran in the London Daily Mail,
"A graphic account of the terrible disaster to the Titanic has been supplied to the New York correspondent of the London "'Daily Mail" by Lady Duff-Gordon who, with her husband, Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon, was among the survivors picked up by the Carpathia."

It included this passage:
"At last morning broke on a desolate scene. On one side of us were numerous icefloes and on the other, big threatening bergs. We were also horrified to see a school of tremendous whales in the vicinity of our boat. Then, as it became lighter, we were cheered by the sight of the Carpathia, which had been advised by wireless of the disaster, looming up in the distance and heading straight for us. We were all too numb with the cold and the horror of the awful disaster to utter a sound."

A recent article on Lady Duff Gordon's Titanic experience contained this footnote:

 7. There are no other known accounts of a school of whales surfacing near the wreck site.


Atlantic City Daily Press
Sunday, 5th May 1912

City Clerk Donnelly’s Cousin Sends Sympathetic Note to Official 

“Ismay was unjustly critcised and abused for his actions regarding the Titanic 
wreck,” stated E. C. [sic] Taylor, one of the survivors of the steamship, 
yesterday, and who is spending a few days at the residence of his cousin, City 
Clerk E. R. Donnelly. Mr. Taylor, who with his wife, were [sic] saved in one 
of the small boats, is a big stockholder in a paper cup concern. He and his 
wife were on the deck of the Titanic a few moments after she struck the iceberg. 
“While we were on the Carpathia we passed through a school of about a dozen 
whales and later on we passed a seal that was floating on a cake of ice. A 
little farther on we passed a big floe of ice on which there was a big white 
polar bear prowling around. 
Sidney Collette in the Auburn Daily Advertiser, April 23, 1912 

Port Byron survivor of Titanic wreck 
First Boats carried men. 
Several boats had been lowered full of men, among them President Ismay. The officers were just lowering boat no. 9, the third from the last to be put off. The ladies stepped in , then the officer with drawn revolver said to me: 
"Well, what of you, where are you going?" I replied that I have these young ladies in my chargeand felt it my duty to take care of them. "Get in", said the officer and a moment later the boat was lowered. 

Fright for those in small boats. 

After we had floated for an hour or more there came our first real scare for our own safety, All about us we could see the backs of monster fish, their shiny skins or scales glimmering grew in the moonlight. They were terrible looking monsters and we feared that they would swim under our boats and upset them, but they did not. It was a time when we were close to our Maker. I prayed constantly from the time our boat struck the iceberg intil I reached Neew York. Never was there a wireless message that went so quickly and straight as my prayers to the throne of God. Never will I forget those horrible hours after the sinking of the ship, It wass maddening. Minutes seemed like hours and hours like days. 

The Sinking of the Titanic and Great Sea Disasters
 By Logan Marshall
1. The Sinking of the Titanic - Page 132 

A passenger on the Carpathia said there was no wonder that none of the wireless telegrams addressed to Mr. Ismay were answered until the one that he sent yesterday afternoon to his line, the White Star. 
"Mr. Ismay was beside himself," said this woman passenger, "and on most of the voyage after we had picked him up he was being quieted with opiates on orders of the ship's doctor. 
"It was not until noon on Monday that we cleared the last of the ice, and Monday night a dense fog came up and con- tinued until the following morning, then a strong wind, a heavy sea, a thunderstorm and a dense fog Tuesday night, caused some uneasiness among the more unnerved, the fog continuing all of Tuesday. 
"A number of whales were sighted as the Carpathia was clearing the last of the ice, one large one being close by, and all were spouting like geysers." 
And there's even this recollection by a woman who crossed the Atlantic 115 days after the Titanic sank, along the same route.

Beaver County Times  (Pennsylvania)
April 12, 1982,2604598

                                            A Story of Two Ships
                         Woman's Voyage Almost Has Titanic Outcome
                                        by Terri Gallagher, Times Staff

Seventy years ago this Wednesday, the world was stunned by perhaps the greatest sea disaster in the history of man. The Titanic, the world's largest and most luxurious ocean liner, sunk to an ice grave in the Atlantic after hitting an iceberg on its maiden voyage.
... snip
Fifteen day after the sinking of the Titanic, another ship, though not so luxurious nor large, narrowly escaped what could have been a similar fate in the same waters.
Beaver Falls resident Mary Carr, then a frightened 9-year-old from a small village in Austria, was aboard that ship. 
She explained, "My mother, sisters, brother and I were coming over from Austria. My father had been here for nine years."
"The ship was called 'The Fatherland' and it was an old ship. It was supposed to be its last trip," the silver-haired woman said.
Mrs. Carr, then Mary Fleisher, and her family boarded "The Fatherland" bound for Ellis Island at the port of Antwerp, Belgium. The trip would last two weeks...
Mrs. Carr reminisced: "We saw three whales, I remember. That really scared me. We saw the sun draw water up from the ocean." Exciting events for a nine-year-old, Mrs. Carr explained...
It was the middle of the night when The Fatherland trekked the route south of Newfoundland that had recently ended in treachery for the Titanic.
"We were sleeping. Then we were told we were going to hit an iceberg. Everyone got up," she said.
 "They steered the ship around and everything was OK."
Mrs. Carr said her family never talked of the incident after arriving in New York and coming to Beaver Falls to live.
Abraham Merritt went on to become a well-known writer, including the famous book Seven Footprints to Satan.

Compare the two versions of Lady Duff Gordon's account:

New York American
April 19, 1912
Declares That When She and Her Husband
Entered Lifeboat Other Passengers Twitted Them About Catching
Cold - "Ship Can't Sink." They Said.
Lady Gordon Is Positive That Two Mighty Explosions Preceded the Final Plunge of the
Titanic - After That for an Hour the Moans
and Cries of Drowning Men Were Heard.
The night was perfectly clear. We had watched for some time the fields of ice. I noticed a number of large bergs. There was one which an officer pointed out; he said it must be 100 feet high and seemed miles long.
I was asleep, awakened by a long grinding sort of shock. It was not a tremendous crash but more as though someone had drawn a giant finger along the side of the ship. I awakened my husband Sir Cosmo and told him I thought we had struck something. He went up on deck and told me we had hit a big iceberg, but that there seemed to be no danger.
Her Husband Bade Her Dress.
We were not assured of this, however, and Cosmo went upstairs again. He came back and said, "You had better put your clothes on because I heard the order given to strip the lifeboats."
We each put on a life preserver and over mine I threw some heavy furs. I took a few trinkets and we went up on deck. There was no excitement at that time. The ship had listed slightly to port and was down a little at the head. As we stood there one of the officers came rushing up and said, "The women and children are to go in the boats." No one apparently thought there was any danger. We watched a number of women and children and some men going into the lifeboats. At last an officer came to me and said, "Lady Gordon (sic), you had better go in one of the boats."
I said to my husband: "Well, we might as well take the boat; it will be only a pleasure cruise until morning.” The boat was the twelfth or thirteenth to be launched. It was the Captain's special boat. Five stokers got in and two American passengers –– A.L. Salomon, of New York, and L. Stengel (sic), of Newark. Besides these there were two of the crew, Sir Cosmo, myself, and a Miss Frank (sic).
Men said “Ship Can’t Sink.”
There were a number of other passengers, mostly men, standing nearby and they joked with us because we were going out on the ocean. "The ship can't sink," said one of them. "You will get your death of cold out there in the ice."
We were slung off and the stokers began to row us away. Cosmo had glanced at his watch as we cut loose. It was exactly 12:15 A.M (sic), fifteen minutes after the collision with the berg.  It did not seem to be very cold. Suddenly I clutched the side of the lifeboat. I had seen the Titanic give a curious shiver. We were probably a mile away.
Heard Pistol Shots and Screams.
Almost immediately we heard several pistol shots and a great screaming arose from the decks. There were no lights on the ship now except for a few lanterns that had been lit by those who remained aboard. Then the boat’s stern lifted in the air and there was a tremendous explosion. After this the Titanic dropped back again. The awful screaming continued. Two minutes after this there was another great explosion. The whole forward part of the great liner dropped under the waves. The stern rose a hundred feet, almost perpendicularly. The boat stood up like an enormous black finger against the sky. Little figures hung and dropped into the water. The screaming was agonizing. I never heard such a chorus of utter despair and agony.
The great prow of the Titanic sank under the waves. As it went, the screaming of the poor souls on board grew louder. It took the Titanic perhaps two minutes to sink after the last explosion. It went down without a ripple.
We had heard of the danger of suction. But there was no such thing about the sinking of the Titanic. The amazing part of it all to me as I sat looking at this monster being destroyed was that it could be accomplished so gently. Then began our personal miseries of the night. Up to that time no one in our boat, and I imagine no one in the other boats, had really thought the Titanic was going to sink. For a moment a silence seemed to hang over all and then from the water where the ship had been there arose a bedlam of shrieks and cries. There were men and women clinging to bits of wreckage in the icy water.
Says Cries Lasted an Hour.
It was at least an hour before the last shrieks faded. I remember the last cry was that of a man calling "My God! My God!" He cried monotonously in a dull, hopeless way. For an entire hour there had been an awful chorus of shrieks until this last cry. Then all was silent. When the terrible quiet came we waited gloomily in the boat through the rest of the night.
Saw a School of Whales.
At last –– morning. On one side of us were the ice flows. On the other we were horrified to see a school of tremendous whales. As the mist lifted we caught sight of the Carpathia looming up in the distance. We were too numbed by cold and shock to cheer, or even utter a sound.
Our boat was among the first picked up by the Carpathia. After I had been helped aboard I stood by the rail and watched the other boats draw alongside and the women and children being assisted out.
Those in the other boats seemed to have suffered greater than we had. In one boat there was a woman whose clothing was frozen to her body. Men on the Carpathia had to chop it off before she was taken below to a warm bed. Several sailors had frozen to death and they lay stiff in the bottom of the boats.
Says Captain was Seen Swimming.
The rumor that Captain Smith committed suicide is untrue. I did not see him after I was away in the boat but others have told me the captain was seen swimming. He picked up a baby floating in the wreckage and swam with it to one of the boats, lifting it aboard only to be told it was dead. The women in this boat, according to the story told me, wanted the captain to get into the boat with them but he refused. Nothing more was seen of Captain Smith.
There was absolute calm on the Carpathia There were hundreds of women who had lost their husbands. No one cared to talk. The gloom was terrible. I buried myself in my cabin and did not come on deck again.
LONDON, April 21.
A graphic account of the terrible disaster to the Titanic has been supplied to the New York correspondent of the Lon- don "'Daily Mail" by Lady Duff-Gordon who, with her husband, Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon, was among the survivors picked up by the Carpathia.
"I was asleep when the crash came,'said Lady Duff-Gordon, "but previously and while I was on deck watching the icefield the officers pointed to one immense ice berg, apparently 100 ft. high and several miles long. I was awakened by a long grinding crash. I aroused my husband, who ran out to investigate, and returning he said, 'We have hit a big berg. We then immediately adjusted the life preservers round our bodies and went on deck. There was then no excitement among the passengers or crew. The big vessel had listed slightly, but nobody at that time dreamed it would sink, and there was little alarm even when the officers came running along announcing that the women and children must go in the boats. We thought then that this was merely an ordinary precaution. Our boat was the twelfth or thirteenth launched and it contained five stokers, two Americans named Solomon and Stengel, two sailors, Sir Cosmo and myself, and Miss Frank, an English girl. Numbers of men standing near as our boat was launched were joking at our expense because we were going out in the ocean. Some of them, said to us, 'You'll catch your death of cold out there amid the ice.'
Pistol Shots and Screaming.
"We cruised round for about two hours in the vicinity of the ship and suddenly as we looked we saw the Titanic give a curions shiver. There were then no lights on the ship, with the exception of a few lanterns. Then we heard several pistol shots and great screaming from the deck. of the doomed vessel.
The Boilers Explode.
"Suddenly the stern of the ship was lifted in the air by a tremendous explo- sion. This was followed by another explosion among the boilers, and the forward part of the ship went under, while the stern rose a hundred feet or so in the air, like an enormous black finger silhouetted against the sky, and with little figures of human beings hanging to the point of the finger. These people dropped off into the water, uttering meanwhile most agonising screams. I have never heard such a continued chorus of utter agony.
Last of the Titanic.
"A minute or two later the Titanic's uplifted stern slowly disappeared, though a great hand were pushing it gently under the waves. As the steamer sank, the screaming of the poor souls on board seemed to become louder and louder. We were then about 200 yards away, watching her go down slowly and almost peacefully.
Bedlam of Shrieks and Cries.
"For a moment after the vessel had disappeared there was an awful silence. Then from the water where the Titanic had been there arose a bedlam of shrieks and cries from women and men, who had risen to the surface and were clinging to the wreckage in the icy-cold water. These cries lasted for an hour. Gradually the chorus of shrieks became moans of despair and finally ceased.
"The very last sound we heard from the water was a man's voice crying, 'My God! My God!' in a monotonously dull, hopeless manner.
A School of Whales.
"There was one iceberg. possibly the one the Titanic struck, that seemed to pursue us through the night, despite the rowers' frantic efforts to get past it. At last morning broke on a desolate scene. On one side of us were innumerable icefloes and on the other, big threatening bergs. We were also horrified to see a school of tremendous whales in the vicinity of our boat. Then, as it became lighter, we were cheered by the sight of the Carpathia, which had been advised by wireless of the disaster, looming up in the distance and heading straight for us. We were all too numb with the cold and the horror of the awful disaster to utter a sound.
Fifty Widows on the Carpathia.
"On board the Carpathia there were more than 50 women who had lost their husbands and included in these were 15 brides. The gloom on the Carpathia caused by the distress of the bereaved Titanic passengers was so ghastly that I buried my- self in my cabin and did not come on deck again till we reached New York.''


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Shocking Racism Shown to Titanic's Chinese survivors

The level of racism shown to the Chinese survivors of the Titanic is staggering.
The Titanic carried eight Chinese men. Six survived. Four hid on the bottom of Collapsible C before women were allowed in.  One wound up in Lifeboat No. 13. And one was picked up by Lifeboat No. 4 as he drifted, nearly frozen to death, atop a door.
Unlike most of the other survivors, details about the Chinese passengers is sparse to none.  They were travelling on the same ticket.  How they got split up nobody knows. They were sailors, connected somehow to the ship Anetta. They may have all been from Hong Kong, with the emphasis on 'may'. Where they were going has never been explained. One source says the survivors were put on a ship headed for Cuba, but without sourcing that information. No interviews with any of the men has surfaced. Or of any of their relatives. Or of anyone from the Anetta.
The Anglo-American crew and passengers on the Titanic sneered at "Italians"for showing panic, but that was nothing compared to the attitude shown to the Chinese who were literally threatened with death by their rescuers, thrown into irons, held incommunicado, and expelled from the United States as soon as humanly possible.

Camden Post-Telegram
Wednesday 15th May 1912
Ship's Head Barber Tells Camden Elks of His Thrilling Experience.

Unfortunately, all Weikman has to say is as follows:
"In loading the boats they aimed to put one man to every four women, and in this work Mr. Ismay lent valuable aid. Mr. Weikman says that the managing director of the company was attired then only in his pajamas and was barefooted. He gave orders quickly and coolly and did not go below to fully dress until after several of the lifeboats had been filled and lowered into the ocean.
"There was no finer man on the boat than Ismay," said Mr. Weikman. "He is a brick, a white man, and did not get a square deal in the papers. He was in one of the last boats to be lowered because I was right there helping to get them overboard."
Senate Inquiry.
Senator FLETCHER. How many men were in the boat?
Mr. ISMAY. Three - four. We found four Chinamen stowed away under the thwarts after we got away. I think they were Filipinos, perhaps. There were four of them.

Senate Inquiry
Senator BURTON. The passengers, aside from your sailors, were all women and children?
Mr. ROWE. Except Mr. Ismay and another gentleman. When daylight broke, we found four men, Chinamen, I think they were, or Filipinos.

Senator BURTON. When day broke, you found four Chinamen or Filipinos under the seats?
Mr. ROWE. Not under the seats then, sir. They came up between the seats.
Daily Enterprise (Burlington, New Jersey), April 20, 1912

Liner's Last Moments Graphically Described
- ----------
Palmyra Resident, Titantic's [sic] Barber, Tells of Thrilling Experience; Shock on Striking Iceberg was Slight; Saw Officer Shoot Man Who Tried to Climb Into Life Boat; Two Explosions Occurred
- ----------
August H. Weikman, of Palmyra, ship's barber on the Titanic, who was among those rescued, graphically described at his home yesterday the wrecking and sinking of the Titanic.
In speaking of what happened on board the Titanic Weikman said: ...
"They put the women and the children in the lifeboats and then they started to put in the crew with them. One man to every five women. When no women were near the boats they took the men, whether they were passengers or crew, anybody who stood nearest, and this accounts for the three Chinamen who were taken off.
Hudson Dispatch
Saturday 20th April 1912
Miss Elizabeth Dowdell, of 215 Park avenue, Union Hill, one of the Titanic's passengers mentioned in yesterday's issue of the Hudson Dispatch, was willing to relate some of the stories connected with her experience in the greatest sea tragedy of the world's history to one of the Dispatch reporters last evening after recovering from her nervous condition...
"Several Chinamen were clever in wrapping themselves snugly into blankets and thereby escaping and joined the women and children who had been saved..."
A Limberickwoman's Account of the Titanic Disaster's%20account.pdf

Nellie O'Dwyer was rescued from the
sinking of the Titanic by the liner
Carpathia. She had been living in
Brooklyn, New York, for six years, and
was returning to America after visiting her
parents in Limerick. She gave a dramatic
account of the nightmare to the Brooklyn
Daily Times, and the Limerick Chronicle
reprinted it at the time:
Five or six Chinamen were found at the bottom
of one boat. The way they were saved
was by fixing their hair down their
backs, and putting their blankets about
them. They were taken for women when
the boats were leaving the ship.
Titanic Ship of Dreams

Recalled by Millvina Dean:

"My mother didn’t talk about the disaster very much. She only said one or two things… I don’t think she wanted to think much about it
She told me of one or two episodes, that my father heard something had happened and came down and said ‘You’d better put something on the children and get dressed because apparently we have struck an iceberg.’ So we hurried on deck and my mother was put in a lifeboat, and my brother, and I of course went in a sack and went over… that was the last my mother saw of my father.
I remember her telling me in the lifeboat was a Chinaman and the other women there were so annoyed that a Chinaman was in there when their own men couldn’t get on that they said they would throw him overboard, but they didn’t, they thought better of it."
The Denver Post, April 19, 1912:
Two Chinamen Hidden in Lifeboat Killed by Members of the Crew.
In one of the last lifeboats launched, two Chinamen, employed in the galley, had hidden themselves. They were stretched in the bottom of the boat, faced downward, and made no sound. So excited were the women that they did not notice the presence of the Chinese until the boat had put off the liner. The Chinamen were found. The officer in charge of the boat drew his revolver and in the presence of the already horror-stricken women shot both to death. The bodies were thrown overboard.

(No survivor ever described an incident such as this in any lifeboat.)
Daily Telegraph
Saturday, April 20, 1912
                                        Chinese Stowaways
                                          Remarkable Rescue
                                         From Our Correspondent
                                           New York, Friday
Among the rescued from the sinking titanic were six Chinese, who stowed themselves away in one of the vessel's boats before she left England. When the crash came the Chinese did not become excited. They knew the lifeboat would be lowered if there was any danger of the Titanic going down. All had shawls, and when they heard the shouts of those on board, "Women to be saved first" they covered themselves with the shawls, leading the crew to believe that they were women.
In the darkness they escaped detection. It was not known that they were Chinese until they were taken on board the Carpathia. Then some of the Carpathia's crew wanted to toss them into the sea, it was said, but the officers of the Cunard vessel put them in irons instead. How the Chinese escaped being discovered by the crew of the "Titanic or some of her passengers puzzled those on board the Carpathia.
Today the Federal officials took the imprisoned Chinese while they necessary arrangements prepartory to sending them back to their native country are being made.
New York Times
Survivors Add to Disaster Tales (third column from the left)
April 20, 1912
When the revised list of survivors was made up at the White Star Line office yesterday it became known that among those saved from the Titanic were six of the eight Chinamen who were among the steerage passengers on the big liner.It seems that they climbed into one of the lifeboats without anybody making objection, despite the fact that many of the women in the steerage of the Titanic went down with the ship.
The Chinamen were taken in hand by the immigration authorities and were placed in charge of one of the Inspectors of the Chinese Bureau of the service. They are all said to be in transit, and will be constantly under the eye of immigration officials during their journey across the country. For the present they are guests of the Government on Ellis Island.
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
19 April 1912,  Page 2

                                     Heroism of Anglo-Saxon Sailors Stands Out in Disaster
     The one thing upon which Anglo-Saxon sailors pride themselves today, the single leaven in the bitter loaf, is the fact that heroism was paramount at the climax of this greatest of marine disasters.
      The one dark spot is the fact that in the bottom of one lifeboat which left the Titanic were found, wedged beneath the seats, the bodies of two dead Chinese coolies and eight living ones. These were creatures on their way to New York to join a sailing ship for the Orient, and who, at the first sign of danger, had sprung into the lifeboats before they had left their davits and concealed themselves beneath the seats.  They were trampled upon by the women who were lowered into the boats later, and two of them crushed to death.
    Not until this boatload had been taken aboard the Carpathia were the bodies of these dead and living Chinese discovered.

In Debbie Beavis' book 'Who Sailed on Titanic?', the eight are listed as:
Lee Bing, 32;
Chang Chip, 32;
Choong Foo; 32;
 Ling Hee, 24;
 A H Lam, 37;
Len Lam, 23
Fong Lang, 26;
Lee Ling, 28.

Nobody knows who survived and who didn't.


Chinese Save Men First, Not Women
This story as it originally appeared in The Denver Post, April 17, 1912.

Cleveland, April 17.–Had the Titanic been a Chinese vessel, manned by Chinese sailors, not a woman or child would have been saved, according to Henry Moy Fot, special agent for the Chinese Merchants’ Association of America, who was in Cleveland today. “It is the duty of sailors when a Chinese vessel goes down to save men first, children next and women last,” said the agent. “This is on the theory that men are most valuable to the state, that adoptive parents can be found for children and that women without husbands are destitute.

East vs. West aside, Titanic tragedy highlights only stupidity
By Susanna Speier, Special to The Denver Post
Had the doomed vessel been Chinese, according to an article published in the April 17, 1912, edition of The Denver Post, the Titanic’s limited supply of lifeboats would have spelled imminent doom for every woman and child aboard the ship.
If the report’s author was aware that then 19-year-old On Leong Chinese Merchants’ Association of America that sourced the statement was New York’s “brains behind the gangs,” there was no mention. The writer appeared unphased also by the fact that the organization’s apparent spokesperson, Henry Moy Fot, went by the title “Special Agent.”
A look at Frances Wayne’s April 18, 1912, editorial Women Must Explain Why They Abandoned Mates in Death offers a potential clue as to why that April 17th story was placed. Frances “Pinky” Wayne was one of Denver’s top reporters at the time. In addition to writing for The Post, she served as Denver Women’s Press Club President and organized big annual gala charitable fundraisers. She had her pick of the scoops traditionally reserved for men and the individual byline was a less common distinction, then.
Susanna Speier works in social media and digital journalism. Her writing credits include Scientific American, The Huffington Post, Newsweek/The Daily Beast and Colorado Biz Magazine.
As Special Agent Moy was contextualizing “men are most valuable to the state,” to his uncredited interviewer, Pinky was probably running around Denver grilling prominent socialites on what-if scenarios. Knowing her outspoken disdain for the “unwritten law of the sea” might ruffle some feathers also could have prompted the editors to publish the Chinese maritime article. It is unlikely Chinese maritime code was driving the keystrokes of someone who spent most of her life in Colorado.
At the same time, Wayne took to the concept that the Chinese code, “which holds that the good of all society, and not of the individual is the thing that is to be considered.” She even defends the perspective “that adoptive parents can be found for children and that women without husbands are destitute.”
“Children, if cared for, will grow into worthy citizens–wherefore, they must be saved in times of peril and the state becomes their mother. Men are necessary to the world’s work and human advancement; they, too, must be pushed forward. As for the women–their service in child bearing accomplished, they may be dispensed with.”
Wayne’s simultaneous call to ”follow the saner, more just way” does not hold back from specifying, “those nations which we regard as ‘heathen’” or from lamenting the fact that “widows and orphans are all that remain of that ship’s goodly cargo.”
Was this simply another instance of Asian cultures and stereotypes being nurtured abroad? Puccini’s Madame Butterfly — probably the West’s most iconic interpolation of Eastern self sacrifice — had premiered in Europe eight years prior to Titanic and would have been staged in London, Paris and New York by that point.
In 1948, China had an infamous maritime disaster of its own to contend with. The available rescue coverage and surviving film footage show no evidence of a gender-based preferential evacuation being enforced by SS Kiangya’s crew members or by its rescue teams.
“Passengers on the lower decks had little chance for escape. Some 700 who managed to reach the safety of the top deck stood in cold water waisthigh, screaming for help. One hysterical woman threw her child overboard because her husband was lost; others were pushed off in the struggle for standing room,” according to the Time Magazine account of the tragedy.
While the Time report of the Kiangya’s evacuation could also be riddled with inaccuracies due to cultural stereotyping, it is nevertheless worth noting that many women and children did not make it off the Titanic. Technically speaking, more 1st class men were saved than 3rd class children, and many of the men who forfeited their lives did so by choice — not by necessity.
According to The Denver Post’s April 19th article Astor spurned chance to escape and died as hero, both John Jacob Astor and Captain Smith were offered and refused seats on lifeboats that ended up leaving only half full.
The Titanic disaster was one of few events in US History that single-handedly swallowed the most accomplished engineers, philanthropists, industrialists and business entrepreneurs of their day. Wayne’s choice to condemn the West’s maritime evacuation code and venerate the perceived Chinese code probably served as a conveniently cogent way to anesthetize the sting of the actual tragedy. It also might have helped defuse a harder, colder truth beneath the surface — one that Wayne and her readers might not have been ready to identify, let alone confront: Titanic had more to do with stupidity than with heroism.
–Susanna Speier, April 11, 2012
Susanna Speier works in social media and digital journalism. Her writing credits include Scientific American, The Huffington Post, Newsweek/The Daily Beast and Colorado Biz Magazine. Her plays have been produced at HERE Arts Center, The Cocteau, The World Financial Center, The Tenri and Galapagos Arts Space. She has a Masters in Playwriting from Brooklyn College, C.U.N.Y., and wrote and produced her first play, Under Titanic, as her undergraduate thesis at Hampshire College. Find her on Twitter:

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Frankfurt exonerated

Nashua Telegraph (New Hampshire)
April 27, 1912
                                                          Refused to Talk
Paris, April 27---Captain Vesco of the French liner La Provence made public the report of the wireless operator of his ship who states that the German steamship Frankfurt heard the Titanic's calls for help and responded to them, but was unable to get answers from the Titanic enabling aid to be rendered in time.
It seems the Titanic at first "wished to keep in communication only with ships of her own company", adds the French wireless operator.
The captain of La Provence, in transmitting the report, let the record speak for itself, merely stating the facts, but officers of the Campagnie Generale Transatlantique infer that those on the Titanic did not at first realize that she was going down almost immediately and wished to avoid paying the heavy salvage probably amounting to $2,000,000 to a foreign steamship line. Hence the German Llody steamer Frankfurt was not answered when she first proffered assistance.

Milwaukee Sentinel
April 25, 1912
                                                       Denies Refusal of Aid
                                    Frankfort Captain Charges Carelessness Against
                                             Those Running Titanic
BREMMERHAVEN, Germany, April 24---The liner Frankfort reached here on Wednesday with a story of a vain race toward the sinking Titanic. Capt Hattorf denied that he failed to make an effort to aid the sinking vessel. He said the Frankfort was 140 miles from the Titanic when he received the wireless call for help.
"We started immediately for the scene," he said, "and arrived there about 10 a.m. Monday. We saw the iceberg with which the Titanic collided, a huge bulk, about 100 feet long above the water and was 1,000 feet long. We photographed the berg and after cruising about searching vainly for survivors for several hours we resumed our course."
Officers on the Frankfort declared that as the Titanic must have passed through huge fields of ice before it struck the berg I should have proceeded cautiously."

Boston Evening Transcript
April 24, 1912
                                                     Frankfurt Rushed To Rescue
Was Too Late Though She Exceeded Normal Speed---Saw Iceberg That Sank Titanic---Berg 120 Feet High 900 Feet Long
Bremerhaven, Germany, April 24---The North German Line steamer Frankfurt, which, according to her commander, Capt. Hattorff, was the first vessel to receive the Titanic's appeal for help, arrived here today. Capt. Hattorff reports that he sighted the iceberg which sank the White Star steamer, bearing evidences of the collision, shortly before arrived on the scene of the catastrophe. The Frankfurt on receiving the appeal for help immediately headed at the utmost speed in the direction of the Titanic. The German vessel made 13 1/2 knots, though normally her speed was only 12 knots, but she did not reach the scene of the disaster until ten o'clock Monday morning.
Captain Hattorff states that his first message from the Titanic was received at 12:10 o'clock Monday morning. It asked him to communicate the Frankfurt's position, which was immediately done. The Titanic then communicated her own position as 41.54 latitude, 50.24 longitude and stated that she was fast in the ice and urgently needed assistance. The Frankfurt was then 140 nautical miles distant. Captain Hattorff informed the Titanic that the Frankfurt would reach her at eleven o'clock.
Captain Hattorff reports that at 12:15 A.M. the distress signal "C.Q.D." was receivied from the Titanic and that at five minutes past one the Titanic reported that her passengers were being loaded into the lifeboats. Wireless communication with the Titanic was interrupted at 1:15 A.M. and Captain Hattorff believes that the White Star ship then sank.
The Frankfurt, steaming at top speed, reached the scene of the disaster at ten o'clock in the morning, passing on the way three great icebergs, seventeen smaller ones, and great ice fields from ten to thirty miles in extent. The greatest iceberg was 120 feet high and 900 feet long.

Monday, February 3, 2014

William S. Sloper, Titanic survivor and polished tangoist

Restless and sickly. Highly strung.  Those are the adjectives attached to 28-year-old Titanic survivor William Sloper by newspapers in his home state of Connecticut following his rescue.
But they must have caught him at a bad time because other accounts suggest he acquitted himself well during the sinking of the Titanic, including helping to row his lifeboat away from the (non-existent) suction that everyone feared.
Sloper was, by all accounts, the quintessential rich playboy.  His bio says he was a stockbroker, but a stockbroker who took a three-month holiday to Europe just before booking passage home on the Titanic.
Newspaper accounts invariably mention that Sloper was the son of a banker, hinting perhaps that it was his family money that supported his lifestyle and not his acumen with the stock market.   One thing that jumps out from the limited public information about William Sloper is that he was a real ladies man.
In his memoirs, he spoke about meeting Winnipegger Alice Fortune, 24, "a very pretty girl and an excellent dancing partner", on the ship taking them to Europe in January, 1912. It's obvious that Sloper knew how to cut a rug and he was impressed by Alice's moves on the dance floor.  They shared a "moment", as Sloper wrote he "became very well acquainted" with the young lady.
Three months later, in London, Alice and her family were "gathered under the shade of a sheltering palm" in the courtyard of the Carleton Hotel when along came William Sloper. "At once the young people started calling me to join them for tea," he wrote.  At least Alice did, we can be sure.
She convinced him to switch passage from the Mauretania to the Titanic, which she was taking home.  He promised her he would.  "If Alice herself was not inducement, her assurance that she knew of 20 people who would be passengers on the titanic who had been on our steamer in January."  Yeah, he was interested in them, you bet.
He says no more about Alice Fortune, possibly because on the night the Titanic hit an iceberg, he had a new girl friend---a movie actress.  Or possibly because Alice had a fiance waiting for her at home.
Alice and her family had gone to bed, but Sloper stayed up, going to the library to write letters to friends, he said.  "A very pretty young woman approached my desk and introduced herself as Miss Dorothy Gibson."
Ahh, that would be Dorothy Gibson, 23, who had already acted in about 20 silent movies, and who, as it happened, was searching for a fourth for bridge.  She saw this charming young man and decided to invite him to join her and her mother in a game, even though Sloper sucked at cards, by his own account.  Frederick Seward, a 35-year-old New York lawyer was the other player, at bridge.
After the library steward broke up the game so he could finally go to bed, Dorothy was up for a moonlight stroll.  First seeing Dorothy's mother and Mr. Seward to their rooms, Sloper went to his own cabin to throw on some warmer clothing before taking that stroll.
Just then, the ship lurched. It had hit the iceberg.  Dorothy came running up and they dashed to the top deck to see what happened.  The rest was over in a blur.  The lifeboats were cleared, the first class passengers were gathered and politely asked to get in, and Dorothy Gibson, her mother, and William Sloper found themselves on the Atlantic Ocean in Lifeboat No. 7, the first boat off the ship.
Two years later, Sloper was back in the news in a much smaller way.  Despite his close call, he had resumed his globetrotting ways, and he had polished his reputation as a charming "bad boy.",4460795

The Miami News
March 27, 1914
                  Survivor of Titanic Meets Man Pictured As Himself As Lost

An unusual incident marked a casual introduction of two gentlemen at the Royal Palm several evenings ago. J.A. Moore of Seattle, Wash., was presenting W.S. Sloper of New Britain, Conn.,to a young woman and recommending him to her as a polished tangoist.
When the dance was over the two men felt a strange unusual attraction for each other. They sought each other and Mr. Moore began inquiries concerning Mr. Sloper's family, home travels, etc. Mr. Sloper likewise began to unravel the mystery that he felt enshrouded Mr. Moore. Finally, the latter asked Mr. Sloper if he had not sailed on the ill-fated Titanic. Mr. Sloper replied that he was on that vessel and was reported among those lost,.
The mystery was solved. The two men looked at each other, the tears came to their eyes, and they clasped hands.
Mr. Moore also was booked to sail on the Titanic but missed the boat. and was reported as lost. The strange and unusual interest these men had for each other was now explained. Both Mr. Moore and Mr. Sloper were reported in the papers as being lost but Mr. Moore's picture was published as that of Mr. Sloper. Mr. Moore had met the man who had been lost photographically as himself.

There was our man, on the dancefloor again. And described as "a polished tangoist."
It's important to know how daring and wicked the tango was in 1914.
 The Pope issued a pastoral letter denouncing the tango as "new paganism." "It is everything that can be imagined. It is revolting and disgusting. Only those persons who have lost all moral sense can endure it. It is the shame of our days. Whoever persists in it commits a sin", he wrote in his episcopal letter
The Kaiser, the King of Italy, the King of Bavaria, and the Queen of England denounced the tango.  Archbiships throughout France condemned the dance as "profoundly dangerous to morals", and tried to get the Cardinal-Archbishop of Paris on side, although, declared the New York Times, " if his Eminence decides, as he probably will do, to take such a step, it will prove a death blow to the tango in real Parisian society, although it may not affect the somewhat nondescript cosmopolitan agglomeration which forms its fringe and seeks to pass itself off as the real thing."
William Sloper would have been a member of that "cosmopolitan agglomeration."  Where else would he have learned the dance well enough to be called "polished", but in Europe. And here he was in a Florida  resort for the uber-rich, showing off  his fancy footwork.
You probably picked up on the homo-erotic expression in the Miami News story where the reporter wrote of the "strange and unusual attraction for each other" that passed between the two men.
Was this just an innocent choice of words which meant nothing in the day other than the obvious?  Or was it subtle code by the reporter to tip off his readers that the men were gay?
It's not unheard of for reporters even today to hint that a celebrity who hasn't been outted is homosexual by noting he's a confirmed bachelor, has a gift for interior decorating or enjoys singing along to musicals.
If, indeed, the story was intended to give readers that extra bit of titillation, then it might put a new spin on the story that Sloper blamed for ruining his life.
He was haunted throughout his life after the Titanic by a story in the New York Journal-American which was headlined,"William T. Sloper, son of a prominent Connecticut banker, was rescued from the Titanic disguised in a woman's nightgown."
Sloper said it was a vengeful act by a reporter who had been strong-armed by Sloper's father and elder brother when the reporter tried to get an interview as Sloper was eating a meal at 11 p.m. the night the rescue ship arrived in New York.
He always said his father talked him out of suing the wire service that distributed the story.  Was there another reason Sloper's father didn't want publicity?  Was the reference to being disguised in a woman's nightgown another coded allusion?
But there's still another angle to consider.
Whenever a book, newspaper article or Titanic website has mentioned Sloper, it has included the dressed-like-a-woman newspaper story. But the book Shadow of the Titanic: The Extraordinary Stories of Those Who Survived (Andrew Wilson, Atria Books, 2011) says the offending allegation was in the headline, not the body of the story.  Reporters don't write the headlines; editors do.
And sometimes editors try to amuse their colleagues by writing dummy headlines which are not intended for publication.  And sometimes they make it into print. Another editor laying out a page fails to read the story the headline is based on and assumes it is correct, sends it to the typesetter without changes and it's printed. The hurly burly surrounding the arrival of the Carpathia made for conditions that were perfect for such a boneheaded mistake.
Why would an editor even write such a dummy headline?  The answer may lie in a newspaper story reprinted in Encyclopedia Titanica:

Chicago Examiner
Friday 19th April 1912 

Councilman Sloper of Boston Is Forced
Into Lifeboat and Is Rescued
From Death.
Hartford, Conn., April 19.—Resolved to die after having done his utmost to
aid in placing the women and children of the Titanic aboard the lifeboats.
Councilman William T. Sloper, clad in a white nightrobe, was himself taken for a woman and thrust
into one of the last lifeboats lowered away.
His father, Senator Andrew J. Sloper of New Britain, received a
message telling of his son's rescue and departed at once for New York.

His father, Senator Andrew J. Sloper of New Britain, received a message today telling of his son's rescue and departed at once for New York. With him went Mrs. Albert S. Cook of this city to meet her brother, Richard L. Beckwith, who with his wife and stepdaughter, was also saved.

The Chicago Examiner was a Hearst newspaper.  And as such it likely got the same Hearst news service story on Sloper that the New York Journal-American did. This was likely it. The difference is that the New York headline, dummy or not, made fun of Sloper while the Chicago headline did not.
Was it because the aggrieved reporter badmouthed Sloper when he phoned in his story to a New York rewrite man? Or because an editor thought he would be funny in the New York newsroom?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Final Shootings on the Titanic

The story of the final moments of the Titanic---and the last shootings of frantic passengers--- cannot be told as a straightforward narrative the way the rest of the story was laid out.  The final shooting incidents are so inextricably entwined with the movements of the ship's senior officers as they struggled to load the remaining lifeboats that you can't tell one story without the other.

The problem is that the best witnesses, Chief Officer Henry Wilde and First Officer William Murdoch, did not survive.  So we're left with a historic connect-the-dots exercise where we have to fill in the gaps between incidents which were reported by others.

But with a strong application of logic and common sense, the exercise is not as hard as it appears at first blush.

Using eyewitness accounts of where Titanic's officers were seen, the few time references that are available, and the known responsibilities of the senior officers it is possible to reconstruct how the loading of the last lifeboats progressed---and where problems arose.

To start this story properly, I needed to rewind the clock a bit.

*  First officer William Murdoch ordered Lifeboat No. 13 lowered from A Deck. He then crossed over to the port where Chief Officer Henry Wilde was in charge of loading lifeboats. It's not hard to see why.

Murdoch had only one aft starboard boat left to load (No. 15). What then?

He needed to discuss the next course of action with his superior officer.

The situation facing them was clear. There were still 7 lifeboats left on the ship---more than a third of the ship's complement---and the Titanic was sinking fast. They may even have been informed by Capt. Smith that the boiler rooms were flooding and about to be abandoned.  Read:

Wilde and Third Officer Charles Lightoller were handling the loading on the rear port boats while Murdoch and Sixth Officer James Moody were doing the job with the aft starboard boats.  But Wilde's ability to go forward to start loading the remaining lifeboats was hampered because of his decision to load the rearmost port boats (Nos. 12, 14 and 16) simultaneously instead of one after another as Murdoch had done with the starboard boats.

Because of a lot of disorder during the loading of the port boats, resulting in the shooting of a number of passengers, it would be risky to leave Lightoller behind to lower them alone while keeping panicky men at bay at the same time.

The likely consensus was that the first senior officer to finish loading the boats on his side of the ship would go forward and get started loading the last boats.

* Murdoch returned to starboard, only to find that No. 13 was still on A Deck.  It hadn't been lowered, as he had ordered, because straggling passengers had been showing up and delaying its departure. He ordered it down immediately. He then turned his attention to Lifeboat No. 15.

* While this was going on, Sixth Officer James Moody arrived at the port boats. He was last seen helping load the starboard boats from A Deck. But once No. 13 was ordered down, his job was done. There were no more women on A Deck that he could find; he had sent search parties looking for any, and they returned empty-handed.  We'll never know if he was ordered to port by Murdoch because Moody, along with Murdoch and Wilde all died in the disaster.

But Moody's presence at port would have given Wilde the opportunity he needed. Moody would take his place supervising the lowering of the aft port boats, while he, Wilde, went forward to get the lifeboats there loaded.

* After Wilde left, Fifth Officer Lowe showed up. He testified at the Senate Inquiry that he spoke with Moody and they agreed that an officer should go with one of the port lifeboats. Lowe never mentioned seeing Wilde, so it's obvious he arrived when Wilde was already gone. He, Lowe, finished loading No.14 while Moody did the same with No. 16.  Lightoller, who had been helping passengers into No. 16 returned to No.12, and was spotted by Lowe passing by.

* Wilde would undoubtedly have first spoken with Capt. Smith. We know the next thing he did was to order the men who were firing rockets to stop and to get started clearing Collapsible C to get it ready to take passengers.
* At the rear of the ship, Murdoch loaded No. 15 at the boat deck, then ordered it lowered to A Deck.
* As No. 15 loaded on A Deck (there were at least 5 people waiting to get on), No. 16 was lowered by Moody.  He then went over to No. 14. Although Lowe was in No. 14, preparing to leave with the lifeboat, an officer was still needed on the boat deck to make sure the craft was lowered evenly.

* Murdoch ordered No. 15 lowered from A Deck. He then left the supervision to someone else---the master-at-arms perhaps---as he went forward. Remember, that's what he did at No. 13---ordered the boat down under someone else's supervision while he went to port. By this time he would have been in even a greater rush to get forward.

* As both lifeboats No. 15 and No. 14 were being lowered, a shout "Stop lowering No. 14" was heard.  For details see:

* Murdoch, in charge of starboard boats, would have proceeded first to Collapsible C, only to find it wasn't ready to take passengers.  He most likely would have crossed the bridge to find either the Captain or Wilde to discuss what to do next.  We know he started loading Lifeboat No. 2.

* Moody, after seeing No. 14 down, would have gone to No. 12. There, Lightoller would have left him in charge of lowering the boat while he, Lightoller, went forward. There would be no reason for two officers to stand around to lower one lifeboat.

Arriving at the forward port boats, he, after speaking with the Captain or the superior officers there, likely was ordered to start loading No. 4. The loading would take place on A Deck just as Lightoller originally intended more than an hour earlier only to realize A Deck was enclosed by glass windows, these  having been removed since.

In going forward, Lightoller bypassed No. 10, which suggests he, too, was aware of the urgent need for officers at the front of the ship.

* Moody lowered No.12. Murdoch was loading No. 2 when he was ordered to go aft and see that a lifeboat was being properly loaded, an order that could only apply to Lifeboat No. 10. Wilde took over the loading of No. 2 with the help of the Captain.

Boat No. 10 was not ready to load.  Read:

* Murdoch arrived at No. 10 shortly before No. 12 reached the sea. The crewmen who lowered No. 12 testified that went they went to No. 10 they found Murdoch there already.  He had them attach the falls, and lift the boat on the davits.

* No. 2 was lowered. Where I once thought Wilde then went to No. 10, where one witness testified he saw the Chief Officer, I'm now of the opinion that witness was mistaken, and Wilde more likely stayed forward and turned his attention to getting Collapsible D into the davits vacated by Lifeboat No.2.  It makes more sense.

* No. 4 was lowered. Lightoller testified he then went immediately up to Collapsible D.  With the additional manpower, the lifeboat was lifted over the railing and made ready for loading.

* Murdoch got No. 10 off the ship, then went to Collapsible C.  There he fought off a rush by desperate men, before loading the lifeboat and ordering it down. Wilde crossed over from Collapsible D with Bruce Ismay, chairman of the White Star Line, in tow and pushed him into C before it left the boat deck.

* At Collapsible D, Lightoller stopped a rush of men, then ordered members of the crew to form a cordon to stop all male passengers from approaching the boat.

* Collapsible D was lowered under Lightoller's supervision. It was the last boat to get off the ship.

With that preamble done, we can pick up the story of the final shootings on the Titanic.

Many passengers had gathered at Lifeboat No. 10 after failing to find places in other aft boats. Read:

One of them was Margaret Murphy.  She was quoted in the New York American (April 29, "Women and Children Locked in Steerage of Sinking Titanic"):

"Just as the davits were being swung outward a Chinaman pushed a woman out of the boat and took her place. Sailors grabbed him and handed him back to the deck. Then someone shot him and his body tumbled into the water," she said."

But that doesn't make sense. When the davits were swung out there would have been nobody in the boat; loading hadn't started until the lifeboat was secured level with the boat deck. She obviously meant that when the boat was full and about to be lowered, she saw the incident she described. Should we believe that a 24-year-old shopkeeper's daughter would know the relevant nautical terms? Or did a reporter try to "clarify" her account only to wind up making it even more obtuse?

In any case, Margaret Murphy's main point is clear---she saw a man shot as the boat was filled with passengers and about to be let down to the ocean.

In this case, First Officer Murdoch is not a suspect in the shooting. The witness notably fails to say the passenger was shot by an officer.  And shooting accounts from other rear port boats blamed sailors or stewards for the gunplay.

In  addition, the crewmen loading No. 10 were, by many survivor accounts, more aggressive than ever in loading women and children into the boat.  They didn't just help them in any more; they were literally tossing women in. Children were thrown into the boat like footballs.  The shooting of one man cowed most of the male passengers  who might have considered jumping into the boat to save themselves, but others didn't rule out what might be their only opportunity to live.

Before the lifeboat cleared the ship, both Armenian immigrant Neshan Krekorian and Japanese passenger Masabumi Hosono took their chances and leapt into the boat,  hiding among the women to prevent being tossed out.  The sight of grown men jumping into fully-loaded boats could have stiffened the resolve of crewmen still on the Titanic to prevent a repeat on the few boats left.

After loading No.10, Murdoch made his way across the ship to Collapsible C, the only boat left on the starboard side of the ship.

The boat was in the davits when he arrived, but had been sitting there unattended for a while because there was no officer to load it.

"There was a terrible crowd standing around." recalled Irishman Eugene Daly in a letter to his sister. ( The letter was published in the London Daily Telegraph, May 4, 1912.)

Murdoch had barely arrived when there was a rush on the boat.

 "At the first cabin [deck] when a boat was being lowered an officer pointed a revolver and said if any man tried to get in, he would shoot him on the spot. I saw the officer shoot two men dead because they tried to get in the boat." wrote Daly.

"Two men tried to break through and he shot them both. I saw him shoot them. I saw them lying there after they were shot. One seemed to be dead. The other was trying to pull himself up at the side of the deck, but he could not. I tried to get to the boat also, but was afraid I would be shot and stayed back."  

Walter Hurst, a greaser, witnessed the same incident and wrote about it in a letter years later to Walter Lord.
"...all the boats were gone now except No. 9 (from the context of the rest of his letter it's clear he's referring to Collapsible C) and there was a bit of trouble there the Chief Officer was threatening someone and fired two revolver shots shouting now will you get back. I was not near enough to see if anyone was shot..."

The commotion at Collapsible C was loud enough to be heard on the other side of the ship by men helping load Collapsible D.  Passenger Hugh Woolner, for one, was drawn to the noise and turned the corner of the bridge in time to see Murdoch shoot his gun.

"We saw the first officer  twice fire a pistol in the air ordering a crowd of the crew out of the boat. We ran in and helped bundle the men onto the deck and then we got a lot, about ten, Italian and other foreign women into that boat and when we saw it was being safely lowered we went away and made a final search on the deck below." said Woolner.   (Extract from Mr. Woolner's letter written on board the S.S. Carpathia.)

He said they were warning shots fired in the air so as not to hit anyone. But did Murdoch fire four shots or only two? Note that Woolner says the shots were fired as Murdoch ordered crewmen out of the lifeboat.

 Daly and Hurst saw him shoot to prevent men from climbing into the boat.  This suggests two sets of gunfire.
But the shots did the trick. Murdoch was able to load Collapsible C without any more problems and see it off before the Titanic sank.

That left Collapsible D as the only lifeboat remaining.  It truly was the "last boat."

Shortly after C went down, officers around Collapsible D ordered the men gathering there to go to starboard to try and counter the heavy list to port that the ship had developed.

Not all the men were willing to abandon the only lifeboat left. There was a rush on D.

Survivor Archibald Gracie told the story to the U.S.Senate Inquiry:
Mr. Gracie.   As to what happened on the other side during our departure, the information I was given by the second officer was that some of the steerage passengers tried to rush the boat, and he fired off a pistol to make them get out, and they did get out."

"Senator SMITH.
Who fired that pistol?"

Lightoller. That is what he told me. He is the second officer."

Lightoller, himself, said he only waved his gun to ward off the mob. But there is confirmation from another passenger that a shot was fired.

Still Playing As Water Creeps Up
Worcester Evening Gazette
Saturday 20 April 1912 
New York, April 19- Mrs. John Murray Brown of Acton, Mass, who with her sister, Mrs. Robert C. Cornell and Mrs. E.D. Appleton, was saved, was in the last life-boat to get safely away from the Titanic.


When asked if she had heard any shots on the Titanic as she was leaving
the vessel, Mrs Brown said "I heard nothing of the kind. When were (sic)
leaving the steamship, an officer did display a revolver and threatened
to shoot anybody who dared to try to leap into our boat. He did fire one
shot into the air to back up what he said. But there was no actual
shooting then or at any other time that I know anything about."

Lightoller proceeded to load the boat, but as he told the Senate Inquiry, it was harder than any other boat he worked on.

Senator SMITH.
Did you have any difficulty in filling it?
With women; yes, sir; great difficulty.
Senator SMITH.
But you filled it to its capacity?
I filled it with about 15 or 20 eventually mustered up. It took longer to fill that boat than it did any other boat, notwithstanding that the others had more in them. On two occasions the men thought there were no more women and commenced to get in and then found one or two more and then got out again.

Finally, though, he gave the order to lower the boat. There was no more time left.  The boat deck was already barely 10 feet above the ocean.

First class passenger George Rheims described what happened next in a letter to his wife.

"As the last lifeboat was leaving I saw an officer kill a man with one gun shot. The man was trying to climb aboard that last lifeboat. Since there was nothing left to do, the officer told us, “Gentlemen, each man for himself, goodbye.” He gave us a military salute and shot himself. This was a man!!

Some researchers have conflated what Rheims saw with the shootings seen by Eugene Daly and Walter Hurst.  But the details of what Rheims saw disprove that idea.

The shootings at Collapsible C were to prevent men from rushing the boat before it was loaded. The shooting at Collapsible D was to stop one man from leaping into the boat as it was being lowered.

Daly said that after seeing Murdoch shoot into the crowd of men, he (Daly) fled the area and crossed to port where he tried to get another collapsible (A) ready.  While there he heard another shot and saw the body of an officer in the water flowing over the boat deck.  He believed the officer who fired the gun at C was the one who shot himself later.

Rheims, on the other hand, saw an officer shoot a man and then, immediately afterward, shoot himself.  There was no delay between the shooting and the suicide, compared to Daly's account.

But the shooting seen by Rheims was still not the end of the story.

Irish steerage passenge Annie Jermyn made it into Collapsible D at almost the last minute.  To the trauma of escaping a sinking ship was added the horrible sight of a man shot to death in front of her eyes.

Source Media: 
Titanic.182 - 1912Apr30p2.pdf 
Original Publish Date: April 30, 1912 
Terrifying Experience of Miss Annie Jermyn, Not at Her Sister’s Home in Lynn, Mass.

APRIL 29, 1912

BOSTON, April 29 – Annie Jermyn, a pretty 22-year-old girl Titanic survivor now staying with her sister at 21 Webster Street, Lynn, told last a story of her experiences. She declared that hundreds of steerage passengers were trapped in the third cabin, and never reached the boat deck; that there was panic and fierce struggling below decks and that on the lifeboat she secured – she believes it was the last to leave the vessel – one man was shot by an officer and fell overboard.

Miss Jermyn comes from County Cork, Ireland, on a visit.

“When the Titanic struck the iceberg,” she said, “there was tumult in the steerage. A crowd gathered about the high iron gates barring the third-class from other parts of the ship, and beat madly against the locked gates.”

“‘The ship is sinking. The floor is covered with water!’ shouted someone. Looking down, I found that water was indeed beginning to creep across the floor. From then on there was panic unrestrained.”

Miss Jermyn was in the front of the crowd at the gate. She saw a man lean up, grasp the top of the gate, pull himself up and drop down, others followed and she herself finally got over.

She ran up flight after flight of stairs and then dashed out on the boat deck. Then she leaped and landed in a lifeboat, injuring her side severely.

Before she could pick herself up, she says she received a terrific blow on the back as if a man had kicked her. She turned her head and saw a man almost directly over her.

Then she caught the gleam of steel in the hands of an officer in the stern. There was a flash and a report. The man who had struck her, or leaped down upon her – she never found out which – uttered a little cry and then slumped overboard.

Chicago American, Friday, April 26, 1912, p . 2, c. 2:


Lynn, Mass., April 26—Third cabin passengers aboard the Titanic were made prisoners by a heavy gate ten feet high which was locked, according to a story told here by Annie Jermyn, twenty-two years old, who came over third class in the Titanic. Miss Jermyn says it took her two hours to get over the gate, which barred the only exit. Nobody asked her to get into a boat, she asserts, although she stood on the deck near the davits in her night dress and bare feet.

“The last boat was about to start from the ship with only about fifteen aboard,” she said. “Realizing that it was my only chance, I sprang from the upper deck of the vessel into the boat, falling nearly thirty feet and landing on my chest. A second later a man fell beside me, but he had no sooner got up and taken a seat in the boat than an officer drew this revolver and shot him in the head. I fainted as they pitched the lifeless body of the poor fellow into the sea.”

The identify of the man who was shot will never be known. But at the Senate Inquiry, Steward John Hardy identified the "officer in the stern" who fired the final shot:

Yes; there were two firemen in the forward end that could row, myself and a passenger rowed from the middle, and this quartermaster was at the stern to keep her head on. The sea got up early in the morning.

There was only one quartermaster in the boat---Arthur Bright.

The Titanic was only minutes away from sinking. Frantic efforts failed to get two collapsible lifeboats ready to take what passengers they could. The two ship's wireless operators beat a stoker to death when he tried to steal a lifebelt from them, but his death is separate and apart from the shootings explored here.

A few intriguing shooting stories are still floating out there, but they weren't incorporated in this series because there just too many problems with them to judge them credible.

The Minneapolis Morning Tribune carried a story dated April 20, headlined "Mr. Snyder Tells of Ship Disaster, Thee Men Shot".

The story was "related by John Pilsbury Snyder, of Minneapolis, at the Waldorf Hotel", said the paper.
"Three of our passengers were shot by the crew and thrown overboard," continued Mr. Snyder. "I did not see the act committed, but I heard the shots and afterward saw the bodies dumped over the side of the boat. Perhaps the crew thought the men were rocking the boat too much and were crazed---with fear. There was no reason for the shooting."

But the Minneapolis Journal carried its own interview with Mr. Snyder April 19, 1912, also conducted "(i)n the apartments at the Waldorf" where "a dozen or more friends awaited to shower congratulations upon them."

"Bronzed and robust, Mr. Snyder showed no trace of the ordeal he had gone through."  He also made no mention of any shooting.  Not until days later when he specifically denied the story.

"The story that three men in our lifeboat were shot and their bodies thrown overboard was untrue," Mr. Snyder said. "The only authorized interview that I gave out was given to the Journal representative and printed in The Journal of last Friday. There were no men shot."

Snyder escaped in Lifeboat No. 7. Also in the boat was Alfred Nourney, 20, travelling under the pseudonym of Baron von Drachstedt.  Nourney was armed with a handgun and did fire shots, supposedly to attract the attention of rescuers. Snyder couldn't have missed those shots which were indeed fired in his lifeboat, yet he doesn't mention them.

And, as a news reporter, I notice how Snyder carefully mentions he only gave one "authorized" interview.  Could the Morning Tribune story be based on an overheard private conversation or an interview of one of those wellwishers transposed into a first-hand interview with Snyder?

At the same time, nobody else in the lifeboat mentions anyone being shot by crew members.  Surely someone would have let something that big slip out. Could the bodies pushed overboard have been suicides, of which society people were loath to discuss?  Too many "ifs" to include this story.

There was the story, reported widely, quoting "Jack Williams and William French, able seamen" who saw a mass shooting right in front of them.

"When the first of the 56- foot lifeboats were being filled," explained Williams, "the first stampede of panic-stricken men occurred. Within a dozen feet of where I stood I saw fully, ten men throw themselves into the boats already crowded with women and children.

"These men were dragged back and hurled sprawling across the deck. Six of them, screaming with fear, struggled to their feet and made a second attempt to rush the boats.

"About ten shots sounded in quick succession. The six cowardly men were stopped in their tracks, staggered and collapsed one after another. At least two of them vainly attempted to creep toward the boats again. The others lay quite still. This scene of bloodshed served its purpose. In that particular section of the deck there was no further attempt to violate the 'women and children first' rule."

The first problem was that nobody named Jack Williams or William French were listed as members of the crew of the Titanic.  The incident they describe was obviously based on the rush at Lifeboat No. 13 which I discussed here

I was even prepared to say I had identified "William French". Among the crewmen who survived in No. 13 was fireman George William Beauchamp.  Beauchamp. French, get it?   It's not uncommon for a reporter to identify  someone he's interviewed by a characteristic if he didn't get a name.  French for someone, well, French.  Red Shirt.  Fat Guy. You're always thinking you'll come back and get the name, but sometimes that doesn't happen.

And Jack Williams?  There was a fireman named William John Murdoch. William John. Jack Williams. Surviving firemen would hang around together. But why use false names?  Because shooting was still a sensitive topic.

But too many details were too fuzzy.  The "source" of the story might have been using a false name.  They were identified as "able seamen"; the possible suspects were firemen.  Williams was supposedly 36; William Murdoch was 34, close but no cigar. Williams was quoted saying "French and I stood by as the two emergency boats---those that are always kept ready for rescue purposes at sea---were made ready." But Beauchamp got off on Lifeboat 13 at the back of the ship (although William John Murdoch said he helped lower Collapsible D from the davits of Boat 2, one of the emergency boats).  Still, too many points that couldn't be nailed down.  Pass.

And finally there was the Page One story in the St. Paul Dispatch on April 23, 1912: "Saw 4 Men Shot on The Titanic".

"Iian (sic) Cavontina, an Austrian miner from Hibbing, sole survivor of a colony of thirty-six Austrians who engaged steerage passage on the Titanic to come to this country, today related a dramatic story of the wreck of the big steamer to an interested crowd at the Union Depot, among them being Detective J.P. Williams and Officer J. Dailey, on duty at the station. He left late this morning for Hibbing where he will work."

"A German who had his wife and three children with him, all steerage passengers, begged one of the crew to make room on one of the boats for the latter. He said he was willing to take his chances on the Titanic. The officer replied by shooting the German and three other men, declaring 'Certainly, I'll make room for them'."

An Austrian miner headed for Minnesota? Nikola Lulic, obviously. Why the false name?  The "German" would have been one of the Austrian/Croatians in Lulic's party. But shooting him for his query sounds extreme. Was it a holdover sentiment from the Boer war between England and Germany which only ended a decade before?

Apart from deciphering Cavontina's true name, all the rest is speculation. So, out went this anecdote, too.  But while it couldn't be substantiated, the eyewitness accounts of the vast majority of people who saw shooting on the Titanic could.

In conclusion, more than 50 people stated publicly that they saw officers and crewmen of the Titanic shoot passengers, and in some cases other crew members, who tried to get into lifeboats ahead of women and children.  By correlating the accounts, it's possible to determine where the shootings took place.  By building timelines, when.  And by mining the accounts, it's often possible to determine who did the shooting, and occasionally who was shot.

The fact of the shooting was never in doubt. Interviews with survivors who saw shooting were printed in newspapers throughout North America.  But until now nobody collected the accounts or analyzed them in detail.

The journalism of the day was quite different from now.

Even if a reporter wanted to follow up the story of passenger shootings, how would he go about it? The passengers were scattered to the wind and not around to be interviewed, even if you spoke whatever language they spoke or could find an interpreter you could trust.  And who were you looking for? Strange names, strange spellings, frightened immigrants who didn't want to offend anyone. Relying on trains and telegraphs, how to track people down? And why?  Nobody knew the people who were allegedly shot. They were nobodies. Worse, they were foreign nobodies. Why bother?

Today, there's a simple answer. We're interested in the lives of immigrants. We're fascinated by historical disasters. And news stories don't get any bigger than the sinking of the Titanic.