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“Immeasurable Sorrow and Unending Grief”: The Allison Family

“Immeasurable Sorrow and Unending Grief”: The Allison Family

Bess Daniels met her future husband, a stockbroker from Montreal named Hudson Allison, in 1907 while they were passengers on a train.

They married in her hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in December of that same year, on Hudson’s 26th birthday. Bess was newly 21.

Less than five years later, Hudson and Bess boarded the Titanic as First-Class passengers at Southampton on the morning of April 10, 1912. With them were their young children—Lorraine, who was 2 years old, and their infant Trevor—and four servants.

The Allisons occupied First-Class cabins on C-Deck, which they shared with their maid, Sarah, and Trevor’s new nurse, Alice Cleaver.

Their cook, Mildred, and their chauffeur, George Swane, were booked with Second-Class cabins.

The Allison Family


The Allison family had sailed to the United Kingdom in order for Hudson to attend a meeting of directors, as he was on the Board of the British Lumber Corporation. They took a side trip up to the Scottish Highlands so Hudson could pick up horses for the Allison’s stock farm back home. While there, they also hired the four servants that were traveling with them on Titanic.

On the night of April 14, Hudson and Bess dined with Major Arthur Peuchen and fellow Canadian Harry Molson. Later, Bess brought little Loraine up to the First-Class Dining Room to awe at its Jacobean prettiness.

When Titanic struck the iceberg later that night, the new nursemaid Alice woke the Allisons, but per her (presumably defensive) account, they dismissed her concern, insisting that it was nothing more than her imagination.

Some time after the engines had ceased, Mr. Allison finally consented to go up on deck to seek the trouble. Alice said that she advised that the family would have to evacuate the ship, and Mrs. Allison became “hysterical.” Alice, wrapping the baby, did her best to calm Mrs. Allison.

An officer then came by and advised an immediate evacuation to the boat deck. And so Alice, with the bundled baby Trevor in her arms, exited the suite. She claimed that she found Mr. Allison in the hallway.

[I] here met Mr. Allison outside the cabin but he seemed too dazed to speak. I handed him some brandy and asked him to look after Mrs. Allison and Loraine and I would keep Baby [Trevor]… some confusion occurred outside as to which deck we should go and that is how [Mr. Allison] came separated, afterwards I learned from one of the staff that Mrs. Allison was hysterical again and that Mr. Allison had difficulty with her…

Alternate accounts reflect that Alice took Trevor with her to retrieve George and Mildred in Second Class, without informing either Mr. or Mrs. Allison.

In the end, it is reported that George Swane escorted Alice to Lifeboat 11. Trevor was then carried into the boat by bedroom steward William Faulkner, who was instructed to stay aboard, and thusly also rescued in Lifeboat 11.

Also in the lifeboat was Mildred, the cook that the Allisons had hired. According to a letter from Mildred to her mother on April 19, 1912, written on board Carpathia and postmarked from Grand Central Station in New York City:

No sooner was I on deck that I was bustled to the first class deck and pushed into one of the boats and I found nurse (Alice Cleaver) and the baby (Trevor Allison) were there. It was awful to put the lifebelt on it, seemed as if you really were gone.

Mrs. Allison, meanwhile, had already been seated in Lifeboat 6 with her little daughter, Loraine.

But Bess Allison jumped out of the lifeboat.

Per their friend Major Peuchen, who was interviewed by the Montreal Daily Star:

Mrs Allison could have gotten away in perfect safety, but somebody told her Mr Allison was in a boat being lowered on the opposite side of the deck, and with her little daughter she rushed away from the boat. Apparently she reached the other side to find that Mr Allison was not there. Meanwhile our boat had put off.

In a separate interview, Major Peuchen elaborated upon Bess’s actions.

She had gone to the deck without her husband, and, frantically seeking him was directed by an officer to the other side of the ship. She failed to find Mr. Allison and was quickly hustled into one of the collapsible life-boats, and when last seen by Major Peuchen she was toppling out of the half-swamped boat.

Bess and her daughter, possibly alongside Hudson, were last seen together on deck near the officers quarters.

Mr. and Mrs. Allison, their little girl, and George Swane all died in the sinking.

Young Loraine Allison was the sole child of all in First and Second Class to die. Her mother was one of only four First-Class women to die.

Hudson Allison’s body was recovered by the Mackay-Bennett and noted.

NO. 135. - MALE.

CLOTHING - Leather coat; blue suit; grey silk muffler.

EFFECTS - Keys; letters; photos; stock book; three pocket diaries; one C. P. Railway ticket book; two pocket books; card case; $143.00 in notes; chain with insurance medals; £15 in gold; $100.00 Thomas Cook & Sons travellers' cheque; £35 in notes; gold cuff links; diamond solitaire ring; gold stud; knife; silver tie clip; $4.40 in odd coins; traveller's ticket.


Thereafter, George Swane’s body was also found.


CLOTHING - Blue suit; grey socks; low shoes.

EFFECTS - Chain; sovereign case, empty; 33s 5d in cash; one tie pin; two motor licenses.

NAME - GEORGE SWANE, 73 Little Cadogan Place, London, S.W.

The bodies of Bess Allison and little Loraine Allison, if ever recovered, went unidentified.

Upon their arrival in New York City, Alice Cleaver relinquished custody of the now-orphaned Trevor Allison to his uncle and aunt, George and Lillian Allison.

Trevor Allison died in 1929 from food poisoning. He was 18 years old.

And then, years on, Titanic was forced to shoulder its very own Anastasia story.

Decades later in 1940, a woman named Helen Loraine Kramer came forward, claiming on a radio show to be the long-lost toddler, Loraine Allison. Over the course of time, she insisted that she had been saved in secret—and then raised—by no less than Thomas Andrews, who she claimed had disguised his identity under the alias of "James Hyde" to avoid persecution.

Kramer’s granddaughter reinvigorated the rumor in 2012, claiming to have found definitive proof in the form of paperwork in the late Kramer’s suitcase.

Genetic testing was finally performed in 2013 as a result of the Loraine Allison Identification Project. It proved that Kramer’s absurd claim, unsurprisingly, to be entirely false.

David Allison, grandson of Hudson’s brother Percy, issued the following statement.

The Allisons never accepted Mrs Kramer’s claim, but the stress it caused was real. It forced my ancestors to relive painful memories described to me as immeasurable sorrow and unending grief… I would like to thank Deanne Jennings and Sally Kirkelie for offering their DNA to stop this harassment. This was a courageous, selfless act, and I will remain forever indebted for their act of kindness.

David’s sister, Nancy, also said the following.

These DNA results have uncovered a colossal fraud that has haunted my family for years. It was all about the money …. Debrina [Kramer’s granddaughter] wants to write a book and no doubt there are others out there who want to profit from our story. It is our story. Leave us in peace.

Tantalizing though some may find them, dear reader, it is only kind to remember: conspiracy theories do harm to  innocent people.

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“A Trip to See the Stars”: The Spedden Family

"A Trip to See the Stars": The Spedden Family

Frederic Oakley Spedden and his wife Daisy boarded Titanic as First-Class passengers with their six-year-old son Robert Douglas, who was called by his middle name. Along with them was their maid, Miss Helen Wilson, and Douglas’s private nurse, Elizabeth Burns.

Douglas was precious to his very doting parents, as he was an only child. And he loved Elizabeth dearly, and called her “Muddie Boons” because he couldn’t pronounce her name properly. They were practically inseparable.

Mr. and Mrs. Spedden were from New York, and both of them were the heirs of extremely affluent families. The family had been traveling abroad since 1911, beginning in Algiers, and going on to Monte Carlo, then Paris. They had also spent some time in northern Africa, including Egypt.

They elected to sail on Titanic for the return home.

Young Douglas Spedden is one of Titanic’s most recognizable characters. If you’ve seen enough Titanic-related photos—or recall the moment in the 1997 film, when that Jack Dawson casually steals a First-Class passenger’s coat—then you’ll recall Douglas.

He’s the little boy playing with a spinning top on deck.

He stands on his toes in the bright sun, as his father, who has a camera strapped to his shoulder, coaches him. Two unnamed men, standing still in their greatcoats, watch with their back to the camera; one smokes a cigar, the other holds a cigarette behind his back.

The photo was taken on April 11, 1912, by Fr. Francis Browne, who labeled it thusly in his personal photo album.

“The children’s playground” Taken about midday on the Saloon deck.

As reproduced in "Father Browne's Titanic Album: A Passenger's Photographs & Personal Memoir" by E.E. O'Donnell. Messenger Publications, 2011.

We know a bit about how the Speddens spent their time thanks to Daisy’s diary. For instance, Daisy, along with Douglas's nurse, took to the Turkish baths on Saturday, April 13, 1912. Turkish baths were a very popular luxury in the Edwardian period, so Daisy had every reason to believe that it would be delightful.

It was not.

She wrote in her diary, “It was my first and will be my last, I hope, as I’ve never disliked anything so much in my life.”

Daisy did, however, enjoy the dip in the heated swimming pool that followed. She also wrote that she spent Saturday afternoon playing cards.

The Speddens responded very quickly once they learned of the collision with the iceberg. Frederic and Daisy had woken up by the sound of the iceberg scraping the ship, and went up on deck in their nightclothes. When they noticed the listing deck, they dashed downstairs to wake their servants. Muddie Boons immediately roused Douglas.

When he asked why, she told him they were going to take “a trip to see the stars.”

Luckily for the entire family--but especially Frederic Spedden--they found their way to the starboard side of the ship and Lifeboat 3. With no other women in plain view, First Officer William Murdoch permitted Mr. Spedden to join his wife and son in the lifeboat.

Helen Wilson's recounting dated April 22, 1912, described it in detail.

Mr. Spedden was saved by what might be really called a leap for life. He had put his family into the boat which was lowered at once, and there were no more women in the immediate vicinity, so one of the officers seeing room for one more said to Mr. Spedden. 'You may as well jump and save yourself.' He did so and landed in the boat, thus joining his family.

And in all of this, Douglas had a stowaway.

He'd taken with him was his favorite stuffed toy: a Steiff polar bear that his Auntie Nan had purchased from F.A.O. Schwartz, perhaps as a Christmas gift, in 1911.

Fittingly, its name was Polar.

Douglas slept through the night in the arms of Elizabeth Burns, and awoke at dawn. When he looked around him, he was in awe. “Oh, Muddie," he said. "Look at the beautiful North Pole with no Santa Claus on it.”

Douglas was still sleepy when he was brought on board Carpathia. Like all the children rescued from Titanic, he was hoisted aboard in a burlap bag or net, because crewmen feared they would fall from the ladder climbing up the side of the ship.

And Douglas, quite accidentally, left Polar behind. When he realized his beloved toy had gone missing, he was nearly inconsolable. Daisy and Frederic may have sought a replacement in Carpathia's souvenir shop. But for Douglas, only Polar would do.

It was procedural, for rescue ships to haul in a lost vessel’s lifeboats—typically, by hoisting it up via a hook on one end. And when they drew up lifeboat 3, a waterlogged white toy rolled onto the deck.

The crewman who found him wrung him of his water and kept him, hoping to bring it home as a gift for his child. But when he encountered the Speddens and a still-upset Douglas, he connected the dots and presented the little boy with his stuffed bear.

By the grace of fate, all five of the Spedden party were saved—six, actually, if one includes Polar.

In 1913, Daisy wrote and illustrated a little book, which she titled “My Story.” It was, she hoped, a way to explain to young Douglas what they’d all been through, and gave it to her son as a gift for Christmas.

The story was written from the perspective of Polar, from his "birth" in Germany and his life in the toy store, to his happy adoption by Douglas and all his extraordinary adventures since, including the sinking of Titanic.

Sadly, though, the Spedden family's miraculous escape from Titanic did not inoculate them against heartbreak.

In the summer of 1915, while at his family summer home in Maine, Douglas ran out from within some shrubbery to catch a tennis ball and was hit by a car.

The frantic driver, a 27-year-old man named Foster Harrington, carried Douglas back to his home. Douglas briefly regained consciousness in the day following the accident, but declined rapidly and died from “concussion of the brain.” He was one of the first deaths by automobile in the state.

He was only 9 years old.

Bereft, Frederic and Daisy left their son’s room entirely untouched. So there Polar lived, at the bottom of a basket of toys, alone for decades without his boy. And as Douglas's parents died, poor Polar was lost to time.

Until Daisy Spedden’s diaries, along with Polar's original storybook, was discovered in a steamer trunk  in an attic.

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“Our Babe”: The Mystery of Titanic’s ‘Unknown Child’

"Our Babe": The Mystery of Titanic's 'Unknown Child'

Clifford Crease was 24 years old when he and his crewmates embarked on the grimmest journey of their lives: collecting the dead from Titanic.

The crew of the Mackay-Bennett recovers a Titanic victim.


The Mackay-Bennett arrived to the site on the night of April 19, and saw that there were far more bodies than anyone could have anticipated.

At 6:00 a.m. on April 20, their work began.

All crew on the Mackay-Bennett were required to keep a log or diary of their gruesome task in the wake of Titanic. Only Clifford's, which has been donated, and one other are known to remain in existence.

One by one, small skiff boats were dispatched from the Mackay-Bennett, where they began manually pulling corpses from the water, to describe their faces and rifle through their pockets.

It had already been almost a week that they'd been bobbing in the water, exposed to the elements and ships passing through the massive debris field. Most of the bodies were mangled from the sinking--lacerated, bruised, many with broken bones.

(Please take a moment to reflect on how traumatic this reaping truly was. The men on board the Mackay-Bennett never get the credit they deserve.)

After the third body, a female third-class passenger, had been pulled aboard and catalogued, Clifford Crease's work turned from solemn to sorrowful.

Over the side of the boat, he scooped up a fourth body. Tiny. Blond, ocean-pale, and eerily still. Unlike the corpses all around them, this body was pristine--more doll than person, we might imagine. Clifford cradled the dead baby boy in what seemed like interminable silence.

After searching for identification and finding none, they reverently noted the baby as follows.

CLOTHING - Grey coat with fur on collar and cuffs; brown serge frock; petticoat; flannel garment; pink woolen singlet - brown shoes and stockings.

Clifford and his mates were in shock.

Back on board the Mackay-Bennett, the decision had been made to bury steerage passengers at sea, owing to a lack of space and shortage of embalming fluid. So only the First and Second Classes were embalmed or put on ice and returned to Halifax.

An exception was made for the nameless baby that was "probably third class." No one could bring themselves to commit him to the sea, all alone forever.

After recovering a total of 306 bodies from the site, the Mackay-Bennett returned to Halifax. Bodies were distributed to funeral homes, morgues, and grieving families. Photos were taken. Days passed.

But no one claimed the baby.

Hearses queued at Halifax Wharf, waiting to transport the corpses of Titanic victims to local funeral parlors. Courtesy of Nova Scotia Archives & Records Management (NSARM).


The sailors who had been on board the Mackay-Bennett that nightmarish day then took matters into their own hands and adopted the child in death. Spearheaded by Clifford Crease, they arranged a funeral and pooled their wages for a small coffin and headstone.

In the coffin, they placed a brass plate engraved with two words: "Our babe."

Clifford acted as one of the baby's pallbearers.

The Unknown Child now rested in the Halifax's Fairview Cemetery. Suspecting that his identity might be that of 2-year-old Gosta Palsson, youngest son of Third-Class passenger Alma Palsson, he was interred in close proximity to her grave.

Years went by, and Clifford could never bring himself to forget The Unknown Child. Every year on the anniversary of the sinking, he laid a wreath on the grave.

And when Clifford Crease died in 1961, he was interred mere meters away from the child who had haunted him all of his life.

According to his family, Clifford didn't speak about his grim time on the Mackay-Bennett until the end of his life, prompted by a program he was watching on television about Walter Lord's "A Night to Remember." According to Clifford's granddaughter, "He never fully recovered... He told our father it was the worst thing that ever happened to him."

In 2001, two Canadian scientists named Ryan Parr and Alan Ruffman collaborated in order to find the identity of Titanic's Unknown Child.

They exhumed the remains, but there was nothing left other than a fragment of an arm bone, and three little teeth. Mercifully, the plate laid in the coffin by the crew of the Mackay-Bennett had protected these scarce remains. And miraculously, that was enough.

The remains were not a match to the Palsson family, who had originally given permission for the remains to be disinterred. They expanded the scope of their candidates from among 5 boys under the age of 3 who had died on Titanic.

In addition to Gosta Palsson, there were:

Gilbert Danbom 5 months old, from Sweden

Alfred Peacock 7 months old, from England

Eino Panula 13 months old, from Finland

Sidney Goodwin 19 months old, from England

Eugene Rice 2 years old, from Ireland

With the long-term assistance of geneaologists and historians, as well as willing descendants, Ruffman and Parr tracked down genetic samples from all 5 families of the little boys.

From the candidates remaining after Gosta Palsson was ruled out, 3 were evident non-matches; this left only Sidney Goodwin and Eino Panula as the possible Unknown Child, due to a shared mutation in their mitochondrial DNA.

Looking at the teeth that had been recovered from the grave, the scientists determined that they'd belonged to a child in the 9-15 month range. By process of elimination, Ruffman and Parr published their results: The Unknown Child was 13-month-old Eino, whose family was traveling from Finland.

It was accepted by the majority that the Unknown Child finally had a name.

But some, including Parr and Ruffman, suspected it was the incorrect one.

All because of a pair of shoes.

In 2007, Dr. Parr admitted that they may have made a mistake.

Back in 2002, a man named Earle Northover had donated a pair of brown-leather baby shoes to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. They had belonged, he said, to the Unknown Child.

According to Earle, the wee shoes had been removed from the baby, and saved from destruction by his grandfather Clarence Northover, a sargeant for the Halifax Police Department. Earle wrote the following in his letter to the Museum.

Clothing was burned to stop souvenir hunters but he was too emotional when he saw the little pair of brown, leather shoes about fourteen centimeters long, and didn’t have the heart to burn them. When no relatives came to claim the shoes, he placed them in his desk drawer at the police station and there they remained for the next six years, until he retired in 1918.

The shoes, Dr. Parr thought, were too big for a 13-month-old to wear. So they retested the DNA samples with the U.S. Armed Forces Identification Laboratory, where the team isolated a single, but significant and rare, genetic distinction.

With around a 98% certainty, Parr's team amended their previous results.

Thanks to the little shoes hidden in Sargeant Northover's desk drawer, the Uknown Child was identified as Sidney Goodwin.

Sidney Goodwin, Titanic's Unknown Child.

PUBLIC DOMAIN (taken in 1911)

At 19 months old, Sidney was the youngest of six children. His entire family was traveling from England to America where their father, Frederick, was set to have a new job at the new power station in Niagara Falls.

The Goodwins had planned to set to sail on the S.S. New York, but were transferred to Titanic as a result of the coal miners' strike.

All eight members of the Goodwin family--both parents, and all of their children--died when Titanic sank.

Aside from Sidney, who would spend almost a century unidentified, no member of the Goodwin family was recovered.

Sidney Goodwin's parents and five older siblings circa 1910. The entire family died in the sinking.

PUBLIC DOMAIN (published in UK periodical(s) in 1912)

The Goodwin descendants held a memorial service at the grave of The Unknown Child on August 6, 2008. One by one, they read the name of each child lost on Titanic out loud, ringing a bell for each.

The family elected to leave the headstone installed by the crew of the Mackay-Bennett.

As a Goodwin cousin said in an interview, "The tombstone of the unknown child represents all of the children who perished on the Titanic, and we left it that way."

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“Our Boats Waited in Deadly Silence”: Karl Behr & Helen Monypeny Newsom

“Our Boats Waited in Deadly Silence”: Karl Behr & Helen Monypeny Newsom

Determination, thy name may well be Karl Behr.

Karl was born in Brooklyn to German parents. He graduated from Yale in 1906. Moreover, he was admitted to the Bar Association in 1910, and was by all accounts an extremely successful lawyer. He also mined for silver in Mexico.

In the meanwhile, Karl was one hell of a lawn tennis player. He played on the U.S. Davis Cup team in 1907; in that same year, he was ranked number 3 in the sport. He was also runner-up at Wimbledon in 1907.

All in all, it seemed to have been a hell of an excellent year for Karl, though he enjoyed similar successes in tennis for many years thereafter.

Karl Behr in the Men's Doubles at Wimbledon in 1907.


At some point, Karl fell in love with Helen Monypeny Newsom, the gorgeous friend of his little sister, Gertrude.

And, as in many grand love stories, Helen's mother and stepfather, Sallie and Richard Beckwith, did not approve of their romance. Karl was 27, and Helen was just 19.

Helen’s parents disliked Karl so ardently that, in an effort to deter his courtship of their daughter, they took Helen on a trip to Europe in February 1912.

As though that would stop Karl.

Karl furtively booked a trip on the same outbound vessel, and slipped away with Helen in Morocco.

And Madeira.

And the South of France.

The star-crossed lovers at some point agreed to meet back in NY upon their individual returns.

Karl Behr playing tennis. Published in "Methods & Players of Modern Lawn Tennis" in 1915.


But Helen was a delightfully headstrong girl in her own right. So while Karl was in Berlin, Helen sent him a telegram.


With this alert, Karl concocted a business trip and booked passage on Titanic in order to continue their courtship. And so, with an engagement ring in his pocket, Karl Behr set out to surprise his love. He booked passage on a train down to Cherbourg alongside a number of other First-Class passengers, including his future tennis rival, Richard Norris Williams.

After a pleasant train ride through the French countryside, Karl joined Helen and the Beckwiths at the stopover at Cherbourg.

He supposedly spent most of his time ingratiating himself to Helen's disapproving parents. And there just might have been—according to their granddaughter—also a lot of covert kisses and clandestine handholding during the voyage.

Titanic departing Southampton for Cherbourg, France, where Karl joined Helen and her family.


According to family lore, Karl was the one who alerted Helen and her parents when he saw people donning lifevests and a noticed a "list to starboard"--which contradicts the usual report of a list to port. Although, since the damage did occur on the starboard side, a negligible list could have occurred before the water sought its own level, resulting in the famous list to port.

The party approached and were permitted to enter the second lifeboat launched starboard, by Third Officer Herbert Pitman and First Officer William Murdoch. According to Karl, he went up to boat deck with Mr. Beckwith only to say goodbye to Helen, but both men were asked to jump in to row by White Star Chairman Bruce Ismay.

Karl was interviewed by his alma mater's periodical the Yale Daily News on April 18, 1912, while standing on the pier in New York after having disembarked the rescue ship Carpathia.

Karl's was the first survivor interview to be published.

Our boats waited in deadly silence until, at 2:30 a.m., the Titanic settled at the bow and took her final plunge. The sight was too horrible for description as the men on board rushed toward the stern only to be engulfed and sucked down by the suction.

Per contemporary newspaper reports, it was in the lifeboat that Karl proposed to Helen. But their granddaughter, Lynn Sanford, dissents. When interviewed, she said, "The idea that my grandfather proposed to my grandmother on a lifeboat while people around them were dying? No, that wasn't him."

However Helen and Karl finally managed to become engaged, Titanic seemed to have softened the Beckwiths' hearts.

Helen Moneypeny Newsom on her wedding day, as published by the Boston Sunday Post dated November 8, 1914. Courtesy of Encyclopedia Titanica.

PUBLIC DOMAIN (published prior to 1923)

Helen and Karl were married on March 1, 1913. The New York Times article of the wedding published on March 2 described Helen's dress in great detail.

The bride, who walked up the nave with her stepfather, Mr. Beckwith, who gave her in marriage, wore a gown of white satin charmeuse with a long veil of duches point that was draped in with the gown in pannier effect, the lace being carried down into a train. The gown was also trimmed with duchess lace. She carried lilies of the valley and white orchids... Both Mr. Behr and his bride are survivors of the Titanic disaster.

By all accounts, despite winning his hard-fought love, as well as his wild professional and athletic successes, Karl seems to have suffered from debilitating survivor guilt, though Lynn Sanford states that though it was evident to her, her grandfather never admitted to as much outright.

Karl was part of the committee formed to honor Captain Arthur Rostron of the Carpathia, the ship which had rescued survivors at dawn on April 15, 1912. When the Carpathia docked at her pier in New York for the first time since returning with Titanic survivors in 1912, the committee boarded and requested the Captain Rostron issue an order for all hands to muster in the ship's First-Class dining saloon. There, Captain Rostron was presented with an engraved silver cup and a gold medal of honor.

The New York Times reported on the event in its May 30, 1912, issue.

It was a striking picture, that of the brawny, weatherbeaten old bo'sun and the quartermasters and sailors in their blue uniforms mingling with the soot-begrimed firemen and coal passers who had come direct from the stokehole. In addition to the gold-laced uniforms of the officers and engineers, the cooks, in their white caps and aprons, were there with a big array of stewards. At the head of the table, beside cases of medals, was the silver loving cup, standing fifteen inches high, on an ebony base and bearing the following inscription:

Presented to Capt. A. H. Rostron, R. N. R., commander of the R. M. S. Carpathia.

In grateful recognition and appreciation of his heroism and efficient service in the rescue of the survivors of the Titanic on April 15, 1912, and of the generous and sympathetic treatment he accorded us on his ship.



Karl also testified against White Star in a class-action civil suit brought by other passengers; per Karl's testimony, Chair J. Bruce Ismay was acting in the capacity of supervisor as the lifeboats were being filled, and was not simply a passive passenger as White Star claimed. The suit ended in 1916 in a settlement of $663,000.00, after which the judge signed a decree putting an end to all lawsuits pertaining to the sinking of the Titanic.

Karl Behr helped to organize the Preparedness Parade--to encourage American intervention in the Great War--in New York City in 1916. But when the United States did intervene the following year, Karl was not permitted to join owing to his German heritage. Apparently unable to assuage years of sadness and remorse, Karl took briefly to a sanitarium in western New York state in 1917.

President Wilson at the Preparedness Parade in New York City, 1916. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.


Lynn Sanford has said that her grandfather "wished he had saved someone from the water so that at least an act of heroism could have resulted from his survival... He was crushed by inarticulate sadness beyond anyone's understanding."

Karl died in 1949; Helen, in 1965.

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“For God’s Sake, Be Brave, and Go!”: Harvey & Charlotte Collyer

"For God's Sake, Be Brave, and Go!": Harvey & Charlotte Collyer

Harvey and Charlotte Collyer were an English couple boarded Titanic as Second Class with their young daughter Marjorie.

Harvey and Charlotte had met in Surrey while she was employed as a cook for Reverend Sidney Sedgwick, and Harvey was the church sexton. They married in 1905. In time, Harvey also became the church bellringer and a grocer in town, where the entire family was loved.

The Collyers had dreamt big. Charlotte suffered from tuberculosis, and so they elected to move to Idaho, where some other family had already settled and had consistently sent the Collyers letters in which they lauded the pleasant climate. Seeking to better Charlotte's health, they purchased a fruit farm. Before departing, Harvey withdrew the family's life savings from his bank and kept it on his person. What little possessions the family had were ALL in Titanic's cargo hold.

Before they departed, the church community organized a surprise farewell for Harvey. Charlotte wrote, "They led him to a seat under the old tree in the churchyard and then some went up into the belfry and, in his honour, they rang all the chimes that they knew." She said it was a kind gesture, but it made her uneasy.

Harvey wrote a letter to his parents that was sent off while Titanic was stopped in Queenstown on April 11, 1912.

My dear Mum and Dad
It don't seem possible we are out on the briny writing to you. Well dears so far we are having a delightful trip the weather is beautiful and the ship magnificent. We can't describe the tables it's like a floating town. I can tell you we do swank we shall miss it on the trains as we go third on them. You would not imagine you were on a ship. There is hardly any motion she is so large we have not felt sick yet we expect to get to Queenstown today so thought I would drop this with the mails...

Lots of love don't worry about us. Ever your loving children
Harvey, Lot & Madge

Charlotte, nauseous the night of April 14 from too rich a dinner, was in bed. She wrote of the collision, "The sensation, to me, was as if the ship had been seized by a giant hand and shaken once, twice; then stopped dead in its course."

Harvey went up on deck and Charlotte had begun to drift off to sleep by the time he returned. He said they'd hit an iceberg--"a big one"--but an officer had assured him there was no danger. But as a clamour began to resound above them, Charlotte asked Harvey if anyone had seemed frightened. Soon thereafter, Charlotte threw on a coat, tied her hair back with a ribbon, and wrapped her daughter in a White Star blanket over her pajamas, and the three went out on deck. Marjorie was crying, as she had left behind her "dollie" from two Christmases past, and no one would go back to rescue it.

Officers kept yelling that there was no danger. But then Charlotte saw a horrific sight.

Suddenly there was a commotion near one of the gangways, and we saw a stoker come climbing up from below. He stopped a few feet away from us. All the fingers of one hand had been cut off. Blood was running from the stumps, and blood was spattered over his face and over his clothes. The red marks showed very clearly against the coal dust with which he was covered.

Excerpt from 'How I was Saved from the Titanic" as printed in the May 1912 issue of "Semi-Monthly Magazine."

When she asked him if there was danger, he frantically presented his mangled hand. The unnamed stoker then laid his head down on a coil of rope and fainted.

The Collyers were on Second Officer Charles Lightoller's side of the ship, but Charlotte wrote with admiration mostly about First Officer William Murdoch, as well as Fifth Officer Harold Lowe. Like survivor Charles Joughin, Charlotte Collyer attested to a number of women being afraid to go in the lifeboats, or otherwise leave their husbands behind.

Charlotte held her husband tightly, and not taking seats in the first two boats before them.

When the third boat was half-full, she wrote that "a sailor caught Marjorie, my daughter, in his arms, tore her away from me and threw her into the boat." Then, "A man seized me by the arm. Then, another threw both his arms about my waist and dragged me away by main strength. I heard my husband say: 'Go, Lotty! For God’s sake, be brave, and go! I’ll get a seat in another boat.'"

The men who held me rushed me across the deck, and hurled me bodily into the lifeboat. I landed on one shoulder and bruised it badly. Other women were crowding behind me; but I stumbled to my feet and saw over their heads my husband’s back, as he walked steadily down the deck and disappeared among the men. His face was turned away, so that I never saw it again.

Excerpt from 'How I was Saved from the Titanic" as printed in the May 1912 issue of "Semi-Monthly Magazine."

As far as Charlotte claimed, Marjorie never got the chance to say goodbye to her father because she was flung into the boat so fast.

But according to Marjorie herself, she did. "My father raised me in his arms and kissed me, and then he kissed my mother. She followed me into the boat... The women in one of the other boats said they wanted somebody to row for them and father got in that boat."

There's fair reason for either of them to have rearranged the truth: trauma, wishful thinking, false memories.

Charlotte's account of the night is considered one of the more graphic survivor stories. It includes a young lad who pleaded, sobbing, for a spot on the lifeboat, and then for his life with an officer's pistol aimed at his forehead, as well as another man who ran across the deck and flung himself into the boat, supposedly injuring a girl by landing on her. He was forcibly removed.

Charlotte and Marjorie watched the sinking in horror from Lifeboat 14.

I shall never forget the terrible beauty of the Titanic at that moment. She was tilted forward, head down, with her first funnel partly under water. To me, she looked like an enormous glow-worm; for she was alight from the rising water line, clear to her stern — electric lights blazing in every cabin, lights on all the decks and lights at her mast heads.

Excerpt from 'How I was Saved from the Titanic" as printed in the May 1912 issue of "Semi-Monthly Magazine."

Charlotte was also of the minority of passengers who witnessed the break.

She heard the "deafening roar" of an explosion within the ship, then "millions of sparks shot up to the sky, like rockets in a park on the night of a summer holiday. This red spurt was fan-shaped as it went up; but the sparks descended in every direction, in the shape of a fountain of fire." According to Charlotte Collyer, the stern stood straight on end before lowering into the water. And like young survivor Jack Thayer, she described the passengers on board as akin to swarms of bees.

I saw hundreds of human bodies clinging to the wreck or leaping into the water. The Titanic was like a swarming bee-hive, but the bees were men, and they had broken their silence now.

There was water in the bottom of the lifeboat.

At one point, Charlotte half-fainted, and her long hair got caught in the oar and was ripped from her scalp. Someone gave her a blanket.

Little Marjorie continued to cry for her lost doll, desolate with the thought that it was going to the bottom of the sea with no one to take care of it. Her beloved dollie was gone, along with her father, her family's entire savings, and everything else the Collyers owned in the world.

Lifeboat 14 (with mast up) approaching the rescue ship Carpathia. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.


Once on board Carpathia, Charlotte searched in desperation for her husband, but learned that he was not among the saved.

The scene on board Carpathia that morning, as the lifeboats crept in, was harrowing by all accounts. "We could only rush frantically from group to group, searching the haggard faces, crying out names and endless questions."

Harvey Collyer's body, if ever recovered, went unidentified.

Charlotte grieved in a letter to her mother written on April 21, 1912, from Brooklyn, New York.

Oh mother there are some good hearts in New York, some want me to go back to England but I can't, I could never at least not yet go over the ground where my all is sleeping.

Sometimes I feel we lived too much for each other that is why I've lost him. But mother we shall meet him in heaven. When that band played 'Nearer My God to Thee' I know he thought of you and me for we both loved that hymn and I feel that if I go to Payette I'm doing what he would wish me to, so I hope to do this at the end of next week where I shall have friends and work and I will work for his darling as long as she needs me. 

Oh she is a comfort but she don't realize yet that her daddy is in heaven. There are some dear children here who have loaded her with lovely toys but it's when I'm alone with her she will miss him. 

Oh mother I haven't a thing in the world that was his only his rings. Everything we had went down. Will you, dear mother, send me on a last photo of us, get it copied I will pay you later on. 


Mother and daughter did soldier on and get to Idaho, but not without significant monetary help raised in the wake of their total loss, as well as the $300 Charlotte was paid for her exclusive story.

Charlotte ended her exclusively (ghost)written story as follows.

I must take my little Marjorie to the place where her father would have taken us both. That is all I care about — to do what he would have had me do.


But they did not stay in the United States. The pair were photographed on a porch swing in Payette, Idaho, while making use a White Star Line blanket.

Charlotte and Marjorie shortly after the sinking. From the George Grantham Bain Collection, courtesy of the Library of Congress.


They returned to England, and Charlotte Collyer remarried in 1914. Sadly, she died as a result of her tuberculosis in late 1916. Then Marjorie's stepfather died in March 1919.

Marjorie, now three times an orphan by the age of fifteen, was sent to live with her uncle Walter on his farm, where she lived until she was married on Christmas Day of 1927.



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“I Trust That They Are Better Off”: Rhoda Abbott

"I Trust That They Are Better Off": Rhoda Abbott

Rhoda Abbott had long been an elusive Titanic survivor.

As it turns out, this was because her name, on Titanic's manifest and in contemporary articles, was inaccurately written as Rose or Rosa. Regardless, on her birth, death, and marriage certificates, her name is listed as Rhoda. And with that, a comparative wealth of information has been discovered.

Rhoda about was born in England, and emigrated to Providence, RI, in 1894. There, she met and married a fellow expat named Stanton Abbott, who rose to fame as a middle-weight boxing champion. This fame, however, accelerated the deterioration of their marriage, and in 1911, Rhoda and Stanton separated.

Rhoda returned to England with their two teenaged sons, Rossmore and Eugene, on Titanic's longest-lived sister ship, the RMS Olympic.

They struggled to get by in England. Rhoda worked as a seamstress and Rossmore as a bootmaker, while Gene was still receiving schooling. But Rhoda soon realized that her boys were homesick--she was English, but they were American. So she decided to take them home.

Rhoda Abbott boarded Titanic as a third-class passenger with her two boys. Rossmore was 16 by this point; Gene was 13.

It's been reported that the boys, excited to get stateside and dazzled by Titanic, almost immediately peaced out from their mom to explore the ship. Rhoda spent time conversing at length with fellow English women in adjoining cabins, particularly Amy Stanley and Emily Goldsmith.

As a whole, those in Third Class, being low within the vessel, felt the greatest shudder upon impact with the iceberg. After feeling the collision, the boys wanted to get up to the boat deck to see what had happened. But their mother wanted to wait for instruction from a steward, so she made them stay put and go to bed.

At a quarter past midnight, a steward threw open their door, yelling, "All passengers on deck with life jackets."

Rhoda, Rossmore, and Gene managed their way up to the boat deck with a little maneuvering. As they shuffled in the mass across the stern's deck, the last of the distress signals was launched above them. Eventually, they reached Collapsible C, the boat that some of Rhoda's cabin neighbors, including Amy Stanley and Emily and Frankie Goldsmith, got in. With the assertion of 'Women and Children First' in full effect, Rhoda's sons were too old to be considered children.

At around 2:00 a.m., when Rhoda was frantically offered a place in Collapsible Lifeboat C, she pressed her two boys to her and refused. It was about 2:00 a.m.

Twenty minutes later, Titanic submerged.

Water overtook the boat deck as the officers were desperately trying to launch Collapsible A, which Rhoda and Gene were waiting for--Rossmore, in accordance with Rhoda's worst fear, was put firmly back with the other men.

Rhoda grabbed Gene's hands, but when she surfaced, both Rossmore and Gene had been dragged away underwater.

She never saw her boys again, alive or dead.

Rossmore's corpse was recovered by the Mackay-Bennett and committed to the sea on April 24, 1912. He was listed as follows.

CLOTHING - Brown overcoat; grey pants; green cardigan; blue jersey; black boots.
EFFECTS - Watch; chain and fob, with medal marked "Rossmore Abbott"; pocket book empty and two knives.

Gene's body was never found.

With no sight of her lost sons, Rhoda sank again, but was blown back to the surface by the exploding Titanic boilers, which she believed caused burns to her thighs.

Rhoda managed to make it to Collapsible A--which having been washed away only half-prepped, had taken on a few inches of water--and was pulled aboard. She recounted her experience to the Pawtucket Times.

Soon the raft tilted and all slid off into the water. Many of them managed to get back on it and some did not. I managed somehow to get on it, but I don’t know how. We were forced to stand on the float in lockstep to keep our balance for over six hours. Had it not been for Officer Laws I would have been drowned. I was nearly exhausted when he lifted me into his lifeboat. It would have been impossible for an officer to show more courtesy and many of the criticisms that have been made against this man are very unjust.

"Officer Laws" was, in fact, Fifth Officer Harold Lowe, of Lifeboat 14, the only lifeboat to return for survivors.

Officer Lowe left Collapsible A behind. It was recovered one month later, in May of 1912, with three corpses still within.

Rhoda had been practically unconscious when removed from Collapsible A, and was cared for by a fireman until taken aboard Carpathia. She had no memory of any of it. According to fellow survivor Amy Stanley, once on board Carpathia, Rhoda was mute and shellshocked.

 We were very close since we were on the Titanic together. And her stateroom had been near mine. I was the only one that she could talk to about her sons because I knew them myself. She told me that she would get [sic] in the lifeboat if there hadn't been so many people around. So she and her sons kept together. She was thankful that [the] three of them had stayed with her on that piece of wreckage. The youngest went first then the other son went. She grew numb and cold and couldn't remember when she got on the Carpathia. There was a piece of cork in her hair and I managed to get a comb and it took a long time but finally we got it out.

Meanwhile, Rhoda's ex-husband Stanton had been informed of the loss of his young boys. The New York Times reported it on it, with a distinct lack of sentiment, on May 4, 1912.

Stanton Abbott, an Englishman residing at Providence, R. I., inquired at the White Star Line office yesterday for his two sons, Rosmore Edward, 17 years old, and Eugene Joseph, 13, who were passengers with their mother, Mrs. Rose Abbott, 45 years old, on the Titanic, and were lost. The mother, he said, is in the New York Hospital in a dangerous condition from shock and fever. He was told that the body of the older boy had been recovered, and Mr. Abbott said he would go to Halifax to claim it.

Rhoda's physical recovery was slow, and she was one of the last survivors to be released from care at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City.

Her grief, however, knew no real end. Rhoda kept in touch with her cabin neighbors after the sinking, and in 1914, she wrote to Emily Goldsmith, and her grief was no less palpable for the passage of time.

I have so envied you with Frankie, and me losing both mine, but I trust that they are Better off out of this hard world...

I read by the papers the terrible weather you are having. I suppose Frank enjoys it. I know my little fellow used to when he was alive. I have his sled now that he used to enjoy so much, bless his little heart. I know he is safe in God’s keeping, but I miss him So Much.


Rhoda Abbott was the only woman to go down with Titanic and somehow survive.

And therefore, Rhoda, thereafter and for so long called "Rosa" or "Rose," was the only woman rescued from the water.

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“Like Locusts on a Midsummer Night”: Jack Thayer

"Like Locusts on a Midsummer Night": Jack Thayer

Jack Thayer boarded Titanic at all of 17 years old, as a First-Class passenger with his parents John and Marian, and Marian's maid Margaret Fleming.

Jack Thayer in his youth.


On April 14, at 11:40 p.m., Jack was winding his watch and preparing for bed when he felt the breeze coming from his open window stop altogether, and the engines ceased their turnings.

He wrote, "The sudden quiet was startling and disturbing. Like the subdued quiet in a sleeping car, at a stop, after a continuous run."

Throwing on a coat over his pajamas, Jack hollered to his parents he was "going out to see the fun" and went up to the boat deck, but noticed nothing out of the ordinary. He moved toward the bow and, as his vision became accustomed to the night, saw pieces of ice on the well deck.

Jack retrieved his parents. On the way, they all noted that Titanic was listing to port.

The Thayers returned immediately to their stateroom and dressed. Jack, in a fit of clarity, put on two vests and a coat to try to safeguard himself from the cold.

Jack, his parents, and Miss Fleming banded together on boat deck until the Women-And-Children-First decree, when they parted ways with Marian and her maid at the top of the Grand Staircase.

Jack and his father assumed Marian and Margaret were safely off the ship, until a steward informed them otherwise. They chased the ladies down, and while John, Marian, and Margaret wandered off looking for a lifeboat, Jack was left behind.

Jack's mother Marian circa 1900, taken when Jack was 6 or 7 years old.


It's possible that Jack was caught up in conversation with Milton Long, an acquaintance he'd only made earlier that same evening over coffee.

Jack and Milton went searching for boats, but the boys were impeded by the melee and missed out. At one point, they paused in between a set of empty lifeboat davits and traced a star's movement as it rose in between the davits, to determine how quickly the ship was going down.

Two collapsible boats were available, but the boys felt uneasy, having seen how precariously the traditional, all-wood lifeboats had been launched.

So they elected to remain on board Titanic instead of seeking placement in any of the collapsible lifeboats.

As Jack and Milton went back and forth on how to proceed, a man came out through a nearby door and staggered by, pounding down an entire bottle of gin as he went. Jack recalled thinking, "If I get out of this, that's one man I'll never see again."

Jack's father, John.


As the ship's angle grew more drastic, the boys heard "deadened explosions" within. Jack was haunted by the sound of it all.

It was like standing under a steel railway bridge while an express train passes overhead, mingled with the noise of a pressed steel factory and wholesale breakage of china.

Excerpt from "The Sinking of the S.S. Titanic" by Jack Thayer.

Jack wanted to jump in and swim for it as he saw people doing down by the stern, but Milton was reticent as he was not a strong swimmer. Eventually, though, Milton relented.

Milton climbed over the railing, and with his legs dangling down, paused and called back, "You are coming, boy, aren't you?" Jack said he'd be right behind him, and Milton slid down the side of the ship.

Jack never saw him again.

Milton Long's corpse was recovered by the Mackay-Bennett, and listed as follows.

CLOTHING - Black clothes; flannel vest, and black and white vest; white shirt marked "M. C. L."; handkerchief marked "M. C. L." (monogram), and brown boots.
EFFECTS - Gold wrist watch; gold ring with crest; three gold studs; keys; pocket box; £30.00 in gold; 12s. 1 1/2d. in purse; letter of credit.

Jack jumped in feet first almost immediately after Milton disappeared in the water. He guessed in his account that Milton was sucked in by the deck, instead of pushed out by the backwash as he himself had been only moments later.

Jack surfaced a fair distance away from the ship, and was transfixed by the sight.

The ship seemed to be surrounded with a glare and stood out of the night as though she were on fire. I watched her. I don’t know why I didn’t keep swimming away. Fascinated, I seemed tied to the spot. Already I was tired out with the cold and struggling, although the life preserver held my head and shoulders above the water.

Excerpt from "The Sinking of the S.S. Titanic" by Jack Thayer.

Jack Thayer's survival is particularly notable because he was one of the minority who insisted that Titanic had broken in half, and never faltered in his assertions.

Suddenly the whole superstructure of the ship appeared to split, well forward to midship, and blow or buckle upwards. The second funnel, large enough for two automobiles to pass through abreast, seemed to be lifted off, emitting a cloud of sparks. It looked as if it would fall on top of me. It missed me by only 20 or 30 feet. The suction of it drew me down and down.

Excerpt from "The Sinking of the S.S. Titanic" by Jack Thayer.

When Jack managed against all odds to resurface, he struck his head on the overturned Collapsible B lifeboat.

Jack was pulled up onto the back of the upside-down "canvas craft," where there were, he guessed, four or five other men already on board.

[Titanic's] deck was turned slightly toward us. We could see groups of the almost 1,500 people still aboard, clinging in clusters or bunches, like swarming bees; only to fall in masses, pairs or singly...

Here it seemed to pause, and just hung, for what felt like minutes. Gradually she turned her deck away from us, as though to hide from our sight the awful spectacle.

We had an oar on our overturned boat. In spite of several men working it, amid our cries and prayers, we were being gradually sucked in toward the great pivoting mass. I looked upwards — we were right underneath the three enormous propellers.

For an instant, I thought they were sure to come right down on top of us. Then, with the deadened noise of the bursting of her last few gallant bulkheads, she slid quietly away from us into the sea...

I don’t remember all the wild talk and calls that were going on on our boat, but there was one concerted sigh or sob as she went from view.

Probably a minute passed with almost dead silence and quiet. Then an individual call for help, from here, from there; gradually swelling into a composite volume of one long continuous wailing chant, from the 1,500 in the water all around us. It sounded like locusts on a midsummer night, in the woods in Pennsylvania.

Excerpt from "The Sinking of the S.S. Titanic" by Jack Thayer.

Jack wrote that, after the sinking, 28 men ended up on the back of Collapsible B.

Every moment was spent desperately trying to keep the upside-down lifeboat from going completely underwater by maintaining a precarious balance on its back.

For hours, all the men on board held utterly still in the oddest and most painful of positions, to keep from slipping into the lethally cold water.

We were standing, sitting, kneeling, lying, in all conceivable positions, in order to get a small hold on the half-inch overlap of the boat’s planking, which was the only means of keeping ourselves from sliding off... I was kneeling. A man was kneeling on my legs with his hands on my shoulders, and in turn somebody was on him. Once we obtained our original position we could not move.

Excerpt from "The Sinking of the S.S. Titanic" by Jack Thayer.

The men prayed.

They sang hymns.

And when daylight finally broke, the Carpathia followed slowly. The men moved to stand, shifting their weights to and fro to the counter the swells as the air pocket that kept the lifeboat afloat continued to diminish. Every moment, more water overtook it.

Finally, hearing the cries from Collapsible B, Lifeboats 4 and 12, which were lashed together, crept over to take the surviving men on board.

Jack's mother was on Lifeboat 4.

He did not notice her. She did not notice him.

The recovery of Collapsible B by the crew of the Mackay-Bennett.


When Jack reunited with his mother on Carpathia, she was reported to have embraced him and asked, "Where's daddy?"

Jack told her that he did not know.

John B. Thayer, Sr., did not survive, and his corpse was not recovered. For the remainder of his life, Jack was dogged by shame and remorse about his father. "I only wish I had kept on looking for my father. I should have realized that he would not have taken a boat, leaving me behind."

Jack was loaned pajamas and a bunk, and before crumpling into bed, he took a desperate shot of brandy, only then realizing it was his first encounter with hard liquor.

Once rested and in possession of his full faculties, Jack spoke with Carpathia passenger L.D. Skidmore, who, while listening to Jack's story, sketched his recollections of Titanic's break.

Jack Thayer's account of Titanic breaking, sketched by Carpathia passenger L.D. Skidmore as Jack spoke to him.


Jack kept a stiff upper lip and by all accounts, persevered to honor Titanic. When Colonel Archibald Gracie--a man whom Jack had shared space with on Collapsible B--passed away in December of 1912, Jack and his mother attended the funeral services.

And when Jack received a letter from the bereaved father of Milton Long, the friend that he had made while on board Titanic, Jack wrote the following reply.

My dear Sir:

I received your letter this morning. Mother and I were very touched by it. Words cannot express how much we sympathise with you and Mrs. Long.

...Your son was perfectly calm all the time and kept his nerve, even to the very end. I wish I had more to tell you, but I hope this will be of some comfort to you. I am sending you my picture, thinking you might like to see who was with him at the end. I would treasure it very much if you could spare me one of his.

With our heartfelt sympathy, believe me,

Sincerely yours, John B. Thayer, Jr.

Jack went on to graduate from UPenn and pursue a banking career, get married, and have six children: three daughters and three sons, although one boy did not survive infancy. Both of Jack's surviving sons, Edward and John, served in the Second World War.

Edward Thayer had signed on as a bomber pilot, and was lost in the conflict when his plane was shot down in the Pacific theater in 1943. His remains were never recovered.

And the following year, on April 14--the anniversary of Titanic's collision with the iceberg--Jack's mother died. Doubly and profoundly bereaved, Jack's depression deepened.

He went missing in September of 1945, when he was 50 years old. He hadn't been seen for days. When he was finally found, he was dead in his car, parked alongside a trolley loop in Philadelphia.

He had slit his wrists, as well as his own throat.

When Jack's belongings were posthumously sorted, a small booklet was discovered; produced in 1940, it was one of 500 copies made for family and friends.


Cornwall, Thomas [compiled & edited by.] "Titanic: The John B. "Jack" Thayer Jr. Chronicles." 2019.

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“Surrounded by Mothballs and Memories”: Quigg Baxter & Berthe Mayne

"Surrounded by Mothballs and Memories": Quigg Baxter & Berthe Mayne

The Baxters--matriarch Helene, her daughter Zette, and her son, Quigg--were an affluent family from Montreal. They had been traveling Europe through 1911, after Helene had sold her property in Montreal to absolve herself of her late husband's embezzling. I guess that's what you get when you marry yourself a man nicknamed "Diamond Jim."

Zette, 27, was married, and defied her husband's wishes by traveling with her family.

Quigg was 24, and had been a lauded football and hockey player back in his school days, until he was blinded by a stick to the eye in 1907. He continued to coach, though, and even set up one of the first international hockey tournaments in Paris.

Whiling away in a cafe in Brussels, Quigg met a young cabaret performer named Bella Vielly. Her real name was Berthe Antonine Mayne, and she was "well known in Brussels in circles of pleasure."

Quigg was mad about her, and they quickly fell into a secret affair. When he learned his family was returning stateside, he pleaded with Berthe to come back with him. She relented, and he purchased a ticket separate from and unknown to his family, installing his lover in a first-class cabin on C-Deck under the name Mme. De Villiers, a throwback to a prior lover of hers named Fernand de Villiers, a soldier in the French foreign legion who was eventually sent off to the Belgian Congo.

Helene Baxter had spent most of the journey on Titanic laid up with seasickness and nausea, and suffered weakness as a result.

When Titanic struck the iceberg, Quigg sought to discover what happened, and in so doing came across Captain Smith and Bruce Ismay in the hall. Captain Smith told him everything was just fine; Ismay, on the other hand, demanded that Quigg get his mother and sister to the lifeboats.

Helene had an anxiety attack when Titanic ceased moving, having taken comfort in the constant turning of the engine. Quigg carried his mother in his arms to the boat deck, and loaded her and his sister into Lifeboat 6.

He then went to fetch Berthe, and in what must have been the world's worst time to meet your future mother-in-law, Berthe was introduced to the Baxter women.

She did not want to get into the lifeboat, but Molly Brown helped persuade her. Quigg asked his mother and sister to be good to Berthe, and handed his mother his silver brandy flask. Now, the Baxter children had been raised to speak English to their father, and French to their mother, but it's reported that when he gave Helene the flask to keep warm with, she started in on him,wishing he wouldn't drink so much. But Quigg cut her off to ask if she was alright, and then bid everyone fare well.

Quigg Baxter died in the sinking. His body, if recovered, was never identified.

Helene Baxter never fully recovered from Titanic, and died in 1923. Zette moved to California, and according to her nephew, lived "surrounded by mothballs and memories" until her death on the last day of 1954.

And Berthe, the benefactor of the family's last promise to dear Quigg, stayed with the Baxters in Montreal for some time before returning to performance in Paris. She never married.

As an elderly woman, she told fanciful, ridiculous stories about having sailed on Titanic with a tragic Canadian millionaire, which no one in their right mind would believe. Until after her death in 1962, when her nephew discovered a curious shoebox among her effects.



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Alma Paulsson


Alma Palsson (Americanized: Paulson) was an immigrant from Sweden; she was 29 when she boarded Titanic as a third-class passenger with her four young children.

Alma had been waiting for enough funds for her husband, Nils, to purchase tickets so they might finally join him in Chicago. The children--daughters Torborg and Stina, sons Paul and Gosta--ranged in age from 2 to 8 years old.

Nils had emigrated to America after realizing that he didn't want to be a miner anymore, and that mining was pretty much the only gig around where the Palssons lived in Sweden.

He arrived in Chicago in 1910; after landing a job as a tram conductor, he set to saving up enough money for his family to reunite in their new country. Swedish immigrants were the third-most robust nationality on Titanic, after the British and the Americans.

When Titanic struck the iceberg, Alma apparently struggled to gather and dress her children. By the time they got to the boatdeck from steerage class, it was too late; all the lifeboats had gone.

Another Swede named August Wennerstrom tried to look after the patriarch-less family in their distress. He said that he tried desperately to hold onto two of the Palsson children as the water washed the deck, but they were swept away. Wennerstrom survived.

Little else is known about Alma and her children; she was not seen again until her corpse was recovered by the crew of the Mackay-Bennett. It is thought that she must have presented an eerie and heartbreaking sight when she was found floating on the sea, her fair hair undone around her beautiful face.

She was listed as follows.


Brown Coat; green cardigan; dark shirt; brown skirt under; boots; no stockings

Wedding ring; brass keeper; mouth organ; purse and two coins; a letter; 65 kroner; had four children with her; letter from husband, Neil Paulsson, 94 Townsend St, Chicago.

Memory persists of Alma playing songs on the listed mouth organ (a harmonica) for her frightened children as they waited helplessly for the ship's submersion.

None of the Palsson children, if recovered, were ever identified. For decades, it was assumed that little Gosta was Titanic's famed "Unknown Child," but genetic testing has at last proved otherwise.

An account of Nils Palsson's reaction exists, including his desperate attempts to find out if an orphaned boy was his son. At the White Star Offices in Chicago, Nils begged for information about his family.

He was told they were not listed on the roster of survivors.

In broken English, he hoped out loud that maybe they didn't sail.

Your family was on the boat, but none of them are accounted for.' The man on the other side of the counter was assisted to a seat. His face and hands were bathed in cold water before he became fully conscious.

He was finally assisted to the street by Gust Johnson, a friend who arrived with him. Paulson's grief was the most acute of any who visited the offices of the White Star, but his loss was the greatest. His whole family had been wiped out.

Nils eventually remarried and moved, where he planted 4 trees in his backyard to mourn and honor his lost family. Gosta, only two years old, was born after his father's departure; Nils never met his youngest son.

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