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“Curses and Prayers Filled the Air”: Robert Williams Daniel & Eloise Hughes Smith

"Curses and Prayers Filled the Air": Robert Williams Daniel

Robert Williams Daniel stood dazed and determined on the Carpathia, knocking on a stranger's door and wearing an oversized suit that wasn't even his.

At 27 years old, Robert had survived the sinking of the Titanic--although no one, including himself, seemed to know exactly how.

But however he was saved from the ocean, the third-hand account from the Carpathia's medical officer attests to Robert having been saved in a red "woolen sleeping garment" or nightshirt, and shoes. Robert also reportedly wore his late father's pocket watch tied around his neck.

Carpathia's physician, Dr. Arpad Lengyel, had been assigned to attend to Titanic's steerage survivors. And since this is where he first treated Robert, who he found to be "delirious"--insisting he was a doctor himself--and underclothed.

So Dr. Lengyel, believing Robert was a colleague in the medical field in a pitiful state, gave him his own suit to wear. Robert reportedly had no recollection of this interaction when Dr. Lengyel tended to him the next day.

When it was discovered that Robert was, in fact, a First-class passenger of the sunken ship, he was transferred to an alternate area of the Carpathia.

And then, on a ship full of widows, Robert eventually set out to befriend the bereaved newlywed from West Virginia: Eloise Hughes Smith.

Standing before the doorway of her cabin--lacerations on his bruised face, wearing "a pair of trousers large enough for a giant [and] a blue shirt he had bought from the Carpathia's barber"--the still-reeling Robert offered his companionship to 18-year-old Eloise, so that she might feel protected while the survivors awaited the Carpathia's arrival in New York City.

She was newly pregnant, suddenly widowed, and absolutely inconsolable. Barely three months earlier, she had been another man's bride.

When Robert disembarked Carpathia with Eloise in his arms, she was reportedly "in a fainting condition." They were some of the first to appear on the ship's gangway.

After Robert had parted ways with Eloise and her father on the quay, his mother found him despite the fact she barely recognized him. The New York Sun reported that he was  "total wreck" and almost too weak to stand. Reporters swarmed him immediately, and his confused--and confusing--narrative unfolded.

Robert reportedly "reeled" at least once, and removed himself to lean on a railing to steady and compose himself.

"Let me smoke a cigarette before we go on," he is reported as having said at last.

The reporters pressed Robert about the bruises and cuts on his face.

"[On Titanic's stern, there] seemed to be thousands fighting and shouting in the dark... Everybody seemed to have gone insane. Men and women fought, bit and scratched... [there were] men praying as I struggled to get to the rail. Curses and prayers filled the air... I grabbed something and uttered one prayer. Then I went over the side of the boat. I tried to wait but suddenly found myself leaping from the rail, away up in the air and it felt an eternity before I hit the water. "

Robert had boarded Titanic in Southampton, having been in London on business, and occupied "an inside cabin" on A-Deck, although the exact cabin has never been conclusively determined.

And he had boarded alone--save for his new puppy, a cherished French bulldog named Gamin de Pycombe.

While his time spent during the voyage is not well-known, Robert's movements during the sinking are documented thanks to his friend, Edith Russell--who had a cabin around the bend from his.

Titanic trimmer Paddy Dillon, who himself swam in the water before being pulled aboard a lifeboat, also recalled seeing Robert within five minutes of the ship's submersion.

"Then [Titanic] plunged and then seemed to right herself. There was about 15 of us when she took the first plunge. After the second, there was only five of us left. One of these was a Mr. Daniels [sic], a First Class passenger. He only had a pair of knickers, a singlet and a blanket thrown over his shoulders. I think he jumped for it."

Robert would proceed to regale the press with so many stories about fellow passengers as the Titanic went under--including Jack ThayerRichard Norris Williams and his father, the Carter family, and Ida and Isidor Straus--as well as First Officer William Murdoch and Fifth Officer Harold Lowe.

Robert was also sought out by the bereaved family members of victims who were anxious to learn the details of their last moments.

Later in 1912, Robert had plans to meet up with fellow survivor Colonel Archibald Gracie, with whom Robert had formed a fast and profoud friendship while on board Carpathia. The Colonel was writing a comprehensive book of the disaster based upon passenger recollections and testimonies, and the men wrote to each other regularly.

Robert, having been abroad once again in England, was asked by reporters in December of 1912 about Colonel Gracie. He did not know that his friend had died the week earlier.

When Robert was informed, he was "overcome with grief" and declined to speak any further.

By 1914, Robert began calling upon another Titanic survivor with whom he shared traumatic memories: the widowed Eloise Hughes Smith.

Her father was not a little displeased, given that his daughter was, at the time, involved in ongoing litigation with her late husband's family on behalf of hers and Lucian's infant son.

In spite of Congressman Hughes's misgivings, Robert and Eloise grew to be closer and closer friends, and that friendship evolved into romance.

And so, in a remarkable turn of events, Robert Williams Daniel married Eloise Hughes Smith in a quiet ceremony in New York City in August of 1914.

The next day, Robert departed for London yet again.

There, he became stranded for over two months due to the outbreak of the Great War, which delayed Eloise and Robert in announcing their marriage to society.

Once Robert was permitted to return to the United States, he and Eloise settled in Philadelphia with Eloise's son, Lucian Smith, Jr., and Robert's new English bulldog. Among their neighbors were the Carter family, who had also survived Titanic.

In February of 1919, Robert was sent overseas to France at the behest of the United States War Department to handle money that would be used to convert French currency in the possession of American soldiers returning from the war front. He was subsequently awarded a medal for his distinguished service.

But by the time Robert returned, his marriage to Eloise was sadly deteriorating.

They separated in 1920, in the wake of rumors of his marital infidelity. And in 1923, Eloise filed for divorce after learning, according to her legal claim, that Robert was residing with "an unknown blonde woman" in New York.

The divorce was granted without contest. According to the divorce decree, Robert was to remained unmarried for five years.

By December of that same year, he remarried in New Jersey. And in 1929, he would marry a third and final time.

Eloise would likewise remarry a third time, when she was widowed yet again. Her fourth and final marriage would end in a swift divorce.

After all of that emotional tumult, Eloise reverted her surname to Smith--that of her first husband, Lucian P. Smith, and the love of her life.

Eloise Smith died in 1940 from a heart attack at only 46 years old.

Her ex-husband, Robert Williams Daniel, died later that same year from cirrhosis of the liver. He was 56 years old.

Regardless of its outcome, Eloise and Robert are noted as the sole survivors to marry after meeting in the wake of the disaster.

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“Keep Your Hands in Your Pockets It Is Very Cold Weather”: Eloise Hughes Smith & Lucian P. Smith

"Keep Your Hands in Your Pockets It Is Very Cold Weather": Eloise Hughes Smith

Eloise Hughes was 18 years old when she debuted herself to society in January of 1912. Since her father was a Congressman and her mother's family was also famously political, she was announced in a contemporary newspaper report as "a debutante of the congressional circle."

And rumor is that, from the moment 24-year-old Lucian Smith set eyes upon her photograph, he was hopelessly enamored.

The two married just a month later, in early February.

It was a grand affair. The Washington Post reported of the ceremony that Eloise radiated in "a gown of white satin trimmed with rare lace with a veil and orange blossoms and carried a shower bouquet of orchids."

Eloise and Lucian then embarked on a spectacular honeymoon.

Their outward-bound vessel with Titanic's elder sister, the R.M.S. Olympic,

The newlyweds visited Egypt, where they rode camels around the pyrmaids at Giza, and Lucian even scaled one to its summit.

They traveled through the Middle East, and then moved on to Europe.

Lucian and Eloise Smith decided to bring their adventure to a close in April of 1912. They debated which vessel to take home, torn between the faster Lusitania and the brand-new, gilded Titanic.

The reason for the curtailed honeymoon is most often reported to be a matter of Eloise having found herself pregnant; this, however, is not something she mentioned in the known letters that she sent home.

"Lucian is getting so anxious to get home and drive the car and fool around on the farm....We leave here Sunday... By boat to Brindisi [Italy], by rail to Nice and Monte Carlo, then to Paris and via Cherbourg either on the Lusitania or the new Titanic."

Courtesy of [source]

Eventually, Eloise and Lucian made their choice for passage.

They boarded Titanic in the port of Cherbourg, France, as First-class passengers on the evening of April 10th.

Eloise took to bed earlier than her husband during the voyage. While she retired, Lucian would play cards in the First-Class Smoking Lounge.

On the night of the collision with the iceberg, Lucian and Eloise took dinner in the First-class dining saloon, where they observed the party the Widener family was hosting in honor of Captain Smith.

Not being guests of the celebration, which Eloise later wrote "was not particularly gay," the Smiths removed themselves to the Cafe Parisien, and listened to the ship's band.

Eloise excused herself for bed around 10:30 p.m.

Lucian, as usual, went to play cards.

That particular night, he sat down to a game of whist with three gentlemen from France, including the famed aviator Pierre Marechal.

When Titanic struck the iceberg, Lucian and his fellow card-players reportedly bore witness to it.

In an article by the times published April 20, 1912, "the Frenchmen" attested to what they saw.

"We were quietly playing auction bridge with a Mr. Smith from Philadelphia, when we heard a violent noise similar to that produced by the screw racing. We were startled and looked at one another under the impression that a serious accident had happened. We did not, however, think for a catastrophe, but through the portholes we saw ice rubbing against the ship's sides."

Eloise, who was in bed, later attested that while the collision woke her, she eventually fell back to sleep. She awoke a second time when Lucian entered the room.

In response to his wife's inquiry as to what the matter was, Lucian replied calmly. "We are in the north and have struck an iceberg: It does not amount to anything, but probably delay us a day getting into New York," he told her. "However, as a matter of form, the captain has ordered all ladies on deck."

Eloise wrote that as she dressed to go up on deck, she and Lucian had leisurely conversation about their plans once they arrived in New York.


Eloise later described the scene on deck as First-class passengers awaited the ready of the lifeboats.

"There was some delay in getting lifeboats down: in fact, we had plenty of time to sit in the gymnasium and chat with another gentleman and his wife. I kept asking my husband if I could remain with him rather than go in a lifeboat. He promised me I could. There was no commotion, no panic, and no one seemed to be particularly frightened; in fact, most of the people seemed interested in the unusual occurrence, many having crossed 50 and 60 times. However, I noticed my husband was busy talking to any officer he came in contact with; still I had not the least suspicion of the scarcity of lifeboats, or I never should have left my husband."

Twice thereafter, Eloise refused to enter a lifeboat without Lucian.

Distraught, she approached Captain Smith, who was in the middle of using a megaphone. She told him she was alone on the voyage save her husband, and asked if Lucian could go with her into the lifeboat.

Eloise wrote Captain Smith ignored her, and only continued to announce, "Women and children first!" through the megaphone.

Lucian pulled her away.

"He then said, "I never expected to ask you to obey, but this is one time you must; it is only a matter of form to have women and children first. The boat is thoroughly equipped, and everyone on her will be saved." I asked him if that was absolutely honest, and he said, "Yes." I felt some better then, because I had absolute confidence in what he said. He kissed me good-by and placed me in the lifeboat with the assistance of an officer. As the boat was being lowered he yelled from the deck, "Keep your hands in your pockets it is very cold weather." 

Lucian and Eloise would never see each other again.

Eloise was saved in Lifeboat 6. She stated the lifeboat was lowered haphazardly, almost vertically, before the falls were cut with a knife provided by a fellow female passenger.

"We were some distance away when the Titanic went down. We watched with sorrow, and heard the many cries for help and pitied the captain, because we knew he would have to stay with his ship. The cries we heard I thought were seamen, or possibly steerage, who had overslept, it not occurring to me for a moment that my husband and my friends were not saved. It was bitterly cold, but I did not seem to mind it particularly. I was trying to locate my husband in all the boats that were near us."

Safely on board Carpathia, the newlywed widow was gifted the cabin of a kind honeymooning couple named Charles and Emma Hutchinson.

Eloise searched for Lucian throughout the Carpathia, in disbelief that he had not been saved.

Desolate and all alone in the cabin of other newlyweds, Eloise is reported to have heard a sudden and unexpected knock upon the door.

Standing there, in an oversized suit that had been donated to him by the Carpathia's physician, was Robert Williams Daniel.

Robert, a fellow First-class passenger on Titanic, reportedly felt honor-bound as a Virginian gentleman to offer his protection and accompaniment to the bereaved young Eloise while she was alone on board Carpathia.

Upon the ship's arrival in New York, Robert carried Eloise in his arms down the gangway to the dock. There, he entrusted her "in a hysterical condition," according to contemporary periodicals, to the care of her waiting father, Congressman Hughes.

But Robert and Eloise would see each other again.

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