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“Every Star in the Heavens Was Visible”: Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall

"Every Star in the Heavens Was Visible": Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall

Joseph Groves Boxhall was the son of a seafaring family, and he carried the tradition on. When he boarded Titanic on March 27, 1912, he had already spent 13 years at sea. 

He was 28 years old.

Joseph signed onto Titanic as Fourth Officer. Despite his extensive career up until that point, his path had only intersected with one Titanic colleague, Second Officer Charles Lightoller.

Fourth Officer Boxhall was on duty when Titanic collided with the iceberg on April 14, 1912.

Joseph Boxhall, photographed before 1919.


Per his testimony to both the American and British Inquiries following the tragedy, Joseph said that he was on the bridge when the collision occurred. 

But in 1962, he gave an interview to the BBC in which he stated that he was in his cabin, making a cup of tea.

He heard a trio a warning bells and immediately returned to the bridge, where he overheard First Officer William Murdoch shouting to Quartermaster Hitchens to pull the wheel hard over, as well as the telegraphs ordering the engine room to reverse.

Joseph was subsequently present for First Officer Murdoch’s discussion with Captain Smith about the strike, which he detailed at the British Inquiry.

Commissioner: And did the Captain then come out on to the bridge?

Boxhall: The Captain was alongside of me when I turned round.

Commissioner: Did you hear him say something to the first Officer?

Boxhall: Yes, he asked him what we had struck.

Commissioner: What conversation took place between them?

Boxhall: The First Officer said, "An iceberg, Sir. I hard-a-starboarded and reversed the engines, and I was going to hard-a-port round it but she was too close. I could not do any more. I have closed the watertight doors." The Commander asked him if he had rung the warning bell, and he said "Yes."

He went on to say that Captain Smith and Murdoch went to look overboard to spy the iceberg, but that he did not see it himself. “I was not too sure of seeing it,” he said. “I had just come out of the light, and my eyes were not accustomed to the darkness.”

Joseph then went down to F Deck to assess the ship for any damage, but he found none. On his way return, as he passed through C Deck, he encountered steerage passengers playing with fragments from the iceberg that had scattered the well deck.

Yes, I took a piece of ice out of a man's hand, a small piece about as large as a small basin, I suppose; very small, anyhow; about that size (Describing.) He was going down again to the passenger accommodation, and I took it from him and walked across the deck to see where he got it. I found just a little ice in the well deck covering a space of about three or four feet from the bulwarks right along the well deck, small stuff.

Joseph returned to the bridge to report the absence of any finding, and was sent to fetch the ship’s carpenter. He met him on the way, and he told Joseph that water was coming in. Fast.

Joseph hurried to the mailroom, where he saw the worst. “It was rising rapidly up the ladder and I could hear it rushing in.”

From there, Joseph returned to the bridge to report the state of the mailroom, and was assigned to calculate Titanic’s position for Captain Smith to provide to the Marconi Room, in order to begin distress signaling.

Joseph then worked to prepare the lifeboats for launch, unlacing the covers on the port side himself. It was then, he testified, that he heard someone state that they saw the light of another ship out ahead of them.

He saw it himself: the two masthead lights of a steamship.

At Captain Smith’s behest, Joseph began firing distress rockets, one at a time at five-minute intervals. He informed the British Inquiry that these rockets were the type with which “you see a luminous tail behind them and then they explode in the air and burst into stars.”

COMMISSIONER: Could you see it distinctly with the naked eye?

BOXHALL: No, I could see the light with the naked eye, but I could not define what it was, but by the aid of a pair of glasses I found it was the two masthead lights of a vessel, probably about half a point on the port bow, and in the position she would be showing her red if it were visible, but she was too far off then.

COMMISSIONER: Could you see how far off she was?

BOXHALL: No, I could not see, but I had sent in the meantime for some rockets, and told the Captain I had sent for some rockets, and told him I would send them off, and told him when I saw this light. He said, "Yes, carry on with it." I was sending rockets off and watching this steamer. 

Joseph Boxhall testified at great length about the nature of this light: its color, its distance, and how frequently it was signaled.

The ship—which most have concluded was the SS Californian, and which had been communicating via wireless with Titanic shortly before collision—never came to Titanic’s aid.

The reasons for its negligence are manifold and contested.

The SS Californian, taken on or about April 15, 1912.


Soon thereafter, Joseph was assigned by Chief Officer Wilde to Lifeboat 2. He noted that there were no lights stocked in the boat, and had the presence of mind to bring some green flares along.

Joseph recalled that there were mostly women and children in the boat, three crewmen, and a male passenger “who did not seem to do much.”

Lifeboat 2 was launched on the port side under the supervision of Second Officer Lightoller. So Joseph, following orders, promptly rowed around Titanic’s stern to the starboard side.

I got the crew squared up and the oars out properly and the boat squared when I heard somebody singing out from the ship, I do not know who it was, with a megaphone, for some of the boats to come back again, and to the best of my recollection they said "Come round the starboard side," so I pulled round the starboard side to the stern and had a little difficulty in getting round there.

But Lifeboat 2 did not return. When the boat approached the starboard side as ordered, Joseph sensed suction from Titanic “settling down.”

And so he turned the lifeboat away, until it was about a half-mile out. He stated that he did not witness the final moments of Titanic's submersion.

COMMISSIONER: After she sank, did you hear cries?

BOXHALL: Yes, I heard cries. I did not know when the lights went out that the ship had sunk. I saw the lights go out, but I did not know whether she had sunk or not, and then I heard the cries. I was showing green lights in the boat then, to try and get the other boats together, trying to keep us all together.

Joseph Boxhall’s was the first lifeboat to be picked up by the rescue ship Carpathia, aided by his signaling with the green lights he had brought on during the sinking.

Once he was aboard, he was ordered to the bridge, where he informed the captain of the Carpathia that Titanic had gone under at 2:30am.

Titanic's recovered lifeboats, 1912. Courtesy of the State library of Queensland, Australia.


Joseph was called before the American Senate Inquiry, in which his insights, while valuable, were communicated with curt words. Once permitted to return home to Great Britain, Joseph also testified--with a notable surplus of patience--at the British Inquiry.

Joseph promptly returned to the sea. Having joined the Royal Navy Reserve already, he was promoted the lieutenant in 1915 during World War I. In 1919, he married, and post-war, was promoted once again to Lieutenant Commander.

Joseph Boxhall was a taciturn sort, and was always reticent to speak about Titanic, but he did agree to be a technical advisor on the 1958 film “A Night to Remember” and even attended the premier.

 In the years that followed, Joseph agreed at last to collaborate with researchers, and also took the above-cited BBC interview.

He passed away five years later, in 1967.

He was the last of Titanic’s deck officers to die.

Joseph Boxhall (far right), photographed with Titanic's other surviving officer Harold Lowe (far left), Charles Lightoller (center), and Herbert Pitman (seated.) Circa 1912.


Per his wishes, Joseph Boxhall’s ashes were scattered at sea at 41° 46’ N, 50° 14’ W: the coordinates he had calculated for Titanic as she sank.

The wreck site sits to the east, about 20 miles away.

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“As If All the Devils of Hell Had Been Let Loose”: Henry & Clara Frauenthal

"As If All the Devils of Hell Had Been Let Loose": Henry & Clara Frauenthal

In 1906, Clara Heinsheimer divorced her husband.

This was, predictably, a scandalous notion in polite society. And Clara more or less resigned herself to raising her child, a daughter named Nathalie, all alone.

But when one of Clara’s brothers passed away, her remaining brother Alfred was left in charge of an incredible estate worth more than $5 million. 

And so Alfred established the New York Foundation, which promoted charitable and educational causes.

Alfred had an active role in the selection of candidates and the distribution of grants to those who applied on behalf of their causes. And he was one of the first to make a donation to the Hospital for Deformative and Joint Diseases.

And that was how Clara met Dr. Henry Frauenthal, the surgeon who had founded the institution.

Henry was an eminent physician, to say the least.

He had achieved a great deal of acclaim, in particular, for his methods of treating chronic joint diseases; soon, in 1905, he and his brother Herman were opening their first hospital on Lexington Avenue, before moving to a larger building on Madison Avenue in 1906.

This was when he met Clara.

Henry was an ardent believer in the principle of treating the whole person, and as such, had patients spanning race, class, age, and gender.

It was this philanthropic philosophy that brought him fame as an innovative and successful treater of children afflicted with polio, which at the time was overwhelming the nation.

Henry and Clara eloped in Nice, France, in the autumn of 1911, with only Henry’s brother Isaac coming along to serve as the best man.

Clara was 42 years old by this point; Henry, 48. They were atypical newlyweds, perhaps, but no less affectionate for it.

Henry and Clara boarded Titanic in Southampton with First Class passage. Isaac joined them at Cherbourg.

Henry’s reputation as an eminent physician followed him aboard. When First-Class passenger Irene Harris fractured her elbow because “took a header six or seven steps” on the Grand Staircase (because she had slipped on the remains of a teacake), she requested the specific supervision of Henry Frauenthal.

At dinner on Sunday, April 14, Isaac told Henry and Clara that he had had a foreboding dream. 

It seemed to me that I was on a big steamship that suddenly crashed into something and began to go down… I saw in the dream as vividly as I could see with open eyes the gradual settling of the ship, and I heard the cries of frightened passengers.

Henry replied that maybe Isaac shouldn’t have had so much cheese before dinner time, as it was clearly making his imagination work as hard as his gallbladder.

As it turned out, Isaac was the one who was awakened later that same night by the collision with the iceberg, which he described as a “long, drawn-out rubbing noise.” 

Isaac went up to A Deck, where he noticed a number of fellow First-Class passengers milling about. And when John Jacob Astor stopped Captain Smith as he was descending the steps from the bridge, Isaac overheard the conversation: the situation was dire and the ship was sinking.

Isaac ran down to Henry and Clara, pounding on their door and waking them from sleep. 

The three soon found themselves waiting at Lifeboat 5 on the starboard side, which was overseen by First Officer William Murdoch and Fifth Officer Harold Lowe.

Clara was permitted to enter the boat; Henry and Isaac followed. How exactly they did so is contested.

While no survivor accounts make mention of any sort of upset or curiosity in how the Frauenthal brothers boarded, Mrs. Annie Stengel later filed a claim with White Star in which she alleged that a “Hebrew doctor” broke her ribs and knocked her unconscious when he jumped into the lifeboat. 

The Frauenthals only learned once the lifeboat had been rowed around 100 yards away from Titanic that the ship had collided with an iceberg.

After the ship sank, Henry in particular sat heartbroken with his face in his hands, absorbed in the anguished cries of those in the water. As a physician, he knew full well how unlikely their survival truly was.

The Denver Post printed Dr. Frauenthal’s firsthand account on April 19, 1912.

When the word came that we were sinking and the lifeboats were ordered over the side, the panic was fearful. From all sides came shrieks and groans and cries, and it seemed as if all the devils of hell had been let loose. "Just now I am so thankful to be alive that my appreciation of the horror is dulled. I am only afraid that when I recover from the first shock it will all come back to me again.

It was reported that Henry, Clara, and Isaac were the very first to leave the rescue ship Carpathia upon its arrival in New York.

They took with them a young Swedish woman named Dagmar Bryhl, who had lost both her brother and her fiancé in the sinking. The girl was frightened, alone, and frail, so Clara took her immediately to Henry’s hospital for rehabilitation.

The Frauenthal brothers, particularly Henry, were maligned for their cowardice, as many surviving men were.

Shortly after the disaster, Henry called upon Irene Harris to check up on her fractured elbow, which he had helped to set on the Saturday before the sinking.

It is reported that when he began to discuss Titanic with her, she snapped, “I wouldn’t have my husband at the cost of a woman’s life.”

I swear we thought every woman on the ship had been placed safely in the boats. It was 'Women first' with all of the men, and at least it seemed as if the decks had been cleared of them, for not one was to be seen save those already lowered. Then the officers ordered the men to leave the sinking vessel and we left for the boats, not knowing, any one of us, I think how many of our fellow men we were leaving behind as prey to death.

Henry was subjected to additional scrutiny because he appeared “too neat” when disembarking the Carpathia, instead of disheveled.

But Dr. Frauenthal’s patients were nothing less than elated that he had survived. The New York Herald reported the following on April 19, 1912, about Dr. Frauenthal’s first day back at work.

When in the city Dr. Frauenthal visits the hospital between nine and ten o'clock each day. It has been assumed that he will follow his custom, and the patients will be taken in wheeled chairs to the verandas to watch for his approach, which they will greet with cheers and the waving of handkerchiefs. An informal reception inside the hospital will follow.

Dr. And Mrs. Frauenthal survived Titanic, but they were less fortunate in the years that followed. Despite professional successes and further travel abroad, Henry and Clara both suffered from mental health issues as the years bore on. 

Henry’s health deteriorated alongside his marriage: diabetes caused him to lose some of his toes—a procedure that he supervised over, of course.

On March 11, 1927, Henry Frauenthal jumped out a seventh floor window of his hospital. 

His family, including his great-nephew, believe that Dr. Frauenthal’s suicide was because of his failing health, and a fear of the diabetes-related amputations that he foresaw as inevitable.

He was 63 years old. 

Owing to social mores, Henry’s suicide could not be reported on in any direct fashion. The medical examiner listed his cause of death as “a fall from a window due to mental derangement.”

Over one thousand people attended Henry’s funeral. Per his last will and testament, his ashes were reserved until they could “be scattered from the roof of [his] hospital to the four winds” on the fiftieth anniversary of its founding: October 4, 1955.

Clara was admitted to a sanitarium shortly after Henry’s death, where she remained until she died in 1943.

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“All the Rest Were Dead From Cold”: Richard Norris Williams

"All the Rest Were Dead From Cold": Richard Norris Williams

Richard Norris Williams was a lot of things. The Swiss-born son of American expats. The great-great grandson of Benjamin Franklin. A teenaged tennis wonder. 

And a Titanic survivor.

Young Richard Norris Williams, date unknown. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.


Richard, who was 21 years old, was to spend the summer of 1912 on an American tennis tour, and also planned to take the Harvard entrance exam while there. His father, Charles, would accompany him stateside.

They had originally intended to travel to the United States in March of 1912, but Richard had come down with the measles shortly before the trip, so it was postponed until Richard was fully recovered.

Charles and Richard made their way down to Paris from Geneva on the evening of April 8, and arrived in Paris on the morning of the 9th. They spent the afternoon together at the Tennis Club de Paris, and viewed the operetta The Count of Luxembourg that evening.

On the morning of April 10, Richard and Charles were in a rush; they had been directed to the wrong train station, and took a hellish and frantic tax ride through Paris just in time to make the train to Cherbourg.

Richard settled in and enjoyed the pleasant ride to port—and was pretty stoked to see famous tennis player Karl Behr on the same train.

Titanic survivor and tennis champion Karl Behr.


Once officially on board as First-Class passengers, father and son sat down to write and send off a quick letter each.

Father is writing to you just opposite me but as he will not tell you any news I shall just tell you what this boat looks like.

The room in which we are is about as big as the national dining room and it is not the biggest on the boat. We have beautiful room nearly as big as my work room in Geneva. 

Of course there is room after room—smoking-reading-lounge-palm room; you can imagine that there are many other rooms but as we have only been on board about 10 minutes, really not more, we have not been able to see everything. 

Father says I must stop as the letter must go.

Letter written by Richard Norris Williams, as cited in "On Board RMS Titanic: Memories of the Maiden Voyage," by George Behe, 2012.

Richard and Charles were situated in staterooms on C Deck. On the night of the collision, Richard  urgently threw on a fur coat and he and his father promptly left their quarters and found chaos mounting in the hallway.

Richard soon found himself involved in an incident that later inspired a particular cinematic scene, which was documented by fellow First-Class passenger Martha Stephenson.

According to Martha, she had been “awakened by a terrible jar with ripping and cutting noise which last a few moments,” and that she and her sister Elizabeth had exited their cabin to investigate.

Before Elizabeth returned I decided to get dressed as I had seen a gentleman in one of the rooms opposite pull his shoes in from the passageway. When she came in she told of many people outside half-dressed, one woman having a thin white pigtail down her back and a feather hat; also that some man was fastened in his inside room unable to open his door. He was much worried, calling for help, and young Williams put his shoulder to the panels and broke it in. The steward was most indignant and threatened to have him arrested for defacing the beautiful ship.

As cited in "On Board RMS Titanic: Memories of the Maiden Voyage," by George Behe, 2012.

From there, Charles and Richard wandered both the Boat and A Deck, where they inspected the daily map of the ship’s location on the sea; they eventually took shelter from the cold in the First-Class gymnasium and took seats on the stationary bicycles. 

The First-Class Gymnasium. Stationary bikes are visible in the right-sided foreground. Taken by Robert John Welch for Harland & Wolff.


At one point around midnight, they ended up at the bar, where Charles requested that his silver flask be refilled. The steward replied that the bar had, unfortunately, just been closed up for the night.

Charles gave the flask to Richard, telling him that it might help him keep warm in the cold night. 

As the ship submerged, Richard and Charles had no choice but to dive into the ocean.

And that was how Richard watched his father die. 

We stood on the deck watching the lifeboats of the Titanic being filled and lowered into the water,” said Williams. "The water was almost up to our waists and the ship was about at her last. Suddenly one of the great funnels fell. I sprang, endeavoring to pull my father with me. The funnel was swept overboard and my father’s [sic] body went with it.

Richard addressed this moment in more detail in an account that was published the May 11, 1997, edition of “Main Line Life.”

'The ship seemed to give a slight lurch; I turned towards the bow. I saw nothing but water with just a mast sticking out of it. I don’t remember the shock of the cold water, I only remember thinking “suction” and my efforts to swim in the direction of the starboard rail to get away from the ship. Before I had swam more than ten feet I felt the deck come up under me and I found we were high and dry. My father was not more than 12 or 15 feet from me…'

“Jump,” Norris Williams yelled at his father. 

'He started towards me just as I saw one of the four great funnels come crashing down on top of him. Just for one instant I stood there transfixed – not because it had only missed me by a few feet … curiously enough not because it had killed my father for whom I had a far more than normal feeling of love and attachment; but there I was transfixed wondering at the enormous size of this funnel, still belching smoke. It seemed to me that two cars could have been driven through it side by side.'

And at some point, when Richard broke the surface of the water, he was face-to-gasping-face with something unexpected in the ocean: a French bulldog in a panic and paddling.

This dog, named Gamin de Pycombe, was owned by First-Class passenger Robert Daniel. Since Mr. Daniel attested to locking his stateroom with his dog still inside, it remains a mystery who let Gamin free, and how the little dog came to where he was--meaning that in the course of the sinking, he likely had gotten all the way to Boat Deck from down below.

French bulldog, circa 1915.


In the memoir Richard later wrote for privately for his family, he described the sight of Titanic as she foundered.

I turned towards the ship. It was an extraordinary sight. As the bow went under, the stern lifted higher and higher into the air, then pivoted and swung slowly over my head. Had it come down then I would have been crushed. Looking straight up I saw the three propellers and the rudder distinctly outlined against the clear sky. She slid into the ocean. No suction. No noise.

The wave created by the falling funnel seems to have washed Richard toward Collapsible Lifeboat A, which had washed off the deck before its canvas sides could be pulled up and, though it was taking on water, was still barely afloat.

So Richard took a place on Collapsible A.

He wrote as much in his correspondence to fellow survivor Colonel Archibald Gracie, who was fervently curating survivor accounts in the months after the sinking.

I was not under water very long, and as soon as I came to the top I threw off the big fur coat. I also threw off my shoes. About twenty yards away I saw something floating. I swan to it and found it to be a collapsible boat. I hung on to it and after a while got aboard and stood up in the middle of it. The water was up to my waist.

About thirty of us clung to it. When officer Lowe's boat picked us up eleven of us were still alive; all the rest were dead from cold.

Richard also attested to a man behind him on the lifeboat, who was so weak that he pleaded to put his arms around Richard’s neck to keep from falling over.

Richard obliged and after feeling the man’s arms tense and tighten against his throat, Richard felt the man's grip relax, followed by a cold release as he died at Richard's back and slid down into the water.

Collapsible A was disregarded and abandoned by Fifth Officer Harold Lowe when he rescued its few and diminishing survivors, including Richard Norris Williams; the lifeboat floated off and was unaccounted for.

Until it was happened upon one month later by the SS Oceanic, on May 13, 1912.

There were three corpses still within.

Collapsible A when it was discovered by the SS Oceanic on May 13, 1912.


Once on board Carpathia, Richard refused to leave the deck until the last boat had been unloaded, hoping in vain for the safety of his father, Charles.

He then found his way below deck and tried to get warm by settling into a spot between an oven and a galley. A doctor from Carpathia stumbled upon him and “cheerfully advised,” per Richard, that he would need to amputate both his legs in order to survive. In order to prevent gangrene, the doctor said, because Richard had spent hours standing waist-deep in arctic water.

Richard utterly refused. He said, “I’m going to need these legs."

And so, every two hours, round the clock, Richard roused himself and walked the decks of the Carpathia to restore his circulation. It's reported that for the rest of his life, Richard would only wear pants to hide the permanent discoloration of both his legs.

Later that same year, Richard Norris Williams won his first US Championship in mixed doubles, and went on to win many more championships in 1913, 1914, and 1916.

He also participated in the Davis Cup with none other than Karl Behr, who had also managed to survive Titanic.

Richard Norris Williams practicing for the Davis Cup, 1913. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.


Richard enlisted in the US Army to serve in the First World War, and was awarded both the Croix de Guerre and Legion of Honor awards. He was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 1957.

He was described by his grandson, Quincy, as “a modest man who didn’t like to talk about himself… and loved to garden.”

Richard Norris Williams died in 1968, at the age of 77.

Richard Norris Williams. As published in "Methods and Players of Modern Lawn Tennis," 1915.


Quincy now owns the silver flask that his great-grandfather, Charles Williams, gave to Richard during the sinking.

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“Very Fond of Playing Patience”: William Harbeck & Henriette Yrois

"Very Fond of Playing Patience": William Harbeck & Henriette Yrois

William Harbeck was ending a season-long tour of Europe when he boarded Titanic as a Second-Class passenger; he was bound for home in Toledo, Ohio.

Ever since 1906, his star had been on the rise, beginning its ascent when he filmed the immediate aftermath of the infamous San Francisco earthquake.

Montgomery Street, San Francisco, 1906. Courtesy of the Edith Irvine Collection, Brigham Young University, Utah.


He was then hired by the Canadian Pacific Railway and its Department of Colonisation. His goal, it was stated, was “to put Western Canada on the motion picture screen in a scenic, industrial and comic form.”

William produced over a dozen reels for the Railway, and his work was used in promotional material to make Western Canada a destination spot and entice Europeans.

And entice them, his films certainly did—as evidenced by the renewal of his two-year contract. 

The Railway then sent him on a trip to Paris to study with a French filmmaker named Leon Gaumont, who was the apparent master of outdoor, on-location shooting. So he left for Europe at the tail-end of February 1912, visiting London, Berlin, and Brussels. And Paris, of course.

On the first day of April, William wrote back home to his wife, Catherine; he planned to travel from Amsterdam, to London, to Southampton. Then homeward bound on Titanic. 

He already had another project lined up for when he was back in the States: to film the beauty of Alaska and the Yukon.

The aurora borealis over Dawson, in the Yukon territory, photographed by Morte H. Craig between 1902 and 1912. Courtesy of the University of Washington.


Furthermore, it’s believed that William had also been hired by White Star to film Titanic’s maiden voyage, owing to the claims of “Moving Picture News,” a trade periodical that asserted that he had, had a contract to the tune of $10,000.00.

But when William Harbeck boarded Titanic in Southampton on April 10, he did not do so alone.

He took to Titanic with a young woman on his arm.

She was a French model, 22 years of age, named Henriette Yrois. They had evidently become acquainted in Paris, where she lived.

The Second-Class entrance on Titanic's sister, RMS Olympic, circa 1911. Taken by / courtesy of Bedford Lemere & Co.


But Henriette was not his wife.

Fellow passengers, however, certainly were under the impression that she was, possibly because William went ahead and told them as much, or maybe just because it was assumed because there was no other reasonable explanation for a May-December couple to be traveling together with no companions.

The sole evidence of a romantic relationship between William and Henriette exists in implication: they boarded jointly, and their sequentially issued tickets (and thus, cabins) neighbored one another. 

Lawrence Beesley wrote in his survivor account that he saw them on board at one point, and he was evidently under the impression that they were married.

In the opposite corner are the young American kinematograph photographer and his young wife, evidently French, very fond of playing patience, which she is doing now, while he sits back in his chair watching the game and interposing from time to time with suggestions.

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

Lawrence wrote that he did not encounter them again.

Other than that, there seems to have been very little documented about William and Henriette while on Titanic.

And neither of them survived.

Henriette’s corpse was never recovered. 

William’s body, however, was. It was identified by his “Moving Picture & Projecting Machine Operators Union” membership card.

William was pulled fron the ocean still clutching a lady’s purse, which contained jewelry and a wedding band. It was later confirmed to have belonged to Henriette.

The recovery crew of the MacKay-Bennett listed William H. Harbeck as follows.

NO. 35. - MALE. - ESTIMATED AGE, 40.

CLOTHING - Black coat; grey mixture tweed trousers and vest; red tie; black boots.

EFFECTS - Cheque books; travellers' cheques; lady's bag; gold watch and chain; two lockets; gold time meter; fountain pen; diary; false teeth; pencil; knife; diamond ring; union card. Moving Picture and Projecting Machine operators' union; 15 in gold, £15 6s. in silver, 10s. in purse in lady's bag; wedding ring in bag; pearl and diamond pin.


NAME - WILLIAM H. HARBECK. 114 24th Avenue, N. Y

When William’s widow, Catherine, arrived in Halifax to claim her late husband’s corpse, she was initially turned away by  theauthorities because “Mrs. Harbeck” had died on Titanic alongside her husband.

But reason eventually won out, and Catherine was permitted to transport William’s body home for burial in Toledo.

There was another mystery, however, that still has yet to be solved.

Catherine Harbeck solicited White Star for the items that had been recovered with William’s corpse, but White Star informed her that they had passed them on to the Provincial Secretary of Halifax because they were valued at over $100.00.

Catherine proceeded to provide the proper documentation to prove that she was the administratrix of her husband’s estate, and the effects were relinquished.

But it turns out that Catherine wasn’t the only person who wanted them back.

Months later, another letter arrived to the Provincial Secretary of Halifax, claiming ownership of the effects of the late Mr. Harbeck. The letter, from Seattle Washington, was signed by “Mrs. Brownie Harbeck."

The Secretary informed Brownie that the effects had already been expressed to Mrs. Catherine Harbeck, to which Brownie replied.

She inquired further about the specific amounts of money found on his body, both in gold and travelers checks. She continued, to much surprise, to claim that she was aware of Henriette's presence on the ship, and that she "knew the lady well."

After that, William’s son, John Harbeck, somehow discovered that the Secretary’s office was offering information about his dead father’s effects, which were legally in his mother’s custody. 

When the Secretary confirmed via letter that communication had occurred in fact between themselves and Brownie, John was irate.

The web of letters, still in the possession of the Nova Scotia Archives, end unceremoniously there.

To date, the identity of Brownie Harbeck remains unknown.

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“Let Go the After Fall”: Lead Stoker Frederick Barrett

"Let Go the After Fall": Lead Stoker Frederick Barrett

There isn’t too much information available about Frederick William Barrett’s early years. He was born and baptized in 1883, near Liverpool, England; in 1891, he was noted on the census as a wheelwright, also known as a carman.

It is unknown when exactly Frederick Barrett turned to the sea, although rumor has it that he did so after discovering that his wife was having an affair with another man while he was at work. 

Regardless, he is first discoverable on a crew manifest in 1903, as a fireman aboard the Campania.

The RMS Campania, Fred Barrett's first known vessel. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.


Fred signed onto Titanic on April 6, 1912, as a lead stoker. Curiously, he was one of two men named “Frederick William Barrett” who were hired onto Titanic as firemen.

Immediately following departure on Wednesday, April 10, Fred received orders alongside about a dozen other firemen to empty out the coal bunker in Boiler Room 6 because of a fire. It took three full days, until Saturday, to get it done.

Fred reported that he noted warping and fire damage in the bulkhead.

When Titanic struck the iceberg on Sunday night, Fred was once again in Boiler Room 6. He was speaking to an engineer named James Helsketh when a bell rang and a red light flashed on; Fred immediately called for the dampers to be shut.

Almost simultaneously, there was an enormous crash and water shot into the boiler room from the ship’s side. Fred and James managed to get into Boiler Room 5 just in time, as the watertight door was descending and about to lock. Then they saw it.

The water was flooding into that room, too.

Fred went back into Boiler Room 6 with another engineer, Jonathan Shepherd, within 15 minutes of the collision, and testified later that the water was already 8 feet high.

All firemen were then ordered to go up top on deck. But Fred was ordered to stay behind.

While he waited with Jonathan and another engineer, the lights extinguished, and Fred was sent to retrieve lamps. 

Shortly thereafter, Fred was ordered by Junior Assistant Engineer Herbert Harvey to lift the manhole cover in order to get at some valves. As this was happening, Jonathan Shepherd ran past, and in the thick steam, did not notice the hole. And he fell in and broke his leg.

Fred and Herbert carried Jonathan away to the pump room to care for him as best they could. 

Soon, the bulkhead between Rooms 5 and 6 buckled, and sea water rushed in. Herbert Harvey screamed an order to Fred: to go up top immediately.

That was the last time Fred, or anyone else, saw Herbert Harvey or Jonathan Shepherd.

Fred climbed a hatchway all the way up to A Deck, and found that there were only two wooden lifeboats still aboard: Lifeboat 13, and Lifeboat 15, both on the starboard side and under the supervision of First Officer William Murdoch.

Fred chose Lifeboat 13.

He later testified that the boat was close to capacity when he literally jumped in, and that a handful of people followed his example. From up above, he heard one of the officers shout that no more should be let in the lifeboat, because the falls would break. Next door, so to speak, Lifeboat 15 also began lowering.

When 13 reached the water, it began drifting due to the water discharged from Titanic’s side.

And it drifted directly underneath Lifeboat 15.

Everyone in Lifeboat 13 shrieked and hollered for those above to stop lowering Lifeboat 15, but they couldn’t be heard. Fred began screaming to the officers up top to “Let go the after fall.”

Lifeboat 15 was bearing down on them and closing the distance fast. Fred scrambled over everyone and dashed to cut through the falls with his knife.

Fred push the boat away within seconds of Lifeboat 15 splashing down beside them.

Lawrence Beesley, who was one of the few men from Second Class to survive, was an occupant of Lifeboat 13 and described the near-disaster as follows. (It should be noted that he mistakes the other lifeboat as No. 14, when it was in fact Lifeboat 15.)

'Stop lowering 14,' our crew shouted, and the crew of No. 14, now only twenty feet above, shouted the same. But the distance to the top was some seventy feet and the creaking pulleys must have deadened all sound to those above, for down she came- 15 feet, 10 feet, 5 feet, and a stoker and I reached up and touched her swinging above our heads, but just before she dropped another stoker sprang to the ropes with his knife.

'One," I heard him say. 'Two,' as his knife cut through the pulley ropes, and the next moment the exhaust steam has carried us clear while boat no. 14 dropped into the water into the space we had the moment before occupied, our gunwales almost touching.

Written by survivor Lawrence Beesley, as cited in "On Board RMS Titanic: Memories of the Maiden Voyage" by George Behe.

And that is how Fred Barrett saved himself and the approximate 70 other people in Lifeboat 13.

There were so many people in Lifeboat 13 that the gunwale was maybe 6 inches above the water.

Once the lifeboat was clear of Titanic, Fred realized that there was no officer in the boat. And so he took command, despite the fact that he was wearing nothing more on his shoulders than the thin shirt he’d been wearing on duty when the collision occurred.

Q. What officer was in charge?

A. No officer in it. Because I had no clothes I felt myself giving out and gave it to someone else. I do not know who it was.

But after enduring for an hour in the raw chill, Fred became too cold to carry on, and forfeited the tiller to another man.

A woman wrapped Fred Barrett in a cloak, and he fell asleep. Hours later, when the Carpathia was in sight of the lifeboats, those occupants of Lifeboat 13 rowed toward it, all while singing the hymn "Pull for the Shore."

Fred was called before the Senate Inquiry. And in May of 1912, when Senator William Alden Smith, the head of the Inquiry, toured RMS Olympic, he was informed by the captain that “one of [his] stokers” had been on board Titanic. So Fred Barrett was joined by Senator Smith in the boiler rooms to discuss Fred’s firsthand experience.

Fred Barrett went on to marry in 1915, and stayed at sea until the early 1920s. He was widowed after only 7 years of marriage, in 1923.

Fred Barrett died of pulmonary tuberculosis in 1931, at the age of 48. His one surviving child, a son named Harold, was 10 years old.

The other Fred Barrett on board Titanic did not survive the sinking.


Behe, George. "On Board RMS Titanic: Memories of the Maiden Voyage." The History Press, 1912.

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“Honor and Glory Crowning Time”: The Grand Staircase

"Honor and Glory Crowning Time": The Grand Staircase

It is a truth universally acknowledged that one cannot think of Titanic without seeing, in the mind’s eye, the Grand Staircase.

And for good reason. The Grand Staircase was installed in all three Olympic-class vessels, and was the opulent centerpiece of each ship. 

Titanic’s Grand Staircase, in particular, has achieved an almost otherworldly status, though, because it’s so often recreated in media.

Despite the impression this often gives, the Grand Staircase was, of course, designed to do what any proper staircase does: functionally connect floors.

The Grand Staircase reached from Boat Deck all the way to E Deck. Elevators were also located just forward of the Staircase from A through E Decks.

First-Class elevators on RMS Olympic, circa 1911.


The Grand Staircase was constructed from Irish oak in the William & Mary style.

And at its top was an astonishing and elaborate dome made from glass and wrong iron, from the center of which hung a gilted crystal chandelier.

“It was an object of great splendour,” proclaimed the White Star Line. “A fitting crown as it were these the largest and finest steamers in all the world.”

The glass dome was backlit during the evening hours thanks to a protective box that was installed around it, to protect it from the worst of the sea elements.

On A Deck, the floor of the landing was comprised of linoleum tiles, which were milk-colored and interspersed with onyx medallions.  Blue sofas and armchairs, as well as potted palms, decorated this landing, as well as each subsequent level of the Grand Staircase.

There was also a piano on the Boat Deck level, so the band could entertain in the stairwell.

At the base of the Grand Staircase on A Deck was a bronze cherub holding a torch; replicas are thought to have decorated the bases of B and C Decks. On D Deck, the base of the Staircase boasted an electrically lit gilt candelabra.

Color illustration of Grand Staircase from White Star Brochure, circa 1911.


White Star released a promotional brochure in 1911 for both Olympic and Titanic, and did they love them some Grand Staircase.

We leave the deck and pass through one of the doors which admit us to the interior of the vessel, and, as if by magic, we at once lose feeling that we are on board a ship, and seem instead to be entering the hall of some great house on shore. Dignified and simple oak panelling covers the walls, enriched in a few places by a bit of elaborate carved work... 

In the middle of the hall rises a gracefully curving staircase, its balustrade supported by light scrollwork of iron with occasional touches of bronze, in the form of flowers and foliage. Above all a great dome of iron and glass throws a flood of light down the stairway...

Looking over the balustrade, we see the stairs descending to many floors below, and on turning aside we find we may be spared the labour of mounting or descending by entering one of the smoothly-gliding elevators which bear us quickly to any other of the numerous floors of the ship we may wish to visit.

As written in the White Star promotional brochure "Olympic" / & "Titanic" / Largest Steamers in the World," 1911.

The portion of the Staircase that you’re probably envisioning right now—with the glass dome and the famous clock—was A Deck, which was considered dual-level.

The interior balcony with the ornate arched windows and potted ferns (that looked down onto A Deck with the dome directly overhead) was Boat Deck.

Grand Staircase, Boat Deck Level, on RMS Olympic. Taken by William Herman Rau.


The Grand Staircase was accessible exclusively to First-Class passengers. It functioned as the point of entry to First-Class public rooms and staterooms; the rooms that could be accessed from each deck were as follows.

Boat Deck: opposing corridors granted access to the Officers Quarters and the Marconi Room. The entrance to the First-Class Gymnasium was next door to the Starboard entrance to the Grand Staircase.

A Deck: access to the Reading & Writing Room, as well as the Lounge, which were entered through revolving doors. Also granted entrance to the Promenade Deck, and First-Class staterooms.

B Deck: Both of the “Millionaires’ Suites” were accessible from B Deck, as well as the most lavish of the First-Class staterooms.

C Deck: The Purser’s office, as well as the Enquiries office, were immediately off the Staircase to the Starboard side. More First-Class staterooms were also accessible via companionways.

D Deck: Opened directly onto the Reception Room, and the Dining Saloon was adjacent to that. First-Class staterooms were once again accessible behind the staircase.

E Deck: Only cabins were accessible via E Deck. From here, a modest staircase could be taken down to F Deck to get to certain athletics facilities that were located on F Deck, such as the swimming pool and the Turkish baths.

The well-known ornate clock on A Deck, which was located directly below the glass dome, actually had a name, so to speak. It was called “Honour and Glory crowning Time.” 

The clock was carved from solid oak, and its design was inspired by a "monumental" chimney that had been designed for none other than Napoleon Bonaparte.

That chimney was illustrated in the publication “Recueil de decorations interieures” in 1812; it was made of white marble and gilt bronze, and was installed in 1810. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in a fire in 1871.

Plate of "monumental" chimney, designed for Napoleon Bonaparte by Percier and Fontaine, 1812.


“Honour and Glory crowning Time” was a so-called slave clock.

This meant that it, along with 24 other clocks within the ship, were beholden to a master clock located in the wheel house that all worked in synchronity. There were two master clocks on Titanic, each of which controlled 25 slave clocks.

A man by the name of Charles Wilson carved the central portion of the clock.

Mr. Wilson recalled that when Titanic departed from Belfast on April 3, 1912, the timepiece was not ready. A circular mirror, therefore, was installed as a holdover until the clock face was ready.

Charles Wilson, therefore, reasoned that the completion of clock had to have occurred while Titanic was docked in Southampton, between April 3, 1912, and her departure on April 10.

Grand Staircase of RMS Olympic, first published in "The Shipbuilder" in 1911.


While A Deck had the allegorical clock, Decks B through E had oil paintings installed on their landings. 

There was also an Aft Grand Staircase located between the third and fourth funnels; unlike its counterpart, it only reached only from A Deck to C Deck. From the Aft Grand Staircase, passengers could reach the Smoking Room and Lounge, as well as the A La Carte Restaurant the Cafe Parisien. 

The Grand Staircase does not exist within the wreck. It is thought that each segment of the Staircase broke apart and floating out during the sinking, or was shattered by the hydraulic blast caused by the bow’s impact with the seabed. Otherwise, it simply rotted away prior to the discovery of the wreck in 1985. 

Where the Grand Staircase once was, is a deep and lightless well. But this has allowed for quite convenient ROV entry into Decks A through D.

Recognizable elements of the foyers that surrounded the Grand Staircase are still visible and intact, such as ceiling fixtures and a few carved pillars, as well as oak beams.

The Aft Grand Staircase was summarily decimated, because it was located where Titanic ruptured and broke. 

It should be noted that all of the photos included herein are of Titanic's elder sister, the RMS Olympic. No photos of Titanic's Grand Staircase are known to exist.

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“Embarcome”: Manuel Uruchurtu Ramirez

"Embarcome": Manuel Uruchurtu Ramirez

Manuel Uruchurtu Ramirez is the only confirmed passenger of Mexican nationality on Titanic.

He was born in late June of 1872, in Sonora, Mexico, into an elite family. As such, he had the privilege of traveling to Mexico City in order to study law.

While there, he met and married another student by the name of Gertrudis, who was from a similarly aristocratic (and therefore affluent) family.

Manuel and Gertrudis settled into life in Mexico City, going on to have a total of seven children. Manuel, in the meanwhile, established his law practice.

By way of his familial connections, education, and friendship with the Vice President of Mexico, Ramon Corral, Manuel became a politician.

But when the dictatorship was overthrown in 1911, and both President Porfirio Diaz and Vice President Corral were banished, Manuel found himself in a precarious situation. He was reportedly considered a member of the “catrines;" that is, an individual who had close personal ties to the now-former government owing to his wealth and/or social standing.

Not great, and certainly unsafe.

And so, Manuel Uruchurtu found himself himself fleeing to Europe in order to reconnect with his fellows.

After conducting a meeting with Vice President Corral on or about March 1, 1912, Manuel booked passage home on the SS City of Paris, which was scheduled to depart on April 10, 1912, from the port of Cherbourg. He was ready to be home, it's reported, and eager to see Gertrudis again.

Shortly before he was set to travel, however, Manuel had a visitor to his hotel in Paris. Guillermo Obregon, who was Vice President Corral’s son-in-law, had arrived to discuss what turned out to be a fateful exchange: that of Manuel’s ticket upon the SS City of Paris with his own on the Titanic.

This writer has not found evidence as to why Obregon was eager to swap tickets with Manuel. Given comparison of the two travel routes, it would seem reasonable to assume that Obregon wanted to get to Mexico as soon as he possibly could, owing to the fact that Titanic was scheduled to arrive very far away in New York City. And Manuel was almost certainly obligated to any member of Corral’s family.


Manuel agreed to the exchange of tickets. He would travel on Titanic, in room PC 17601.

Manuel’s travel plans can’t have been altered much. He was still going to depart from Cherbourg on April 10. As such, he took the train down, and made some new acquaintances along the way, including fellow First-Class passenger Edith Russell.

The trip going down to Cherbourg was marked out distinctly by the acquaintanceship started with several very nice ladies in my (train) compartment, one a Swedish lady, two others Americans, who had been cabled to return to America and were overjoyed that they were sailing on this wonderful boat, and a Mexican gentleman, who informed me that he was a member of Parliament in Mexico. We were a merry little party; the fact that all were going on this exceptional ship seemed to draw us together, as everybody was looking forward to seeing the monster boat.

Courtesy of [source]

From Cherbourg, Manuel sent his last documented communication: a telegram to his brother that read only, “Embarcome.”

Little information pertaining to Manuel Uruchurtu’s actions while on board Titanic are definitive or—more accurately—confirmed to have happened at all.

Because Manuel is more or less exclusively noted today because of his famed Heroic Act.

Unfortunately--like so much of what happened on and within Titanic throughout the sinking--this story of Manuel Uruchurtu, which has been recounted for some time by his indirect descendant, is thus far unsubstantiated.

The story goes that Manuel was offered a seat in Lifeboat 11 owing to his political stature, but when an Englishwoman from Second-Class was not allowed to board that same lifeboat, he acted in chivalry and faith and forfeited his seat to her.

It's reported that in return, Manuel but asked her to visit his family back in Mexico to share his final memory with them, which the woman agreed to do.

And while this narrative is certainly compelling, it is the opinion of this writer that the story is most likely fabricated.

The woman supposedly in question, Elizabeth Rammell Nye, did, in fact, survive the sinking in Lifeboat 11. But she provided multiple accounts as to what occurred that night, and she made no mention of Manuel. Nor did anyone else in the lifeboat.

Moreover, Edith Russell, who was confirmed to have made an acquaintance with Manuel en route to Cherbourg, was also in Lifeboat 11, and yet—despite her many, many accounts about Titanic—she  made no mention of Manuel’s Heroic Act, which surely would not have gone unnoticed by her, had it occurred.

Additionally, supporting documentation has not been produced in an accessible format, despite claims to the contrary.

Multiple people, including Manuel’s own granddaughter and an author who had previously been led to accept the story as truth, have come forward in recent years to discredit it as fantastical.

Butin spite of all of this, the true importance of Manuel Uruchurtu’s experience during the sinking should neither be mistaken nor disregarded: regardless of the veracity of the story about Manuel giving up his seat in Lifeboat 11, the truth of the matter is that he was an actual person who lived and was lost. Lost to his family and his country and to the memory of so many people who never even knew that he was on Titanic.

And he was brave because at some point within that frigid night, amidst trauma and chaos and fear, he confronted his mortality.

Manuel Uruchurtu died on April 15, 1912, in the sinking of the Titanic. His body, if ever recovered, went unidentified.

He was 39 years old.

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“My God, If I Could Only Forget”: Eugene Daly

"My God, If I Could Only Forget": Eugene Daly

Titanic had two stopovers after leaving Southampton: the first in Cherbourg, France, on April 10, and the last in Queenstown, Ireland, on April 11. 

And as Titanic turned away from Ireland toward the open sea,  Eugene Daly played “Erin’s Lament” on his uilleann pipes.

Eugene was from Athlone, Co. Westmeath, Ireland, and was 29 years old when he boarded Titanic.

Per census records circa 1911, Eugene was living with his widowed mother and two siblings. Eugene, as the eldest son, was the unmarried head of household, and was noted as a wool “heaver”. In addition, he supplemented his income by taking jobs as a mechanic.

And of course, Eugene also belonged to the Clan Ulseach War Pipers’ Band and the Irish National Foresters Band, as well as hid local chapter of the Gaelic League.

But Eugene decided to break free and try out a new life for himself in the United States. So he saved for a few years and purchased steerage passage on Titanic. He boarded at Queenstown, in the company of his cousin Maggie and their friend, Bertha. Like all steerage accommodation, he had a shared cabin. Per Eugene’s accounts, he was bunked with two other lads in C23.

The days in steerage seem to have been pleasant and minimally structured. Lawrence Beesley, a survivor from Second Class, shared his observations. And he seems to have spotted Eugene among the jollity, although he mistook his nationality.

Looking down astern from the boat deck or from the B deck to the steerage quarter, I often noticed how the Third-Class passengers were enjoying every minute of the time; a most uproarious skipping game of the mixed-double type was the great favorite, while ‘in and out and roundabout’ went a Scotchman with his bagpipes playing...

Lawrence Beesley, as written in "The Loss of the S.S. Titanic." © First Mariner Books, 2000.

It appears that Eugene played often for his fellows. Even on the night of the sinking, he played his pipes at infamous dance/party held in Third Class.

When Titanic struck the iceberg later that night, Eugene was nearly thrown out of his bed. He dressed in his trousers and shoes and went out to the gangway, but was assured by a steward that nothing serious had occurred and that he should just go back to bed.

Eugene did just that, if only for a little while. But commotion made him go back up on deck, where he saw a lot of people panicked and running around. So he rushed down to steerage to retrieve Maggie and Bertha.

They came out with me, but a sailor told us there was no danger. He said the ship would float for hours. He also said to go back, and that if there was any danger he would call us.

The group went to the stern to procure lifejackets, and Eugene reported that he had a “scuffle” with a man for one, which ended up being given to Maggie.

There was a great deal of noise at this time and water was coming in. We knelt down and prayed in the gangway. Then the sailor said there was danger. We went to the deck but there were no boats going off. Then we went to the second cabin deck. A boat was being lowered there. It was being filled with women. Maggie and Bertha got in, and I got in. The officer called me to go back, but I got in. Life was sweet to me and I wanted to save myself. They told me to get out, but I didn’t stir. Then they got hold of me and pulled me out.

As cited in "On Board RMS Titanic," by George Behe. © The History Press, 2012.

After he saw Maggie and Bertha safely off, Eugene went to find another boat that would let him on. And that is when he bore partial witness to one of the Great Mysteries of Titanic: an officer shooting two male passengers, before committing suicide.

In May of 1912, Eugene reported to the Daily Sketch that he saw an officer shoot two passengers who were fighting to break through the crowd to board a lifeboat.

There was a terrible crowd standing about. The officer in charge pointed a revolver and waved his hand and said that if any man tried to get in he would shoot him on the spot… Two men tried to break through and he shot them both. I saw him shoot them. I saw them lying thereafter they were shot. One seemed to be dead. The other was trying to pull himself up at the side of the deck, but he could not… Afterward, there was another shot and I saw the officer himself lying on the deck. They told me he shot himself, but I did not see him.

As cited in "On Board RMS Titanic," by George Behe. © The History Press, 2012.

Unable to find a ready lifeboat and with water rushing the deck, Eugene clamored to a “sort of canvas craft,” which may have been Collapsible lifeboat A or B. He worked frantically with a group of other men to free it from “a wire stay which ran up to the mast.”

But when the canvas lifeboat was washed off the deck, there was no choice for Eugene Daly but to dive into the ocean. And so he did.

Eugene swam for the same lifeboat that he believed he had been attempting to cut loose. The boat he found was Collapsible B, which had floated away upside down as Titanic submerged. Eugene climbed on top of it; he estimated that over a dozen men followed. Together, they watched Titanic groan and vanish.

Eugene Daly survived the night balancing on the back of Collapsible B, alongside many other men, including Second Officer Charles Lightoller, 17-year-old Jack Thayer, Colonel Archibald Gracie, and Junior Marconi Officer Harold Bride. He often credited his survival to the heavy coat he wore, and he held onto his “lucky coat” for the rest of his life.

Eugene's daughter, Marion Joyce, wrote the following about her dad's lucky coat.

On that fateful night aboard the RMS Titanic, he put on his shoes and his trousers and, a heavy block overcoat with an Astrakhan fur collar. He still had it on when picked up by the Carpathia - that coat and his watch and rosary were treasured relics of his survival.

Many a cold night in my childhood in Ireland, that coat would be thrown over us in bed to keep us warm. We called it "the Titanic." It had a greenish tinge to it, maybe from the sea water, but it still had heaviness and warmth in it.

When Eugene was brought on board Carpathia, he blacked out and was carried to the cabin of a passenger named Dr. Frank Blackmarr, who worked to revive Eugene with hot drinks and unspecified “stimulants.” And then Dr. Blackmarr transcribed Eugene’s account, word for word.

[NOTED BY DR. BLACKMARR: Here this man fell back on his pillow crying and sobbing and moaning, saying: ‘My God if I could only forget!’ After a bit, he proceeded.]

My God, if I could only forget those women’s cries. I reached a collapsible boat that was fastened to the deck by two rings. It could not be moved. During that brief time that I worked on cutting one of those ropes, the collapsible was crowded with people hanging upon the edges. The Titanic gave a lurch downwards and we were in the water up to our hips.

She rose again slightly, and I succeeded in cutting the second rope which held her stern. Another lurch threw this boat and myself off and away from the ship into the water. I fell upon one of the oars and fell into a mass of people. Everything I touched seemed to be women’s hair. Children crying, women screaming, and their hair in their face. My God, if I could only forget those hands and faces that I touched!

As I looked over my shoulder, as I was still hanging [on] to this oar, I could see the enormous funnels of the Titanic being submerged in the water. These poor people that covered the water were sucked down in those funnels, each of which was twenty-five feet in diameter, like flies.

Eugene was hospitalized along with other survivors at St. Vincent’s in New York, and from there, he sent the following letter to his mother.

Dear Mother, got here safe. Had a narrow escape but please God, I am all right, also Maggie. I think the disaster caused you to fret, but things could have been worse than what they were.

As cited in "On Board RMS Titanic," by George Behe. © The History Press, 2012.

Soon thereafter, he filed a claim with White Star for the loss of his beloved pipes, and was compensated $50. He was very pleased with the sum, thinking it more than that pipes had been worth.

Eugene was celebrated as a hero, especially back home in Ireland. "The Westmeath Independent" commented that "the courage credited to Eugene Daly in the foregoing will not surprise his fellow townsmen, who knew him as a man of principle and pluck. In the present deplorable disaster, he appears to have upheld the traditions of the Gael."

He went on to become a machinist for the Otis Elevator Company, and that led him to meet his future wife: the sister of his coworker Jimmy, an English woman named Lillian who owned silk mills in the neighboring state of Connecticut. They married in 1917, and the couple appears to have begun life in New York but eventually moved back to Ireland. Quite by accident and due to his trauma, according to Eugene's daughter.

In 1921, they got a cable from home to say that Eugene's mother was dying. So my Mom booked passage right away and they sailed for home.

...As soon as the ship was a few hours out Eugene lost all sense of security. He was in an extreme state of panic. He couldn't eat or sleep. He walked the decks the whole voyage, and my Mom paid a steward to look out for him.

Once they arrived in Ireland, Eugene refused to sail again. He did not return to the United States until he was widowed in 1961--and only then because flight was a travel option.

In his later years, Eugene was noted as a devout parishioner and quite musical, although he was also described as “very loud.” But people seem to have forgiven him this, as he was probably somewhat deafened from years of working in the mills.

Eugene Daly died on Halloween, 1965, in New York City. He was 82 years old.

In recent years, a curious artifact was salvaged from the wreck site: an instrument with undeniable similarities to uilleann pipes.


Behe, George. "On Board RMS Titanic: Memories of the Maiden Voyage." The History Press, 2012.

Beesley, Lawrence. "The Loss of the S.S. Titanic: By One of the Survivors." First Mariner Books edition, 2000. Originally published by Houghton Mifflin Company, 1912.


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“Wishing You All Good Things Until We Meet”: Daniel Coxon

"Wishing You All Good Things Until We Meet": Daniel Coxon

In Merrill, Wisconsin, there once lived an Englishman, and they called him Popcorn Dan.

Daniel Coxon was beloved. He was genial and bright and the precise definition of “a character.”

In a small, dirt-road town such as Merrill, Dan was a delightful sight to behold. Because—as you may have deduced from his nickname—Dan Coxon was a popcorn vendor.

Every day, he walked the dusty streets of Merrill, with his pretty red-and-yellow popcorn cart, pulled along by his white horse. It was a noticeable spectacle, for sure. Add to that the steam ever whistling from the boiler and Dan’s renowned conviviality, and he never seemed to want for patrons.

Popcorn Dan most often set up shop on the corner of Poplar Street and East Main Street. Along with popcorn, he also sold freshly roasted peanuts.

But Dan did more than popcorn.

He took a lot of odd jobs around town, primarily manual labor and painting. He offered hauling services thanks to his horse and wagon. He even worked for a time as the live-in caretaker of a haunted house: a Queen Anne mansion, perched eerily on the banks of the Wisconsin River.

One might think that odd jobs and a popcorn cart wouldn’t pay out much in dividends. But one would be wrong.

On his varied income, Dan was the proud owner of a rare and pricey phonograph. His horse and popcorn cart, of course. And he was even able to purchase TWO houses. One, he paid $400.00 for; the other, $1,000.00. And being a savvy gentleman, he resided in the former, while leasing out the grander.

His tenant was Harry Krom, who had emigrated from Russia and opened the fanciest men’s dress shop in Merrill, called Krom Clothing & Co.

And industrious individuals are always impressive, sure. But Dan Coxon was particularly so. And this was because he worked all his many labor-intensive jobs with a physical handicap.  Specifically, Dan’s left arm was shriveled from birth.

Dan Coxon had emigrated from London to Canada sometime in the 1870s, and then Wisconsin sometime in the 1880s. He wasn’t married and was in no rush to do so; his brother said he “made a laugh out of it.”

By 1911, Dan was in his early 50s. He was well-established in Merrill and successful—and he wanted to open the first movie theater in northern Wisconsin.

And so, Popcorn Dan traveled back to the UK to learn more about the movie-theater business, and to visit with his family for the holidays.

But before he did, he had to get snazzy.

Just a few days before Thanksgiving, Dan went to Krom Clothing and dropped $15 on a new suit—as well as $115 on a proper fur coat. Today, that coat would cost approximately $3,000.00.

Dan arrived in London on December 23, stayed through Christmas, and then through the winter months into the springtime with his sights on Easter. He wrote the following to his friend on April 1, 1912.

I am now writing to let you know that I am coming back. I have already booked my passage back by the “Titanic,” which will leave Southampton on the Wednesday after Easter… I have had a pretty good time on the whole but am getting rather tired now of holiday making and shall be very glad to get back again and settle down once more.

As cited in "The Last Night on the Titanic," by Veronica Hinke, 2019.

Dan also ribbed his friend for some lazy and imprecise addressing.

I was very delighted to receive your letter. It was quite a wonder though that I did get it as the envelope was only addressed “Mr. Daniel Coxon London, England” which of course is not sufficient for a place like London. Anyway, I was glad to get it (thanks to the post office people here).

As cited in "The Last Night on the Titanic," by Veronica Hinke, 2019.

Popcorn Dan delayed his departure past Easter in order to sail on Titanic. He could easily have afforded a Second-Class ticket, but elected instead to only purchase steerage accommodation.

Dan left his brother Alfred’s house to reach Waterloo station at 7am and headed out from there to Southampton, which was over an hour away. Alfred accompanied them, as well as their nephew John, who was the son of their sister Elizabeth.

According to Alfred Coxon, Dan had a particularly difficult time trying to board Titanic because of his withered arm. The overseeing officers, Alfred said, subjected Dan to an inordinate amount of scrutiny and were extraordinarily suspicious of him. Dan even had to produce paperwork to prove that he was, in fact, a naturalized US citizen.

Once he was finally permitted to board, Dan, Alfred, and John spent about an hour and fifteen minutes exploring the ship. Once Alfred and John disembarked, they stayed on the dock and “waved [their] hands to him as far as [they] could see him.”

Like so many steerage passengers, we know comparatively little to absolutely nothing about Dan's time on board Titanic.

On the morning of April 15—the very same morning of Titanic's sinking—a letter written by Dan was delivered to Hans van Kaltenborn, a friend and newspaper editor in Brooklyn, NY.

If you happen to have the time I should, of course, be only too pleased if you could manage to come and meet me on the arrival of the boat. I have had a very good time, but now feel that I should be glad to get back and return to work, for I am getting a little tired of fooling around. I should think that by the time I get back the weather will be settling for the better, and the rougher kind will, I hope, be all over. It is growing pleasant over here now, and spring here, as you may know, is very delightful. Wishing you all good things until we meet.

Popcorn Dan died in the sinking. His body was never found.

His wallet, however, has been recovered from the wreck. It has been determined that the wallet was Dan's because the $10 and $15 bills within bore stamps from Merrill, Wisconsin.


Hinke, Veronica. "The Last Night on the Titanic: Unsinkable Drinking, Dining, & Style." Regnery History, 2019.

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“For the Rest of My Prophecy to Come True”: Helen Bishop

"For the Rest of My Prophecy to Come True": Helen Bishop

Helen Walton was 19 years old when she married 23-year-old Dickinson Bishop. She was his second wife. When they met, he still wore a mourning band for the first wife he had just lost to childbirth.

After their wedding in November 1911, Dick and Helen took off on a lavish extended honeymoon spanning Europe and North Africa. In four months, they had visited France, Algiers, Italy, and Egypt. 

Dick was besotted. And somewhere along the way, Helen fell pregnant.

Helen was overwhelmed with beautiful gifts from her new husband—he even bought her a pretty little lapdog in Florence to celebrate the pregnancy. Helen named the puppy Frou-Frou and doted on her endlessly, and Dick continued to dote on Helen.

The Bishops had read about the opulence and glittering amenities on the brand new Titanic, and Dick, beside himself with elation, suggested that they join Titanic’s maiden voyage.

The Bishops (and Frou-Frou) boarded at Cherbourg.

Helen and Dick were a particularly sociable couple; they even befriended Colonel John Jacob Astor and his very young new wife Madeleine. The Astors, affluent though they were, were having a romantic scandal and had been thusly ostracized by some of the haughtier First-Class passengers.

In fact, Helen made fast friends with Mrs. Astor, as they were of similar age and newly pregnant on their honeymoons, and all too happy to play with Frou-Frou, who Helen had been permitted to keep in her stateroom.

On the night of the sinking, Helen and Dick were alerted immediately.

“My husband awakened me at about a quarter of 12 and told me that the boat had struck something. We both dressed and went up on the deck, looked around, and could find nothing… We looked all over the deck; walked up and down a couple of times, and one of the stewards met us and laughed at us. He said, :You go back downstairs. There is nothing to be afraid of. We have only struck a little piece of ice.”

Helen testified that after this, she and her husband returned to their suite, only to be interrupted 15 minutes later by fellow passenger Albert Stewart. 

“He knocked at our door some time after the disaster. This was after we had dressed, gone up deck, and gone to our beds again. Mr. Stewart said ‘Dickey-bird, you’d better come up on deck and amuse yourself,’ in a tone that warned us.”

The Bishops encountered the Astors during this second round, and Colonel Astor chased down Captain Smith, who “told him something in an undertone.” Astor returned and advised everyone to put on their lifebelts.

As the Bishops left their stateroom for the final time, Helen asked if it would be prudent to bring Frou-Frou with her. Dick assured her that this was a necessary precaution and nothing more, and that Frou-Frou would be safe to await Helen’s return. But Frou-Frou was desperate to stay with Helen.

Dick locked the stateroom as they left; Helen never saw Frou-Frou again. 

“It broke my heart to leave my little dog ‘Freu-Freu’ [sic] in my stateroom… I made a little den for her in our room behind two of my suitcases, but when I started to leave her she tore my dress to bits, tugging at it. I realized, however, that there would be little sympathy for a woman carrying a dog in her arms when there were lives of women and children to be saved.”

On deck, Helen and Dick found themselves at Lifeboat 7 on the starboard side, nearby Fifth Officer Harold Lowe.

“We had no idea that it was time to get off [Titanic], but the officer took my arm and told me to be very quiet and get in immediately.”

Helen went on to assert that Dick had been pushed in after her, a story that he corroborated.  Dick took his seat beside his wife and reassured her as they descended. He would  be forced to grapple with this for the rest of his life.

Although she did not testify to it during the Senate Inquiry, Helen also asserted that she had heard the instruction that “all brides and grooms may board” the lifeboat, and that she and Dick were one of four couples in their boat.

Lifeboat 7 was the first to leave Titanic, and Helen Bishop is regarded as the first passenger to have boarded a lifeboat following the collision. Shortly thereafter, she was joined in the boat by movie actress Dorothy Gibson.

The lifeboat was noticeably under-populated, and once some distance had been gained between it and Titanic, a headcount was taken; Helen testified to a total of 28 people in Lifeboat 7.

There were no officers in the lifeboat, and only a trio of crewmen. The passengers therefore took turns in rowing the boat, including Helen, pregnant though she was. An exception was made for a fraudulent German baron who elected to sit rowing out and have a smoke instead.

Helen’s account of the sinking itself was brief, but heartbreaking.

“For a moment, the ship seemed to be pointing straight down, looking like a gigantic whale submerging itself headfirst… a veritable wave of humanity surged up out of the steerage and shut the lights from our view. we were too far away to see the passengers individually, but we could see the black masses of human forms and hear their death cries and groans.”

Helen also removed her wool stockings to give to a small girl who hadn’t had sufficient time to dress for the cold. 

Because Lifeboat 7 was the first to launch, its passengers also spent the most time adrift in the dark with nothing but “ghastly… green lights, the kind you burn on the Fourth of July” that a steward had brought on the boat. 

According to Helen, “Whenever we would light one of these diminutive torches, we would hear the cries from the people perishing aboard. They thought it was help coming.” And so, the occupants of Lifeboat 7 became increasingly concerned about being swarmed and overturned by desperate survivors.

As her fellow passengers became more paranoid, Helen attempted to placate them with a fun anecdote.

Helen said that while she and Dick were in Egypt, she visited a fortune teller who informed her that she would survive a shipwreck and an earthquake, but a motor vehicle accident would take her life. Therefore, she assured everyone, they would absolutely survive the night. 

“We have to be rescued,” she said, “in order for the rest of my prophecy to come true.”

Helen and Dick did survive, of course. Although Dick's reputation did not. Like other male survivors, he was harangued for his cowardice, and was also accused of dressing like a woman in order to board a lifeboat.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Bishop were also called before the Senate Inquiry. 

Helen gave birth to their son in December of 1912, but the infant died only two days later.

Helen and Dick took a holiday to California in the springtime of 1913 in an effort to distract themselves from their bereavement.

But an earthquake disrupted their holiday.

Helen was newly distraught. Two-thirds of the prophecy had now happened; despite Dick’s reassurance, she was terrified of the third and final act: a fatal car crash.

In November of 1914, Helen was on her way home from a country club dance with a group a friends. The car spun out while taking a curve and crashed into a tree. Helen was thrown 25 feet from the vehicle and fractured her skull.

She survived, despite expectations. But she did have a metal plate installed in her skull.

Her personality subsequently changed, and her marriage to Dick deteriorated because of it. They divorced less than two years later, in January of 1916.

Only two months later, Helen fell on a rug and struck her head near the location of the metal plate. Unconscious, she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died within days, on March 16, 1916.

Helen’s obituary appeared on the front page of her hometown’s daily newspaper, right alongside the wedding announcement of Dick and his third wife.

Helen Walton Bishop was 23 years old.

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