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“We Thought He Would Fiddle Himself Into Fame”: Violinist John Law Hume

"We Thought He Would Fiddle Himself Into Fame": Violinist John Law Hume

John Law Hume, who went by "Jock," was one of Titanic's violinists, and was from Dumfries, Scotland. He'd been playing on board ships since he was only 15, and saw Titanic as an opportunity to exercise his talents for a future in concert-playing.

Jock's stepmother apparently asked him not to travel on Titanic, having had nightmares that tragedy would befall him. He ignored her, because he needed extra money; he was getting married to his sweetheart Mary Costin in just a few weeks.

Titanic's orchestra. Jock Hume is pictured in the lower left corner.


Jock was by all accounts a merry and charming man. He was described by a former band-mate, Louis Cross, as "the life of every ship he ever played on and beloved of every one from cabin boys to captains."

He'd been a bright student with innate aptitude for the violin--a fact he was no doubt delighted by, given that his father liked to spin family mythologies about forebears being great Scottish composers and instrumentalists. Louis Cross also recalled that Jock boasted that his family had been full of "minstrels" in days long past.

He studied a great deal, although he could pick up without trouble difficult compositions that would have taken others long to learn.

© As cited in "The Band That Played On" by Steve Turner. 2011.

An unnamed childhood friend described Jock as "a happy-faced lad" and spoke to the great esteem felt for him and his musical talents.

No one was a greater favourite at school... In the old days we have heard him, in the old Shakespeare Street Theatre, playing till the curtain should rise on many a mimic tragedy. We thought he would fiddle himself into fame.

© As cited in "The Band That Played On" by Steve Turner. 2011.

Jock appears to have preferred moving about between tables when playing a saloon, and loved to engage with people--even having a bit of fun with uppity passengers.

For instance, according to Louis Cross, a lady was vexing Jock by being a right know-it-all. After giving Jock a very tiresome time, she requested a particularly intricate piece of classical music. Jock smiled, whispered to his band-mates and then they played--so beautifully, that the woman made the effort to thank them afterwards for accomplishing such a fabulously difficult classical number.

Except that it was actually ragtime, played super-slow.

Jock reported to Titanic with two violins in hand, as he was testing them to see which suited him best.

He was assigned to the five-man band led by Wallace Hartley, and which played during various occasions throughout the ship.

The Notoriously Unlucky Lucky Stewardess Violet Jessop wrote in her memoirs of Jock's exuberant performance on the evening of April 14, 1912. The two had known each other from their time on Titanic's elder sister, Olympic.

"On that Sunday evening, the music was at its gayest, led by young Jock the first violin... he laughingly called out to me in his rich Scotch accent, that he was about to give them a 'real tune, a Scotch tune, to finish up with.'"

From the memoirs of Stewardess Violet Jessop. © As cited in "The Band That Played On" by Steve Turner. 2011.

This was characteristically Jock, as far as any testimony can support. It was well-known that he loved to imbue otherwise staid pieces with some Scottish flair, and loved to play jigs.

Accounts such as Violet's have led to some speculation that Jock, not Wallace, was Titanic's bandleader, but this is misleading. Violet's memory, as well as others, was of a quartet. It's likely, though unable to be confirmed, that Jock casually joined up with the restaurant trio during his downtime from the five-piece band led by Wallace Hartley.

After the collision with the iceberg, Violet somehow bumped into Jock as he ran up the stairs.

I ran into Jock, the bandleader and his crowd with their instruments. 'Funny, they must be going to play,' though I, and at this late hour! Jock smiled in passing, looking rather pale for him, remarking, 'Just going to give them a tune to cheer things up a bit,' and passed on.

From the memoirs of Stewardess Violet Jessop. © As cited in "The Band That Played On" by Steve Turner. 2011.

Jock Hume was 21 years old when he died alongside his seven band-mates in the sinking of Titanic.

His corpse was one of only three orchestra members to be recovered by the Mackay-Bennett, on a day full of rain and fog.

Jock had had nothing personal on him, such as items bearing his initials, that would have indicated his identity. So a photo was taken of him in his coffin and was sent out to the White Star offices for identification.

Age, about 28 Hair, Light curly; clean shaven - Marks, None

CLOTHING - Light rain coat; uniform jacket with green facing and vest; purple muffler.

EFFECTS - Cigarette case; silver watch; empty purse; knife with carved pearl handle; mute; brass button with "African Royal Mail"; English lever watch.

Mere weeks after the sinking, Jock's father Andrew Hume received a bill from C.W. & F.N. Black, the Liverpool firm that employed musicians for shipwork, demanding compensation for Jock's uniform. Jock had, it turned out, had it cleaned and altered shortly before Titanic's departure.

[April 30, 1912]

Dear Sir,

We shall be obliged if you will remit to us the sum of 5s-4d, which is owing to us as per enclosed statement. We shall also be obliged if you will settle the enclosed uniform account.

Yours faithfully,

C.W. and F.N. Black

Andrew was so livid about the request that he forwarded it to the Amalgamated Musicians' Union. They published it with a single line of commentary from the editor: "Comment would be superfluous!"

But there was more outrage on Andrew Hume's horizon.

As it turned out, Jock had died never knowing that his fiancee, Mary Costin, was pregnant. Jock's family refused to accept the baby for years thereafter, even fighting Mary's claim in court during her pregnancy. They lost.

In turn, Mary, evidently wanting to make her daughter's paternity perfectly clear, named her daughter Johnann Law Hume.

Then, in 2015, Jock Hume re-entered the news when his grandson, Christopher Ward, discovered that Jock had another secret: that while in the Caribbean, young Jock had fathered a son with a Jamaican barmaid named Ethel. She had given birth in 1911.

Ward learned of it because in researching his genealogy, he was given a document that listed Mary and Ethel, across the world from one another, having both filed for compensation for their fatherless babies.


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“Nearer, My God, to Thee”: Bandmaster Wallace Hartley

"Nearer, My God, To Thee": Bandmaster Wallace Hartley

Wallace Hartley is one of Titanic's famed heroes: the bandleader who played until he was swallowed by the sea, along with his seven-man orchestra. It was and still is considered "one of the noblest in the annals of heroism at sea."

Bandmaster Wallace Hartley.


Wallace Hartley was from Lancashire, England, and was engaged to be married to Maria Robinson when he was asked to transfer from Cunard's Mauretania to be Titanic's bandmaster for her maiden voyage.

Wallace was described by his friend, Thomas Hyde, as "a very nice lad" who was "incapable of anything mean," despite being "a bit what you might call 'roughish.'"

We also know that Wallace hated the 9-to-5 life, because he took an job as a bank clerk under pressure from his father, who didn't want him to pursue a musician's lifestyle for fear of financial insecurity. Wallace found work in a mundane office "irksome".

Wallace was an outstanding musician, though his fellow classmate didn't recall him being a prodigy when they started violin together at school around age 12. But the headmaster's son wrote in 1958 of Wallace having had notable talent from the start... and some really cool toys.

He was one of my heroes, for I knew from the talk of my elders that he was already a musician of repute, but more definitely because he possessed a bicycle.

As cited in © "The Band That Played On" by Steve Turner.

So in 1912, Wallace signed on to Titanic.

Having only just proposed Maria, rumor is that Hartley was reticent to leave his fiancee, but ultimately accepted the position because a) repairs to the Mauretania had recently left him without work for about two months and b) he could make more connections for future gigs.

Wallace wrote what was fated to be his last letter home on April 11, 1912, and sent it off to be taken ashore at Queenstown before Titanic sped for open sea.

This is a fine ship and there ought to be plenty of money around. We have a fine band and the boys seem very nice. I miss coming home very much and it would have been nice to have seen you all, if only for an hour or two, but I could not manage it. Shall probably arrive home on the Sunday morning.

All love,


As cited in © "The Band That Played On" by Steve Turner.

A lesser-known fact is that Titanic's band was actually split into two independently functioning units: Wallace's, which played at dinners and Sunday services, and a second three-man, violin-cello-piano unit that stationed themselves in the room outside the entrance to the The Restaurant and Cafe Parisien.

It's most often reported that it was Wallace who roused his fellow musicians to go to the First Class Lounge and play after Titanic struck the iceberg, although there's speculation that he did so under the instruction of Chief Purser Hugh McElroy or even Captain Smith.

Multiple witnesses attested to them playing light, happy tunes, as well as ragtime. But at the end, Wallace tapped at his violin and began to lead the band in what would become one of the most contested piece of trivia in Titanic lore: The Last Song.

Harold Bride, the Junior Marconi Operator, really threw the wrench in this, because he testified that he heard "Autumn".

From what is known about Bride, though, he had no aptitude for music. He had also been working at the wireless all night, and may have had difficulty with his memory following his survival in the water.

However wrong he was about the song, though, his testimony is no less moving.

...I guess all the band went down. They were playing 'Autumn' then…The way the band kept playing was a noble thing. I heard it while still we were working wireless, when there was a ragtime tune for us, and the last I saw of the band, when I was floating out in the sea with my lifebelt on, it was still on deck playing 'Autumn.' How they ever did I cannot imagine.

Harold Bride's statement to the New York Times, as reported in the April 19, 1912, issue. As cited in © "The Band That Played On" by Steve Turner.

Most witnesses, however, report that the band played the hymn "Nearer, My God, to Thee".

This makes sense. It was the official hymn played graveside for every member of the Musicians Union.

It was also one of Wallace's favorites--he even introduced it to his congregation as a musician back home. Moreover, a band-mate of Wallace's from Mauretania reported to the Daily Sketch that years before, he asked Wallace how he would conduct himself if he were on the deck of a sinking ship. Wallace told him that he'd get his orchestra together and play either "O God, Our Help In Ages Past" or "Nearer, My God, to Thee."

The eight men of the Titanic orchestra played for over an hour, some wearing lifebelts. Eyewitness reports attest to the water climbing from their ankles to their knees.

Still, they played on.

As things became more grave, Wallace reassembled the orchestra on the boat deck, near the entrance to the Grand Staircase. Only minutes before the ship split, at around 2:10 a.m., the entire band was washed away.

Wallace Hartley was 33 years old.

His body was recovered by the crew of the Mackay-Bennett, and was list as follows.


"CLOTHING - Uniform (green facing); brown overcoat; black boots; green socks.

EFFECTS - Gold fountain pen, "W.H.H."; diamond solitaire ring; silver cigarette case; letters; silver match box, marked "W.H.H., from Collingson's staff. Leeds"; telegram to Hotley, Bandmaster "Titanic"; nickel watch; gold chain; gold cigar holder; stud; scissors; 16s; 16 cents; coins.


Wallace's body was returned to his hometown in May 1912, and his funeral was held in the same church where he had once been a choirboy.

Wallace's eulogy was delivered by Thomas Worthington, a preacher who was a family friend of the Hartleys.

The unexpected happened; the unthinkable occurred. The ship that everyone thought could not sink is now two miles at the bottom of the Atlantic.

But our friend kept his word. The inevitable command to get the boats ready in the middle of that dark but clear Sunday night, with the subsequent order "Women and children first" found those hands, now stiff in death, gliding along the strings of that beloved violin and guiding the companion stick, producing the tune that at once became articulate and interpreted the desires of many hearts as they were lifted to heaven.. This was done until the waves claimed both him and his violin.

As cited in © "The Band That Played On" by Steve Turner.

The final hymn, of course, was "Nearer, My God, To Thee."

As the mourners slowly filed out, Maria came forward toward the altar. She laid down the tribute she'd brought onto the brass plaque that adorned the lid of her fiance's coffin: a floral cross made of deep red roses, tied up with a message.

"O teach me from my heart to say 'Thy will be done.'"

Upward of 1,000 people were in attendance to pay respects to Wallace, and an estimated 30,000-40,000 more people lined his funeral route.

It took over an hour for the cortege, accompanied by nine carriages, eight brass bands, and myriad representives, dignitaries, and police officers, to make its way through the streets, crowded as they were with mourners.

When they at last reached the cemetery, twelve pallbearers carried Wallace's coffin from the gates to the Hartley family sepulcher.

Still, some have blamed the band for giving passengers the wrongful impression that the situation was not as dire as it truly was. But by a number of contemporary accounts, this was essentially the point: to keep the passengers calm by playing frivolous tunes, so as not to cause alarm.

And it appeared to have worked to calm nerves that were fraught and raw. Second Officer Charles Lightoller was glad of the band's presence and their selection in the face of death. "I could hear the band playing a cheery sort of music," he said. "I don't like jazz music as a rule, but I was glad to hear it that night. I think it helped us all."

Others, such as First-Class passenger Colonel Archibald Gracie, insisted the band never played at all. Moreover, he insisted that if they had, and played "Nearer, My God, To Thee," that he would have been outraged.

I assuredly should have noticed it and regarded it as a tactless warning of immediate death to us and one likely to create a panic that our special efforts were directed towards avoiding.

As cited in © "The Band That Played On" by Steve Turner.

There were also dissenters to the posthumous lauds for the band, specifically because their deaths should not have occurred to begin with. Joseph Conrad, for instance, wrote with weary disdain--not for the bandmembers themselves, but for the saccharine spectacle of it all.

I, who am not a sentimentalist, think it would have been finer if the band of the Titanic had been quietly saved, instead of being drowned while playing--whatever tune they were playing, poor devils. I would rather that they had been saved to support their families... I am not consoled by the false, written-up, Drury Lane aspects of that event, which is neither drama, nor melodrama, nor tragedy, but the exposure of arrogant folly... And that's the truth. The unsentimental truth stripped of the romantic garment the press has wrapped around this most unnecessary disaster.

As cited in © "The Band That Played On" by Steve Turner.

Wallace Hartley's violin was returned to his bereaved fiancee.

After decades in an attic, it was painstakingly authenticated and auctioned in 2013 for $1.6 million, the most that has ever been paid for a Titanic artifact.


Turner, Steve. "The Band That Played On." Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2011.

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“I Can Look Back and See Every Detail”: Lawrence Beesley

“I Can Look Back and See Every Detail”: Lawrence Beesley

Lawrence Beesley was an accomplished science teacher, having graduated from Cambridge with honors in 1902. And while doing his post-grad at his first assignment at a grammar school, he discovered a rare algae that was named after him, called Ulvella Beesleyi.

Lawrence then went on to take a job at Dulwich College in London, where one of his students was future novelist Raymond Chandler.

Lawrence's wife passed away at only 37 years old. They had one child, Alec, who would grow up to marry Dodie Smith, the author of "101 Dalmatians".

So in 1912, after two years of grief and personal upheaval, Lawrence decided to take a long-overdue holiday to see his brother in Toronto.

Second-Class entrance on R.M.S. Olympic, circa 1911. Courtesy of Bedford Lemere & Co.


Beesley boarded the Titanic as a second-class passenger on April 10, 1912, in Southampton.

His accommodations were ideally suited to his tastes. He wrote, “I had been fortunate enough to secure a two-berth cabin to myself, - D56, quite close to the saloon and most convenient in every way for getting about the ship."

Like any true academic would, Beesley mused extensively in his memoir of the disaster--the very first published--about the Second-Class library, which he visited on the afternoon of April 14, 1912.

I can look back and see every detail...the beautifully furnished room, with lounges, armchairs, and small writing or card tables scattered about, writing bureaus round the walls of the room, and the library in glass-cased shelves flanking one side—the whole finished in mahogany relieved with white fluted wooden columns that supported the deck above.

Excerpt from "The Loss of the S.S. Titanic" by Lawrence Beesley, published in 1912.

Beesley was reading in his room when the collision happened. Being on D Deck and above the point of impact, and with Titanic being so large, he felt it as nothing more than "an extra heave of the engines" and thought maybe the ship has sped up.

It wasn't until the incessant white noise of the engines stopped entirely, and Beesley noticed that the top of his mattress was no longer vibrating with their churning, that he knew something was wrong.

The Second-Class Library on R.M.S. Olympic, which was identical to Titanic's.


Beesley stopped a steward in the hall and was assured that there was no cause for concern. Beesley dressed and went up to the boat deck, and was summarily dismissed.

On his way downstairs, Lawrence noted that even though the stairs appeared level, his footfall was out of balance, and he knew the ship was sinking. So he went to his room, dressed warmly, stuffed some books in his pockets, and returned to the boat deck.

This time, with no women and children in the vicinity, Lawrence Beesley was instructed by an officer to jump into Lifeboat 13.

Beesley not only survived the sinking itself, but also had a near miss when Lifeboat 13 drifted under Lifeboat 15 as it was being lowered, threatening to crush the occupants of Lifeboat 13. It was thanks to Lead Fireman Frederick Barrett that no one was harmed. Barrett managed to cut the ropes in time under great duress, saving seventy lives.

"Leaving the Sinking Liner" by Charles Dixon for The Graphic, published April 27, 1912, depicting lifeboats 13 & 15's near-calamity.


BeeLawrence sley later described the sinking in poignant detail, making note of the ship's unnerving stillness and "the slow, insensible way she sank lower and lower into the sea, like a stricken animal" whose will to live had been lost.

In the dark after the sinking, he tried to calm a crying baby in the lifeboat by tucking a blanket about its toes, and in the course of conversation with the woman holding the baby, found out they had some mutual friends back in Ireland.

Lawrence Beesley went on to write his memoir, The Loss of the S.S. Titanic, while he was in America; it was published less than eight months after the disaster.

Its contents have proved invaluable to researchers seeking answers to questions about weather conditions, life and accommodations on board, and the last moments of the dead. For instance, Lawrence Beesley was adamant upon the issue of giving special recognition to the doomed bandmembers for their valor.

Many brave things were done that night, but no more brave than by those few men playing minute after minute as the ship settled quietly lower and lower in the sea.

Excerpt from "The Loss of the S.S. Titanic" by Lawrence Beesley.

Lawrence returned to England on a Cunard liner--reportedly because the White Star Line was the competitor--and never traveled or went to sea again.

He eventually remarried and had three more children. His daughter recalled a single family outing to the beach, and said that her father kept his back to the ocean the whole time.

He also became a notable writer and golfer, and he notoriously crashed the set of the 1958 film "A Night to Remember," in hopes of having a renewed chance to go down with the ship. The director ultimately had him removed.

Lawrence Beesley died in 1967 when he was almost 90 years old.


Beesley, Lawrence. "The Loss of the S.S. Titanic." Houghton Mifflin Company, 1912. Rpt. by Mariner Books, 2000.

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“Deep In Desolate Thought”: Masabumi Hosono

“Deep in Desolate Thought”: Masabumi Hosono

Masabumi Hosono was 42 years old when he boarded Titanic as a Second-Class passenger in Southampton.

Hosono was a highly regarded civil servant of the Japanese government. After a brief stint at Mitsubishi, Hosono entered into a career working for the Ministry of Transport.

Having been a graduate of the Russian Department at the Tokyo School of Foerign Languages, Hosono had been sent to Russia in 1910 to study the country's railroad system.

Having done his duty by the beginning of 1912, Hosono elected to head home. He first stopped in London, and then boarded Titanic in Southampton.

Masabumi Hosono.


Hosono slept through the collision on April 14.

He was awoken by knocking at his door around midnight, when a steward ordered Hosono to put on his lifevest. Hosono immediately made his way up to the boatdeck but was turned away and directed to the lower level--as a Japanese man, he was mistaken for a steerage passenger.

Hosono stated that he succeeded in his third attempt to get up on deck, having evaded the notice of a guard.

Hosono later wrote about the scene on deck.

"flares signalling emergency were being shot into the air ceaselessly, and hideous blue flashes and noises were simply terrifying. Somehow I could in no way dispel the feeling of utter dread and desolation."

Citation courtesy of Encyclopedia Titanica.

Hosono mentally prepared himself to die with the honor befitting his countrymen, but he stated that he still found himself seeking any opportunity for survival.

So when an unnamed officer lowering a nearby lifeboat called out, “Room for two more!” and Hosono witnessed a man jump in, he decided to follow suit.

‘I myself was deep in desolate thought that I would no more be able to see my beloved wife and children, since there was no alternative for me than to share the same destiny as the Titanic. But the example of the first man making a jump led me to take this last chance.'

Citation courtesy of Encyclopedia Titanica.

On board the Carpathia, Masabumi Hosono began to write his survivor account.

He repurposed some Titanic stationary that he had initially intended to use to write a letter to his wife.

Dated April 10, 1912, he crossed out the letter’s original beginning—"My Dearest, I am now on board of the SS Titanic”—and proceeded to recount his daily experiences.

He was bored, he wrote, and wracked with nerves from poor weather conditions—he feared another sinking. The conditions were terribly crowded, as the Carpathia was accommodated hundreds of Titanic passengers alongside their own.

And he was isolated. He was reportedly treated with relentless suspicion. He sought sleep in the Smoking Room when he could manage to find a space, but he tended to avoid it otherwise as he claimed seamen ridiculed him throughout the journey.


’Because they are a good-for-nothing band of seamen, anything I say falls of deaf ears… [on the last day] I talked a little about myself; I showed them a bulldog tenacity and finally gained a bit of respect.’

At first, Masabumi Hosono hardly registered among the hundreds the survivor stories. Once he had arrived in New York City, he found his way to friends to ask for help in making his way home, then went on to San Francisco where he departed at last for Japan.

Back home in Tokyo, he was interviewed by multiple periodicals, one of which included a photograph of Hosono with his family.

Shortly thereafter, disgrace came.

Colonel Archibald Gracie, a blustery, a First-Class American who survived the sinking on the back of Collapsible B, released his harrowing account of the sinking.

In it, he referred to Masabumi Hosono as a "Japanese stowaway."

Archibald Gracie IV, whose account of Masabumi Hosono was negative.


Furthermore, witness testimony at the American Senate Hearing damned Hosono, even though it was hearsay in which he was never named.

When asked if there were any make passengers in his lifeboat, crewmember Edward Buley testified that he saw none but was later told that there were “a couple of Japanese” men in the boat. “They never got in our boat,” Buley testified, “unless they came in there dressed as women.”

And that was enough to condemn Masabumi Hosono.

To date, stories such as these are entirely unsubstantiated. Unfortunately, they are never the less predictable—there was, and still is, a fervent game of blame about the Titanic disaster. And no surviving White Star employee wanted to invite the shame of letting imperiled women and children die all for the sake of men.

The esteemed and accomplished Masabumi Hosono lost his job in 1913, fired for his grave dishonor in the Titanic disaster.

He was reportedly referenced in textbook as an exemplia grata of shameful behavior, an ethics professor declared him immoral, though said source materials have yet to be located. Periodicals denounced him.

In short, Masabumi Hosono was entirely ostracized. But being so adept in his field, Hosono was eventually rehired by the Ministry of Transport, and he worked there until his death in 1939, at the age of 68.

But the shame of his ignoble escape continued to cast its pall over his descendants.

In 1997, the Hosono family wrote a letter to thank director James Cameron for not further villifying the family name.

Masabumi Hosono’s private account of his experience, written on board the Carpathia, was discovered hidden at the bottom of a drawer by his granddaughter.

It was subsequently published.

With the release of the film and the passage of time, Masabumi Hosono’s family has at last been granted exoneration. His grandson, an orchestral musician named Haruomi Hosono, attested to feeling “extremely relieved. Honor has been restored to the Hosonos.”

Masabumi Hosono's account of the Titanic disaster.


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“A Costly Thing, Studded With Diamonds”: John Jacob Astor IV

"A Costly Thing, Studded With Diamonds": Colonel John Jacob Astor IV

John Jacob Astor--who went by Jack--is one of Titanic's most famous passengers because he was The Richest Man On the Ship, although it's been my experience that less people realize he did in fact die in the sinking.

Wildly wealthy, John Jacob Astor and his second wife--who was 19 to his 47--were returning from their honeymoon abroad in Egypt and France, which they were ending early because of her unexpected pregnancy. The Astors boarded Titanic in Cherbourg, France, with Mrs. Astor's maid and nurse, Col. Astor's valet, and the Astors' dog, an Airedale named Kitty.

John Jacob Astor IV, circa 1909.


Many of the American elites had recently come to disdain the Astors because of Jack's hasty remarriage to such a young girl. One of the few who didn't pass judgment, however, was fellow First-Class passenger Molly Brown, who had traveled with the happy couple in Europe, and coincidentally also needed to abbreviate her travels and head home on Titanic.

The Washington Times, dated August 3, 1911.


Astor was a Harvard alum; he was a very intelligent man, and considered eccentric by some. In addition to the real-estate that comprised his fortune, he also tried his hand at writing science fiction in the 1890s; he published a novel exploring life on other planets in the faraway year of 2000, called "A Journey in Other Worlds".

He was also fascinated by technological advancements, and was known to invent certain things to make life's little tasks easier--a bicycle brake--and things to make the world better--a better turbine engine. He was also fond of motor cars.

Astor in his motor car, circa 1903. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.


Astor served in the US Army during the Spanish-American War and offered his yacht for commission by the US Navy. His service was not entirely appreciated by the American public; his minimal involvement in combat was rewarded with an honorary promotion to colonel. It was his chosen form of address for the rest of his life.

Astor in military uniform.


Astor roused his wife immediately after the collision, assuring her the damage was "not serious." While waiting on deck for a lifeboat, the young Mrs. Astor offered her shawl to a third-class passenger, to keep her child warm.

Now concerned with the cold while waiting on deck, the Astors went into the gymnasium, taking seats on the mechanical horses. It was during this time that Titanic's First-Class Barber Augustus Weikman found Jack and fellow millionaire George Widener watching some other men have a go at the punching bags.

The Colonel was also reportedly witnessed in the gymnasium slicing open a life-jacket with a pen knife to show his nervous wife the contents therein.

Madeleine Force Astor circa 1915. From the George Grantham Bain Collection, courtesy of Library of Congress.


It was Second Officer Charles Lightoller who refused Jack a seat in Lifeboat 4, even though Astor indicated his wife was "in a delicate condition."

Jack took the refusal gracefully, asking what lifeboat number it was in order to find her later. And then, stepping back, The Colonel lit a cigarette with another doomed man.

Conflicting reports persist of Colonel Astor stepping aside, or otherwise giving up his seat to children and selflessly assisting other women into lifeboats. This imagined heroism is a common theme with notable men who died on Titanic; they are, however, often unsubstantiated.

The Astors with their beloved Airedale Terrier, named Kitty.


Mrs. Astor's maid and nurse both survived.

John Jacob Astor IV, as well as his valet Victor Robins, both perished.

John Jacob Astor's body was recovered by the crew of the Mackay-Bennett on April 22, 1912, one of just over three hundred. The condition of his corpse remains a source of speculation, as it would likely indicate his precise cause of death: hypothermia, drowning, or--as rumor has dictated--the brute injury of being crushed by a falling funnel.

However he met his end, Titanic's wealthiest victim was labeled as follows.


CLOTHING – Blue serge suit; blue handkerchief with "A.V."; belt with gold buckle; brown boots with red rubber soles; brown flannel shirt; "J.J.A." on back of collar.

EFFECTS – Gold watch; cuff links, gold with diamond; diamond ring with three stones; £225 in English notes; $2440 in notes; £5 in gold; 7s. in silver; 5 ten franc pieces; gold pencil; pocketbook.


While a great deal of attention was paid to his dazzling effects, there is no mention of damage to Astor's body.

In fact, Mackay-Bennett crewmember Gerald Ross reported the following in his interview with the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, further demonstrating that, contrary to popular belief, it would appear that John Jacob Astor had not, in fact, been crushed.

I saw the recovery of Col. Astor’s body. Like the others it was floating buoyed by a lifebelt. Both arms extended upwards. The face was swollen, one jaw was injured. His body was clothed in a business suit and tan shoes. His watch, a costly thing, studded with diamonds, was dangling from his pocket. It had stopped at 3:20. Practically all the other watches on bodies we recovered had stopped at 2:10. His watch chain was of platinum and so were the settings of the rings he wore.

Colonel Astor's fame and societal prominence invited much in the way of tall tales and un-truths that persist even today.

For instance, it's been rumored that Astor himself let all the passenger dogs loose from their kennels, although how he would have managed to go from the boat deck to F-deck and back again--all while in the company of his panicked wife and prominent friends--remains to be reasoned out.

And then there's the myth that he was idle at the bar when Titanic struck the iceberg and decided to quip, "I asked for more ice, but this is ridiculous."

By all accounts, John Jacob Astor IV wasn't one for humor.


New York American dated April 16, 1912.


Madeleine Astor gave birth to a son in August of 1912. Named after his late father, he was nicknamed "Jakey". He was often called the "Titanic Baby" by the press.

Jakey died in 1992.



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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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Dogs on Titanic

Dogs on Titanic

Animals weren't scarce on Titanic.

Aside from Jenny the Ship Cat, whose premonitory departure at Southampton with her litter has already been outlined, there were also a number of fancy-breed French roosters and hens, a canary that is oft-misreported as going down with the ship, and countless rats, as on every ship in the history of humanity.

And of course, there were about a dozen dogs.

Dogs were only permitted if they belonged to first-class passengers, but there were no size restrictions. They included two Pomeranians, a Pekinese named Sun-Yat-Sen owned by the Harper family (as in, Harper Collins Publishers), and a toy dog named Freu Freu that was "too pretty [to stay in the kennels]" and belonged to Helen Bishop.

Larger dogs included Ann Isham's Great Dane or St. Bernard (my research leads me to believe the latter), John Jacob Astor's Airedale, Kitty.

The Carter family brought two dogs on board: their unnamed King Charles Spaniel, and their own Airedale Terrier. The latter belonged to their young son Billy.

And the most valuable canine passenger was an all-black French Bulldog named Gamin de Pycombe, who was a recent purchase of Robert Daniel's that cost the obscene equivalent of almost $14,000 today.

First-Class passenger Robert W. Daniel. courtesy of N.A.R.A.


As fun as Gamin's name is, best-named Titanic dogs go to Harry Anderson's chow-chow, named Chow-Chow, and a Fox Terrier aptly named Dog. Captain Smith's Russian Foxhound, Ben, spent only one night on board, then was taken back home by Smith's daughter before Titanic set sail.

Captain E.J. Smith and his wolfhound Ben. Published in contemporary accounts.

PUBLIC DOMAIN (taken & published prior to 1923)

The dogs were kenneled on F Deck and looked after by the ship's carpenter. They were exercised and taken out for bathroom breaks daily. There were even enough purebreds on board that Titanic's schedule for Monday, April 15, 1912, actually called for a mini-dog show in the morning.

We all know what happened instead.

Of the 12 dogs confirmed to have been on board, 3 survived: the two Pomeranians and Sun-Yat-Sen the Pekinese, who were all smuggled or otherwise permitted on the lifeboats because they were so small

A Pomeranian circa 1915. Of the three dogs saved from Titanic, two were Pomeranians.


Little Freu Freu, clearly sensing dismay, pulled desperately on Helen Bishop's dress as she left for the boat deck. Helen reluctantly left Freu Freu behind in her room, feeling that to insist on saving her dog when people could die was indecent. She said it broke her heart.

The larger dogs clearly could not be secreted to safety, but that was only one reason for their demise. Recall that the dogs were locked in their kennels below deck.

This changed, however, when a still-unknown Samaritan made their way down to F Deck despite the rising water and freed the dogs, undoubtedly trying to give them a fair shot at survival, or at least a less inhumane end.

Rumors still circulate that their savior was John Jacob Astor himself; this is unverifiable, though one can guess at its origins.

Jack Astor and his wife were both extremely protective of Kitty, especially since she had been lost as they traveled the Nile on their honeymoon in Egypt. Luckily, Kitty was discovered on another American family's passing boat and returned to the Astors, who offered a sizeable reward.

Kitty apparently was most often found in sleeping in the Astors' suites instead of in the Titanic's kennels, and Astor walked her on deck every day. When Astor lifted his pregnant wife through a window and into a lifeboat, it's reported that she begged him to go find Kitty.

Some witnesses say it's the last they saw of John Jacob Astor.

The Astors with their Airedale Terrier, Kitty. Jack Astor and Kitty would both die in the sinking.


Astor is also associated with the Carter family's unnamed Airedale, who belonged to their 11-year-old son, Billy.

Billy absolutely adored his dog. He had him on a leash while waiting for a lifeboat, but the dog was refused a spot on the lifeboat. Billy, in tears, was reassured by Astor that his dog would be well taken care of, no matter what.

Billy declined to speak much of the sinking even as an adult, being so traumatized with guilt over leaving his dog behind. The most he did say was that he last saw him sitting, still leashed, beside the preternaturally calm John Jacob Astor.

The Carters filed a $100 claim for their Spaniel, $200 for their Airedale, and $5,000 for their Renault car in Titanic's cargo hold... Yes, that's the Sexy Time Handprint Car in the 1997 movie.

As the ship sank, all the dogs left on board were seen running in a frantic herd up and down the sloping deck. Mrs. Astor said this is when she last saw Kitty, pacing back and forth. Frou Frou died locked in Bishop's room; no one knows how long Chow-Chow and Dog survived.

But this was not the last sighting of Titanic's dogs.

First-Class passenger and world-famous tennis player Richard Norris Williams was struggling to keep his head above the freezing water in the moments after Titanic submerged.

Breaking the surface, he came face to face with the last thing he would have expected in the middle of the nighttime ocean: Gamin de Pycombe the Extraordinarily Expensive French Bulldog, paddling for his own life in the swarm.

French Bulldog (not Gamin) circa 1915.


Gamin, was said to having been heard crying when the chaos began by Edith Russell, whose cabin neighbored Daniels'.

Edith went inside and pet the dog and put him to bed. He was fed a treat and "was very obedient and sat there and looked at me sweetly as I closed the door. I did not know then that we were in any great danger or else I would have taken him with me."

Gamin was presumably let loose from the room shortly thereafter, given Williams' encounter.

The last sighting of any of Titanic's doomed dogs was of that reportedly belonging to First-Class passenger Ann Isham.

Ms. Isham's dog is most commonly reported to have been a Great Dane, but I'm still looking for the primary source of this information; I believe that it comes from a widely circulated photo of three dogs on a ship deck (including a Dane) that is meant to represent the Titanic dogs. But don't be fooled; this photo does not portray any of Titanic's dogs. In fact, it was not taken on Titanic at all.

Photo erroneously cited as being of dogs on board Titanic.


What is rumored is that Ann Isham, a First-Class woman, supposedly refused to take her seat in a lifeboat if she could not take her dearest dog with her.

Days later, the German ship SS Bremen sailed past Titanic's wreck site. Bremen passenger Johanna Stunke wrote that as the ship passed, everyone observed in horrified silence.

Looking down over the rail we distinctly saw a number of bodies so clearly that we could make out what they were wearing, and whether they were men or women.

We saw one woman in her nightdress, with a baby clasped closely to her breast. Several of the women passengers screamed, and left the rail in a fainting condition.

There was another woman, fully dressed, with her arms tight around the body of a shaggy dog that looked like a St. Bernard. The bodies of three men in a group, all clinging to one steamer chair floated close by, and just beyond them were a dozen bodies of men, all in life-preservers, clinging together, as though in the last desperate struggle for life.

© Excerpt from "Lost Voices of the Titanic: The Definitive Oral History" by Nick Barratt, St. Martin's Press. 2010.

It makes sense if the dead woman was, in fact, Ann Isham. There is, however, is no way to verify it, or to find out to whom the shaggy dog belonged. Ann Isham, for note, was one of only four First-Class women to die in the sinking.

The final Titanic dog never existed to begin with, even though many people still think he did. This made-up hero dog was a black Newfoundland named Rigel belonging to First Officer William Murdoch.

Newfoundland, circa 1915.


Rigel supposedly rescued and aided victims throughout the night, and even barked to prevent the Carpathia from running exhausted survivors over.

This story, while heartwarming and novel--a Newfie in the ice-cold Atlantic rescuing people as Newfies are bred to do, how convenient--was first published as told by a Carpathia crewman named Jonas Briggs. But a) there is no record of a Newfie on Titanic, b) Murdoch's widow insisted he never owned a dog, and c) there is no record of a Jonas Briggs on Carpathia.

Moreover, Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall, who was in the first lifeboat to be picked up Carpathia, made no mention of Rigel, which one would think he would had something so extraordinary occurred.

So, as awesome as Rigel was, he was only that awesome because he was imagined that way. But this has not stopped the story from circulating, even today.

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Dining Facilities

Dining On Board

Behold, what First-Class passengers were eating for lunch on April 12, 1912.

There is a noticeable disparity in quality to the modern eye between this fare and the menu options for Second and Third Class, but in 1912, First-Class passengers had never felt more adored, and Second- and Third-Class passengers had never felt more privileged.

The White Star Line commissioned work with various companies for proprietary silverware, china, dishes, pots, and state-of-the-art electric equipment for the kitchens. All menu items were coordinated by 2nd Steward Andrew Latimer, whose recipe book was left behind in Southampton.

First-Class passengers had a dining saloon. They also had exclusive access to the Verandah Cafe, which was more often called 'the Palm Court' because of its trellis walls cloaked in ivy and its potted plants on pretty tile floors. It was also replete with wicker chairs and oversized windows to make full use of the soft light.

The Palm Court on R.M.S. Olympic.


They were also privy to "The Restaurant," which was available exclusively to their class of ticket.

Tables in The Restaurant had to be reserved in advance; lucky passengers could even get a seat with Captain Smith, or White Star Chairman J. Bruce Ismay. An Italian restauranteur was in charge of The Restaurant; he in turn brought in his head chef from Olympic, a Frenchman by the name of Rousseau.

Adjacent to The Restaurant was Cafe Parisien, which the White Star Line hyped as a "charming sun-lit veranda, tastefully decorated in French trellis-work with ivy and other creeping plants." It was, naturally, exclusive to First Class.

Moreover, Cafe Parisien was also exclusive to Titanic herself, as it had been installed to replace what was an oft-untrod promenade deck on her older sister ship Olympic.

Cafe Parisien on Titanic. Taken by Robert John Welch for Harland & Wolff.


First-Class passengers could also get room service. Given how gargantuan Titanic was, a hot water jacket was used to keep the meals warm on the commute from kitchen to suite, which had a separate dining area.

Second-Class options were expectedly less highfalutin.

The Second-Class dining area hosted crewmembers as well as passengers, and its kitchen was shared with First Class, but the diners did not enjoy all the same luxuries.

For instance, silverware, although likewise silver-plated, was more utilitarian. Whereas First-Class passengers were given the extremely vital grape scissors at their tables, for example, Second-Class passengers were expected to pull the wanted grape from its bunch by hand.

In addition to Second Class, Titanic had a dining area for the maids and servants of first-class passengers on C Deck, which was accessed just off the Grand Staircase. Their silver napkin rings were engraved with the word "SERVANTS," lest they forgot themselves.

Third Class had plainer fare but no want for enthusiasm.

The Second-Class Dining Saloon on Titanic's elder sister, R.M.S. Olympic, circa 1911.


In addition to Second Class, Titanic had a dining area for the maids and servants of first-class passengers on C Deck, which was accessed just off the Grand Staircase. Their silver napkin rings were engraved with the word "SERVANTS," lest they forgot themselves.

Third Class had plainer fare but no want for enthusiasm.

Many Third-Class passengers had never eaten better--or received better treatment--than they had on board. Not only were the chairs unbolted to the floor as was customary for Third Class, but the tables had linens, and they were given tissue napkins printed with the White Star logo.

In a marketing bid, Third-Class passengers were encouraged to keep their menus, which doubled as a postcard that White Star hoped they would send back home, thereby enticing their family and friends to buy a steerage ticket and experience the luxury. Despite the opulence that so often springs to mind at the mention of the RMS Titanic, First-Class tickets were not White Star's bread and butter: steerage, thanks to immigration to America, paid the bills.

Third-Class Dining Saloon on R.M.S. Olympic. Courtesy of Bedford Lemere & Co.


A single Third-Class menu card, dated April 14, 1912, survives. It was safeguarded in the purse of steerage passenger Sara Roth, who was in Collapsible Lifeboat C.


Babler, Gunter. "Guide to the Crew of Titanic: The Structure of Working Aboard the Legendary Liner." The History Press, Gloucestershire, England. 2017.

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“Warm Devotion”: Jenny the Ship Cat

"Warm Devotion": Jenny the Ship Cat

On April 10, 1912, at 12:00 p.m., Titanic set off from Southampton.

And, since people love a good conspiracy theory, there are countless rumors of passengers and crew experiencing a sense of foreboding, some even going so far as to cancel their passage.

And one of those was a tabby cat named Jenny.

Jenny was a cat and Titanic's official mouser, transferred from the RMS Olympic to its new sister Titanic, to stymie the inevitable vermin population on board.

As any nautically inclined individuals will attest, cats were common on board sailing vessels of all sorts. They were pest control agents and predictors of bad weather. They were companions. And, of course, they were supposed to bring good luck.

In short, ship cats were beloved. And there are many stories of prescient ship cats throughout the years.

Jenny, Titanic's cat, was no exception.

Captain A J. Bailey of the R.M.S. Empress of Canada with the ship's cat, circa 1922. From the Rare Books and Special Collections, courtesy of the University of British Columbia Library.


About a week prior to Titanic's departure, Jenny birthed a litter.

Jenny and her babies were tended to and fed scraps from the kitchens by a crewmember named Jim Mulholland, who boarded in Belfast for the Delivery Run to Southampton.

Stewardess and Woman-Famous-For-Surviving-Disasters-On-All-Three-Doomed-Olympic-Class-Vessels, Violet Jessop, wrote in her memoirs that Jenny "laid her family near Jim, the scullion, whose approval she always sought and who always gave her warm devotion."

Sailor with ship cat and kitten, circa 1910. From the Samuel J. Hood Studio Collection, courtesy of Australian National Maritime Museum.


Jim had been considering working through Titanic's maiden voyage when shortly after docking at Southampton, Jim saw Jenny trot down the gangplank with her kitten in her mouth. Jenny then returned to the galley and retrieved the others, one by one, until all were on the quay and off the Titanic.

Titanic docked in Southampton and dressed in flags on Good Friday, April 5, 1912.


Jim watched until Jenny had disappeared with her babies.

He saw her departure as an omen and followed her lead, turning down the trip and extra pay and disembarking before Titanic set sail.

This story was first reported in the Irish News Global Edition.

Ship cat on the H.M.A.S. Encounter circa 1914 to 1918. Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.


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