Posts Tagged ‘Titanic’

New Yorkers who didn’t board the Titanic

April 2, 2012

Smithsonian Magazine ran a fascinating article last month on famous men who missed booking a ride on the Titanic—saving themselves from almost certain death that April morning in 1912.

Some New Yorkers were on that list, like financier J. Pierpont Morgan (left).

“Morgan attended the ship’s launching in 1911 and had a personal suite on board with his own private promenade deck and a bath equipped with specially designed cigar holders,” writes Smithsonian‘s Greg Daugherty.

“He was reportedly booked on the maiden voyage but instead remained at the French resort of Aix to enjoy his morning massages and sulfur baths.”

Another New Yorker who changed his mind about booking passage was Theodore Dreiser (right), West Village resident and author of Sister Carrie.

Dreiser was thinking of taking the Titanic back to New York from Europe, where he was on holiday. “But an English publisher talked him out of the plan, persuading the writer that taking another ship would be less expensive,” writes Daugherty.

Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt (left), transportation heir and resident of the luxe Hotel Vanderbilt on Park Avenue and 34th Street, also was looking for a way to return to New York from Europe.

Vanderbilt bought a ticket for the Titanic, then canceled at the last minute.

Three years later, he died on the torpedoed Lusitania, deemed a hero for helping others to the life boats and giving his vest to a second-class passenger.

John Jacob Astor IV: the richest Titanic casualty

April 13, 2009

Of all the insanely wealthy passengers booked in first class on the Titanic in April 1912, John Jacob Astor IV, 48, was at the top of the financial heap.

johnjacobastorwifeGreat-grandson of the John Jacob Astor who came to New York in the 18th century and made a fortune in beaver pelts and opium, Astor IV was accomplished in his own right: He was an inventor, builder of the Astoria (later Waldorf-Astoria) Hotel, and author of a sci-fi novel set in the year 2000.

He had also knocked up his 18-year-old second wife, Madeleine Force, and the scandal of divorce and remarriage forced the couple to bide their time in Europe and Egypt. But with a baby due later that year, the Astors decided to return to New York City.

They settled in to a first-class room (reportedly costing about $4,000 a night, more like $50,000 today) with a manservant, maid, nurse, and their dog, Kitty.

After the ship hit the iceberg and women and children began getting into lifeboats, Astor supposedly asked a crew member if he could sit with his wife in one of the empty lifeboat seats, citing her pregnancy. He was refused but reportedly took it like a man.

Days later his crushed body was found in the Atlantic; he’s buried in Trinity Cemetery. His son, John Jacob Astor VI, was born in August 1912.


Astor, at left, waiting for the train that would take him to the Titanic for boarding.

“Great Loss of Life”

April 13, 2008

So read the understating headline from the New York Evening News after the Titanic slammed into an iceberg on April 14, 1912. Early the next morning, the Carpathia picked up many of the passengers who managed to get into lifeboats. The Carpathia returned to New York Harbor on April 18, docking at Chelsea Piers. Here’s a grainy clip of the ship and some survivors, including a woman and infant.