Category Archives: Titanic controversies

Titanic sinks each night at Serenbe Playhouse

The Serenebe Playhouse has designed a unique set for a musical version of the Titanic story. Set in a lake in the hills of Georgia, the story of the people on the Titanic comes alive in a very different way. This video reveals the planning behind the creation of this unique musical presentation. 

“Visiting the Serenbe Institute and discussing the heroes and the story of the Titanic was a real pleasure.” – Ken Rossignol

Serenbe Titanic seminar with Ken Rossignol in Georgia June 23, 2018

Titanic Coincidences by Bruce M. Caplan

The Sinking of The Titanic by Bruce M. Caplan

The Sinking of The Titanic by Bruce M. Caplan

Titanic Coincidences

                                                      By Bruce M. Caplan

Coincidence is always so fascinating.  The very fact that in American history the second President of our Nation, John Adams and the third President Thomas Jefferson both died on the very same day is truly amazing.  Not only did they succumb on the same day, but coincidentally it was on the 50th birthday of our wonderful nation—–July 4, 1826.

On April 14, 1865 President Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theater in Washington D.C. The President died the next day on April 15th.   Forty-seven years later to the day at 11:40 in the evening on April 14, 1912, the mighty-(thought to be unsinkable) Titanic slammed into an iceberg.   Two hours and forty minutes later onApril 15th, the great ship plunged to the ocean’s bottom–two and one-half miles below the water’s surface. Both Lincoln and the Titanic perished on April the 15th!

The coincidences concerning the Titanic get even more bizarre.  In 1912, there was no Federal Income Tax in the United States.   In 1913, soon after the Titanic sank there was the first income tax since the Civil War.    Today we all have to file our income taxes by the same calendar date that Lincoln died and the Titanic sank—–April 15th.

Bruce Caplan's book, The Sinking of The Titanic has sold more than 150,000 copies.

Bruce Caplan’s book, The Sinking of The Titanic has sold more than 150,000 copies.

William Thompson Sloper boarded lifeboat number 7 with actress Dorothy Gibson; four Fortunes lived

William Thompson Sloper boarded lifeboat number 7

William Thompson Sloper boarded lifeboat number 7

‘A likely story’ William Thompson Sloper boarded lifeboat number 7
By Ken Rossignol

The story of the survival of William Thompson Sloper who lived when the Titanic sank began when Dorothy Gibson insisted that the 28-year-old stockbroker from New Brittain, Conn., board her lifeboat #7, a lucky lifeboat indeed.  First Officer Murdoch was in charge of the boarding, which at the time wasn’t going well due to the prevalent attitude that the ship was not going to sink.

Titanic 1912

Titanic 1912 – The original news stories of the sinking of the Titanic

The boarding protocol for boarding the lifeboats reportedly was different, depending on which side of the ship the passengers were standing.  On the starboard side, the rule was women and children first. On the port side, the rule being followed was women and children only. Thus when Gibson and Sloper approached the first lifeboat to be lowered and all of the available women and children were boarded, Gibson insisted that her bridge partner, Sloper, be allowed to board. He did.

There is much witness testimony from survivors that most felt it foolhardy to leave the fine luxury ship which wasn’t clearly in peril.  Thus many of the first boats to be lowered were far from full.

Dorothy Gibson actress starred in first Titanic movie and survived the sinking

Dorothy Gibson actress starred in first Titanic movie and survived the sinking

Without a hat, Sloper found a towel and had put it over his head in the lifeboat to keep warm and when the rescue ship Carpathia arrived and picked up the survivors from lifeboat number seven, Sloper was still wearing the towel. Thus, the rumor of a man dressing as a woman got started and flourishes to this day.  Some variations of the coward who dressed like a woman included a man who wore a dress and a veil.

Sloper was returning from a three-month vacation to Europe and was booked on the Mauritania but lingered on in England as he romanced Alice Fortune.

The family of Mark and Mary Fortune had been on a Grand Tour of Europe and the Middle East. It was on this tour that Alice and Sloper met. She persuaded him to change his ship and travel back to New York with her family on the Titanic.  Of the six members of the Fortune family, from Winnipeg, Canada, only Mary Fortune and her three daughters survived; her son Charlie and her husband Mark perished on the Titanic.

Dorthy Gibson, a well-known actress, starred in the first movie about the Titanic, released in 1912. She continued her career and was captured by the Nazis during World War II and interned in a concentration camp, which she survived and died a few months after the end of the war.

Sloper died on May 1, 1955.

In 1909 Dorothy met George Battier jr. They were soon married, but the marriage was short-lived. Soon, she became an actress for Eclair Studios, making one-reelers. In 1912, she finished The Easter Bonnet (1912) and travelled to Europe. By April she was ready to return. On April 10, 1912, she and her mother boarded the Titanic in Southampton, England. They occupied a cabin on E-Deck. When the Titanic struck an iceberg at 11:40 on the 15th, she described it as “a long sickening crunch”. She and her mother boarded the first lifeboat to leave with friends William Sloper and Fredrick Seward. She later appeared in the film, _Saved From the Titanic (1912)_, a one-reel quickie. It was to be her last. She soon quit the business and married Jules Brulatour. This marriage was also short, lasting only two years.

The following article appeared on the front page of the Manitoba Free Press, on Saturday, April 20, 1912.

Women Had No Idea of Serious Condition of the Titanic

Gave Their Money to Charlie For Safe-Keeping Until They Met

Hugo Ross Was Ill in Bed When Disaster Occurred—Rescued Loathe to Talk

(Special Staff Correspondent)

New York, April 19—Strong and self-contained in the time of great bereavement, the survivors of the Fortune family, Mrs. Fortune and her 3 daughters, Mabel, Ethel and Alice, were joined in their rooms in the Belmont today by Charles Allan, of Winnipeg, who is engaged to the latter member of the family. But though showing remarkable fortitude, they would talk but little of the terrible tragedy by which they were robbed of father and brother. This strikes the newspaper man on the Titanic wreck assignment as being characteristic of nearly all of the survivors. There is a dread of recalling the awful disaster by talking of it, for the recounting of the events seems at once to bring the dreadful picture before their eyes. To Mr. Allan, however,

the story has been told, in part disjointedly and with little sequence, but still bringing forth many graphic pictures.

Did Not Think it was Last Parting

Probably one of the grimmest features of this story, as told to the Free Press, is the fact that upon leaving on the sixth boat the sisters handed over their money to Charlie, their brother, for safe keeping. When they left the ship they had no idea that they would never see either brother or father again. The prevailing opinion was that the Titanic would float for many hours, and that within 6 hours’ time the Carpathia would arrive to take off those who were left on board. They had scarcely drawn away, however, when the big ship commenced to keel, and at a safe distance from the vortex they watched her lights, and by them saw her heave and sink like a wounded sea monster. Mingled in the churning ice-strewn waters were those to whom they had bidden what they thought was only a short good-bye; the lights went out, and with them 1,500 lives. Dawn came over the ice dotted sea, and for 8 hours they floated in the lifeboat until they were picked up, almost the last, by the Carpathia.

Hugo Ross Was Ill

Of other western people who perished, they have little to tell. Hugo Ross, sick in his cabin was warned to dress by Thompson Beattie. The latter was heard to remark shortly before the Fortune boat left,

“Things look Pretty bad,” and then he went below to his friends.

Whether Mr. Ross managed to come on deck before the end came is not known. Neither of these men they saw again. None of the ladies had seen either J.J. Borebank, who was another Winnipegger lost. Alice thought she remembered having seen him at one time, but could not be sure. The boat on which the Fortunes escaped was ill-manned, and the women who formed most of its human cargo took a hand at the rowing from time to time. The Dicks of Calgary were on board, but most of the passengers were steerage. A man clothed in a woman’s dress and with a veil tried to get on board, just as the boat was being lowered, a foreigner leapt on board. As they pulled away they saw the band, with

(Continued on Page Six.)

Fortune Family Parted on Boat in Good Cheer

(Continued from Page One)

life preservers round their waists, and playing ragtime music. Just before the last, however, the notes of “Nearer my God to Thee,” came floating across the water to the survivors in the lifeboats.

“They never tried to get away,” Miss Fortune told Mr. Allan. “They just stood and played while the boats were lowered away and the steward walked round whistling and caring for the lady passengers. They were very brave.”

Mr. Allan has arranged with the C.P.R. to have a special car brought down by which the family will be conveyed to Winnipeg, either on Sunday or Monday.

Mr. and Mrs. Heber C. Hutton, of Winnipeg, have also joined them here.



Two traveling together on business on Titanic; Charles Hays was lost and Paul R. Chevre survived and so did bust of Canadian Prime Minister

bust of Sir Wilfred Laurer by Paul Chevre

bust of Sir Wilfred Laurer by Paul Chevre

Two passengers of the Titanic were returning from France to New York.  Charles Hays, the general manager of the Grand Trunk Railroad in Canada had commissioned Paul Chevre to prepare a sculpture of Canadian Prime Minister Sir Winfred Laurier with the goal of placing it in a place of prominence in the lobby of the new hotel being built by Grand Trunk in Ottawa. The unveiling of the bust was to take place upon their return. Hays died in the sinking of the Titanic while the famous French sculptor had been lucky enough to gain a seat in the lucky Lifeboat No. 7.  Chevre only made it two more years before he died in Paris in 1914.

This account from Chevre was published in many newspapers of the day:

"Captain Smith got band back to the big dining room to play when Titanic struck. They had finished their evening program some time before. Mr Chevré saw that the lowering of the boats which took along the people on the ship appeared not to be appreciating the danger they were in. Chevré said an officer asked him to get into a lifeboat to set an example. This he did, and was followed by five or six other girls, two of whom he believed to be the Missess Fortunes of Winnipeg. Mr Chevré stated that a few minutes before the ship sank Captain Smith cried out, "my luck has turned," and then shot himself. I saw him fall against the canvas railing on the bridge and disappear."

From The Encyclopedia Titanica:

The story also quoted Chevré as saying that the statue of Laurier destined for the Chateau Laurier hotel had been lost in the sinking. It was a dramatic read, but a total fabrication by a reporter who either didn’t understand French or made the whole thing up to sell papers.

Chevré arrived in Montreal on April 22, and stormed into the French language daily, La Presse, to set the record straight. Everything that had been written about him in English, he complained was “a tissue of lies. He denied saying Captain Smith had committed suicide, and said Laurier’s bust was safe. “The marble bust weights 7,445 pounds. How do you think I could have had it in my cabin? Good Lord! The bust is safe. It is actually aboard the Bretagne. ” The Herald, which printed the original story insisted it certainly did not fake Chevré’s account, but allowed that since its reporter didn’t speak French very well, “he might have misunderstood Mr Chevré’s rapid fire narrative.”

Charles Melville Hays tombstone

Charles Melville Hays tombstone

Chevré remained in Quebec for six months after the sinking and obtained the commission to do the statue of Marianne which stands outside the Union Française in Montreal facing Viger Square. Then Chevré who spent each summer for 14 years in Canada returned to France and never sailed again.

He died in Paris on 20 February 1914. “Paul Chevré was a passenger on the ill-fated Titanic,” read his obituary in the Montreal Gazette, “and although he survived the shock, it is doubtful he ever recovered from it.”

There was a good reason for Hays to want to commission a bust of Sir Laurier, as the Prime Minister had thrown his support behind awarding the push to the Pacific coast across the prairies to Grand Trunk Railroad.

This from Dictionary of Canadian Biography

Charles Melville Hays President of Grand Trunk Railway

Charles Melville Hays President of Grand Trunk Railway

“…the federal government of Sir Wilfrid Laurier had decided to promote the building of a second transcontinental railway. On the failure of the GTR and the smaller, prairie-based Canadian Northern to unite on such a project, Ottawa threw its support behind the GTR. On 24 Nov. 1902 Hays formally announced plans to construct a transcontinental.”

Hays did not live to see the GTP completed: he perished in the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. Sanctified by this tragic end and by his high social standing in Montreal, including membership in the American Presbyterian Church, he was eulogized as one of Canada’s greatest railwaymen. On 25 April 1912 work and movement on the GTR’s entire system stopped for five minutes in tribute. Hays’s legacy, however, was mixed. He presided over the most prosperous era in the history of the GTR, but as president of the GTP he initiated policies and programs which led in 1919 to the GTP being placed in receivership and to legislation authorizing federal acquisition of the GTR’s capital stock. During the proceedings of the board appointed to value this stock, it was alleged that Hays had deceived the London directors in 1903 and that they had never knowingly endorsed the scheme that led to the insolvency and nationalization of the entire system.

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The cable ship Minia was used to recover 17 bodies from the sinking including that of Charles M. Hays, President of the Grand Trunk Railway.

The cable ship Minia was used to recover 17 bodies from the sinking including that of Charles M. Hays, President of the Grand Trunk Railway.

The cable ship Minia was used to recover 17 bodies from the sinking including that of Charles M. Hays, President of the Grand Trunk Railway.

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‘Keep Your Mouth Shut; Big Money for You,’ Was Message to Hide News

Harold Bridge, the assistant wireless operator on the Titanic suffered frostbitten feet. He is shown being carried from the Carpathia upon arrival in New York.

Harold Bridge, the assistant wireless operator on the Titanic suffered frostbitten feet. He is shown being carried from the Carpathia upon arrival in New York.

New York Herald, April 21, 1912, page 1:

‘Keep Your Mouth Shut; Big Money for You,’ Was Message to Hide News

Hold Story for ‘Four Figures,’ Marconi Official Also Warned the Carpathia Operator, While Anxious World Waited Details of Disaster.

While the world was waiting three days for information concerning the fate of the Titanic, for part of the time at least, details concerning the disaster were being withheld by the wireless operator of the steamship Carpathia under specific orders from T. W. Sammis, chief engineer of the Marconi Wireless Company of America, who had arranged the sale of the story. This was admitted yesterday by Mr. Sammis, who defended his action. He said he was justified for getting for the wireless operators the largest amount he could for the details of the sinking of the ship, the rescue of the passengers and the other information the world had waited for. The first information concerning the loss of the Titanic came Monday evening, and it was known at that time the survivors were on board the Carpathia. About midnight the first of the list of survivors began to come by wireless, and from that time until Thursday night, when the rescue ship arrived in port, the world waited and waited in vain for the details of how the “unsinkable ship” had gone down. Three messages were sent to the Carpathia telling the operator to send out no news concerning the disaster. Two of these were unsigned, and the last one had the signature of Mr. Sammis.

“Keep Mouth Shut; Big Money.”

The first message was unsigned, and it is said it was sent as a list of names of survivors were being forwarded. It read:– “Keep your mouth shut. Hold story. Big money for you.” The messages from the Carpathia to the Marconi office concerning this matter were not available, but there was evidently some communication, for the second unsigned message followed after an interval. This message read:– “If you are wise, hold story. The Marconi company will take care of you.” The third and last message was addressed to “Marconi officer, the Carpathia and the Titanic,” and signed “S. M. Sammis,” chief engineer of the Marconi Company of America. This one read:– “Stop. Say nothing. Hold your story for dollars in four figures. Mr. Marconi agreeing. Will meet you at dock.” Mr. Sammis was at the Waldorf-Astoria yesterday at the hearing before the sub-committee of the United States Senate, and he was asked about the message.

Mr. Sammis Resents Criticism.

“It is reported,” he was told, “that a message was sent by you to the wireless operator on the Carpathia to which you gave the orders or at least said to him not to give out any details of the sinking of the Titanic, as you had arranged for four figures.” “Well?” he said is a defiant way. “Did you send such a message?” “Maybe. What of it?” he replied. “It would be interesting to know if you actually sent such a message.” “Yes, I sent the message, but whose business is it?” Mr. Sammis asked with some heat. “Perhaps it was no one’s business,” he was told, “but it is interesting to know that when the world was horror stricken over the disaster and waiting for the news, that there were persons preparing to capitalize the suspense and had arranged for ‘four figures.’ ” “Do you blame me for this,” retorted Mr. Sammis, as he backed up against the wall. “Do you blame me for getting the highest price I could for the operator for the story he had to tell about the collision and the rescue. I thought I was doing a good turn for him, and I can’t see how it is the business of anyone.” It is not unlikely that the sending of these messages with the apparent result that no details of the disaster came from the relief ship will form part of the inquiry that is being made by a sub-committee of the Senate. Part of this inquiry has been directed as to why a message from President Taft asking for information about Major Archibald W. Butt was unanswered, and it is not unlikely that in view of the message from Mr. Sammis that this will be taken up again.

Navy Likely to Have Records.

While these messages were intercepted by more than one wireless receiving station, there is one place where the Senate Committee could undoubtedly get copies of them. The New York Navy Yard has a powerful receiving station, and has what is known as an “intercepted message” book. These messages are considered confidential and are never given out, but the book would undoubtedly be at the disposal of the investigating committee. Senator Smith said yesterday that the authorities in Washington knew on Thursday long before the Carpathia arrived, that the White Star line was contemplating the return of part of the Titanic crew to England by the steamship Cedric, and this information undoubtedly came from a government station. John W. Griggs, one time Attorney General of the United States and Governor of New Jersey, is president of the Marconi Wireless Company of America. He said last night he had not heard that the chief engineer of the company was marketing the information of the disaster. “This is a matter which will be looked into,” he said. “I know nothing about it, had not heard of it before, and, of course, cannot say what will be done until it is brought to my attention in an official way.”

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John Jacob Astor’s watch was being peddled to Titanic II partiers; was it a hoax like the violin?

John Jacob Astor and his teenage bride in New York prior to their fateful voyage.

John Jacob Astor and his teenage bride in New York prior to their fateful voyage.

Another Titanic Hoax?
From the Gothamist

Convicted mother looter Anthony Marshall is still appealing his one-to-three year prison sentence. And in the meantime? He’s reportedly busy hawking family heirlooms of questionable provenance at parties for the greatest cruise ship of our time, the Titanic II. Brooke would not be amused!

It seems that Marshall and his wife Charlene attended a gala for the we-still-can’t-believe-this-is-really-happening Titanic II cruise ship last month and while there showed off some of the family jewels. Charlene reportedly wore some of Brooke’s baubles and Marshall, 88, was apparently flashing a watch he claims that John Jacob Astor IV wore when he died on the original Titanic in 1912. Only problem? Somebody else owns that particular watch! And he didn’t loan it to Tony.

John Miottel, “a real-estate magnate who collects luxury ocean-liner memorabilia,” says he bought the watch in 1997 and has all the documentation to prove it. “The watch was purchased in 1907 and carried by Mr. Astor, and we have an affidavit on its history. When the ship went down, Astor went into the water and two weeks later, they recovered his body and the personal effects were taken off the victims and put in canvas bags,” Miottel told the Post before showing documents confirming he bought the watch, which had previously left the Astor family, from Brunk Auctions in Asheville, NC.

Charlene Marshall, for her part, told the Post that Miottel is wrong and that the watch her hubby has is the real deal. And the story could end there, with a couple of old cons thinking they’ve got something they don’t. Except, according to reports Charlene and Anthony are said to be looking to sell the watch (as the real deal) for $1 million—which it certainly isn’t worth. Still, there is a way to make that watch really valuable! Just have it sink with the obviously doomed Titanic II and then fish it back up again.  …..MORE

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Curator trashes authenticity of Wallace Hartley violin; biggest hoax since Hitler diaries?

violin Metro UK
From Lancashire Telegraph

March 16, 2013 — THE CURATOR of the Titanic in Lancashire Museum has rubbished claims that Wallace Hartley’s violin has been found.

Titanic auctioneers Henry Aldridge and Son claim a violin played by Colne bandmaster Wallace Hartley on board the fatal ship is to go on display in Belfast at the end of the month.

The instrument was discovered in an attic in 2006 and tests carried out by scientists are said to have verified it was Wallace’s violin.

Andrew Aldridge, of Henry Aldridge and Son, said: “When we first saw the violin we had to keep a lid on our excitement because it was almost as if it was too good to be true.

“The silver fish plate on the violin along with the other items it was with, such as the leather case with Hartley’s initials on, his jewellery and covering letter to the owner’s late mother, suggested it was either authentic or an extremely elaborate hoax up there with the Hitler Diaries.

‘We knew we would have to look into it and it couldn’t be rushed. Everything needed to be researched properly and the correct experts had to be commissioned.

‘We have spent the last seven years gathering the evidence together and have now reached the stage where we can say that beyond reasonable doubt this was Wallace Hartley’s violin on the Titanic.

“We now know that minutes before the end he placed his beloved violin in this hard-wearing travelling case.

“The bag rested on top of his lifejacket and would have largely been kept out of the water. A letter from his mother was found in his breast pocket and that suffered hardly any water damage.”

But Nigel Hampson, curator of the Colne museum, said: “The historical record does not show that Wallace was recovered with his violin strapped to his body – it actually proves the opposite.

“The inventory of items recovered on Wallace’s body makes no mention whatsoever of a violin or music case or anything similar being found with him.

“We are supposed to believe that when the ship sinks and everyone, the band included, are fighting for their lives, Wallace is more concerned with the fate of his instrument than his life?

We are also supposed to believe that the violin survives almost two weeks in the sea and emerges intact?

“The local press in Colne make no mention of his violin whatsoever. If Wallace had indeed been recovered with his violin after the disaster, they would have been all over the story and given it massive coverage.

“This violin clearly is a Wallace Hartley instrument, but to claim that it is the violin that he had with him on the Titanic is preposterous and is not backed up by the historical record.”

A number of items of Hartley’s jewellery will be sold at auction in Devizes on April 20. ….MORE

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