"Am Safe - Pray God": George Rosenshine & Gertrude Maybelle Thorne

When George and Maybelle boarded Titanic in Cherboug, France, in the evening of April 10, they became acquainted with other First-Class passengers as simply “Mr. and Mrs. Thorne.”

That was, as it turns out, only partly true.

Maybelle was married, yes. Just not to George Thorne.

Because George Thorne was an alias.

His actual name was George Rosenshine, and he was Maybelle’s secret boyfriend. Together with Maybelle in their palatial cabin, he traveled on Titanic as her fake husband. The only evidence of his true identity had been hidden away, in the assorted papers in his private leather satchel he carried.

Maybelle had absconded with George on his extended business travels back in 1911. Their adventure had become a round-the-world tour. 

They went to Singapore and Indonesia. They went to Japan. And the trip had ended in Paris, where they attended a fashion show.

This ultimate stop was, of course, for the benefit of George’s business. 

George was the co-owner of Rosenshine Brothers, a prominent importer of exotic materials, and Rosenshine’s specialty was ostrich feathers. Much of George’s fortune was made, in part, in fancy millinery—that is, in really big hats. 

Ostrich feathers, however, were not the sole plumes that Rosenshine employed. The New York Times reported on October 18, 1911, regarding a robbery in the Rosenshine factory in which tropical bird feathers were also taken.

The best men in the Detective Bureau have been set on the trail of a band of burglars who escaped with $3,000 worth of ostrich plumes and bird of paradise feathers from the warerooms of Rosenshine Brothers, 57 and 59 East Eleventh Street, after they had gained an entrance to the store, which is heavily wired with burglar alarms, by coming down the chimney like Santa Claus.

Ostrich plumes and the like were ubiquitous in fancy women’s hats, as well as in feather boas and the collars of jackets and shawls. The periodical The Illustrated Milliner published the following in a 1910 issue.

“These [ostrich feather] sales store up a considerable amount of business and promote trade throughout the entire establishment. Special advertising plans, attractive window trims and unique ideas are used with most satisfactory results.”

Alongside this text is a photo of a Macy’s window display containing a lush selection of ostrich plumes from Rosenshine Brothers.

The Paris fashion show left George in low spirits. If the sartorial choices were any indication, plumes were falling out of favor in the world of feminine fashion. The size and volume of those feathers selected were significantly diminished.

Never the less, George and Maybelle exuded happiness while on board. Per the account of First-Class survivor Renee Harris, the couple appeared very much content and in love. And it would seem that most of their fellow passengers were unaware that they were in the presence of an extramarital affair.

There is limited information regarding George and Maybelle over the course of the sinking. Fellow survivor Renee Harris last observed George on deck around 12:30am, approximately 15 minutes before the first lifeboat was launched. He was leaning on a railing on the starboard side, lamenting to Maybelle about an unspecified bad investment, anticipating a stymied cash flow once they returned home to New York.

Maybelle was saved in Collapsible D. On board Carpathia, she sent a hopeful telegram, although one would not be surprised if that hope was false.

Am safe - Pray God George was rescued by another boat with rest of men. Arrive Carpathia. Mabelle Thorne.

Sadly, George Rosenshine did not survive the sinking.

His body was the 16th recovered by the crew of the Mackay-Bennett and noted as follows.

NO. 16. - MALE. - ESTIMATED AGE, 50.

CLOTHING - Dark grey overcoat; black suit; black gloves; underclothing; marked " G. R".

EFFECTS - Gold watch; memo book; bunch of keys; letter of credit; Guaranty Trust Company, New York, No. 9899; notes in pocket book; $430; U. S. A. Bond in memo book; affidavit of personal prop. For Mrs. G. M. Thorne, N. Y.; letter of indication for above.



GEO. ROSENSHINE., 57 & 59 East Eleventh St., N. Y.

George’s brother Albert was waiting in Halifax, and arranged for interment in the family plot in Queens.

For decades, George Rosenshine was  something of a mystery to Titanic historians—because no one by that name had boarded.

But in 1964, over tea with historian Walter Lord, Renee Harris let the truth slip. As tantalizing as this was, however, there was no further substantiation of the claim.

Until 1993.

That year, a leather satchel was brought up from the debris field of the Titanic wreck. It had been discovered alongside compressed silverware and a leather cigarette carrying case with cigarettes intact within.

Inside the satchel, they discovered several typed letters to George Rosenshine regarding the business. Another was from a travel agent, indicating that George and Maybelle had made a stop in Yokohama.

And one was from Albert.

From the 47 and 59 East 11th Street, Manhattan, Rosenshine to Rosenshine... The outlook for the coming year for ostrich feathers and staple goods does not look promising...

I will have Betsy kiss the baby for you. She is looking and feeling well, thank God...

Received your letters from Japan... I am more than pleased that you are having the time of your life... 

I bought last week the following stocks...

Outlook for next year for ostrich feathers not promising. There is a tendency for shaped hats that do not any [illegible] or French plumes, and what little ostrich will be sold will be in the way of simple little fancy stick-up effects, of which it will be very hard to make a season. I have been to Atlantic City and Philadelphia for the last week, and have had a good time. Felix promises me to straighten out Steurer’s account with him direct, and give me a part payment on my account which, after deducting Steur’s account , now stands on our books about $10,000. It is a hard proposition to get any money from him... Mrs. Seese was in yesterday. I lunched with her and took her out last evening. She a bill of about Y Y [sic] hundred.

On April 13, 1913, Maybelle and Renee, as well as the widow of Jacques Futrelle, sailed out from Boston to the site of the Titanic’s foundering. Flower baskets were laid on the water following  a memorial by the ship’s chaplain.

As the ship moved away, the three women sang “Nearer My God to Thee.”

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