History Podcasts

Titanic’s Tennis Star Survivors

Titanic’s Tennis Star Survivors

The 1,500 tennis fans packed into the grandstand showered applause upon Karl Behr and Dick Williams after their thrilling fourth-round match in the 1912 Longwood Challenge Bowl. Old-timers agreed that the match had been the finest in the tournament’s history. For five sets on a warm July afternoon, Behr and Williams shared the same grassy rectangle, but the men already shared a much stronger bond—one forged in ice. Just 12 weeks prior, the two future tennis Hall of Famers had both survived Titanic’s sinking.

Both Behr and Williams were chasing their dreams when they separately ascended Titanic’s gangway in Cherbourg, France. The 26-year-old Behr had been a tennis standout at Yale, and in 1907 he was a doubles finalist at Wimbledon and a member of the U.S. Davis Cup team. As he boarded Titanic, however, Behr had more important things than tennis on his mind, mainly 19-year-old Helen Newsom.

The tennis star had been pursuing his sister’s classmate, but Newsom’s mother and stepfather disapproved of the age gap between the suitors and hoped a European trip might cool the romance. Behr, however, concocted a business trip to Europe and followed along. When Newsom telegrammed Behr in Berlin to say she was sailing home aboard Titanic, he quickly booked a ticket on the giant ocean liner to surprise her.

While Behr was on the downside of his tennis career, Williams was just beginning his. The 21-year-old descendant of Ben Franklin had American blood in his veins, but he was born and raised in Europe. His trip to America to play the summer tennis circuit before matriculating at Harvard had been delayed by a case of the measles, but it left him with the seeming good fortune of sailing with his father, Charles, on Titanic’s historic maiden voyage.

Williams and his father dined at the table of Captain Edward Smith on April 14, 1912, before retiring for the night. Shortly before midnight, the pair was awoken by the collision with the iceberg. Charles Williams was not worried initially. Decades earlier, he had been aboard a ship that struck an Atlantic iceberg, and the gash had simply been plugged with the boat’s cotton cargo. Father and son donned life vests underneath their raccoon coats and tried to remain warm by walking the deck and riding stationary bikes in the exercise room.

Behr, who had been awake when the collision occurred, roused Newsom and her mother and stepfather from sleep. When the situation turned dire, the party jumped into a lifeboat and watched in horror as Titanic began to sink into the sea. Back on deck, Williams turned to his father and yelled, “Quick! Jump!” Just at that moment, however, an enormous smokestack crashed down and instantly crushed Charles Williams to death. It narrowly missed Dick Williams, who plunged into the 28-degree water. He swam furiously to a collapsible lifeboat that he would cling to for hours before he, Behr and 700 other survivors were rescued by RMS Carpathia.

When the exhausted Williams was pulled from the icy waters, he was suffering from hypothermia and his legs were a worrisome shade of purple. A doctor on board recommended amputation to prevent the onset of gangrene, but Williams refused. “I’m going to need these legs,” he reportedly said. Throughout the trip to New York, Williams walked the deck every two hours, even through the night, to restore his circulation. It worked, and within weeks he was back swinging his wooden racket.

It was on board Carpathia that Behr first met Williams, and three months later they squared off on the finely manicured lawns of the Longwood Cricket Club near Boston. Williams, the boy wonder, had an incredible summer, winning the national clay court championship, the national mixed doubles championship and the Pennsylvania state championship.

At Longwood, the phenom initially overpowered Behr with his athleticism, blanking the veteran in the first set and winning the second 9-7. The savvy Behr, however, made the adjustments to capture the next three sets and a 0-6, 7-9, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 victory. The Boston Globe reported the next day that “if one of the 1,500 spectators went away dissatisfied, he was indeed hard to please.”

The two men competed again a few weeks later in Long Island, and they met in the quarterfinals of the 1914 U.S. Championships (today’s U.S. Open). Williams won easily in straight sets en route to the first of his two national titles. Before his career was over, Williams would be a member of five winning Davis Cup teams and capture a Wimbledon doubles title, two U.S. doubles championships and a mixed doubles gold medal in the 1924 Olympics.

While Williams lost his father and nearly his legs in the Titanic disaster, it was Behr who struggled more in its aftermath. He was plagued by survivor’s guilt and in 1917 had an emotional breakdown that led to a brief stay in a sanitarium. As with all men who boarded Titanic’s lifeboats, Behr encountered whispers about his gallantry. He testified in the aftermath that he was ordered to row the boat, saying, “At that time we supposed there were plenty of lifeboats for all the passengers.”

The media also scrutinized the romantic relationship between Behr and Newsom, who became engaged six months after the tragedy and wed in March 1913. The press covered the “Titanic couple” like a real-life Jack and Rose who had met and fell in love on the ill-fated liner. Despite the pair’s repeated denials, some newspapers erroneously reported the two were strangers thrown together by fate in the lifeboat, while others claimed Behr proposed to Newsom inside the lifeboat.

Williams was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1957, while Behr was enshrined posthumously in 1969. Arguable, however, their greatest triumph was surviving history’s most famous shipwreck.


R. Norris Williams

Williams was born in Geneva, Switzerland, the son of Philadelphia parents Charles Duane Williams, a direct descendant from Benjamin Franklin, and Lydia Biddle White. He was tutored privately at a Swiss boarding school and spoke fluent French and German. He started playing tennis at age 12, mainly under the guidance of his father. [3]

On January 11, 1919 in Paris, France, Williams married Jean Haddock (1890–1929), daughter of Arthur Henry and Matilda (Stewart) Haddock. They had four children. Jean died aged 38 on April 20, 1929 in Philadelphia. Williams remarried to Frances West Gillmore (1908–2001), daughter of Major General Quincy Adams Gillmore II and Frances West (Hemsley) Gillmore, on October 2, 1930. She was a great-granddaughter of Quincy Adams Gillmore.

Tennis career Edit

In 1911 Williams won the Swiss Championship. [3] A year later he entered Harvard University and became the intercollegiate tennis champion in singles (1913, 1915) and doubles (1914, 1915). [4]

Williams is best known for his two men's singles titles at the U.S. Championships in 1914 (beating Maurice McLoughlin in the final) [5] and 1916 (beating Bill Johnston in the final). [6] He was also on the victorious American Davis Cup team twice: in 1925 and 1926 and was considered a fine doubles player. [1] He also had a reputation in singles of always hitting as hard as possible and always trying to hit winners near the lines. This made him an extremely erratic player, but when his game was sporadically "on", he was considered unbeatable.

During the 1924 Olympics, at the age of 33 (and with a sprained ankle), Richard Norris Williams became a Gold Medalist in the mixed doubles, partnering Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman. He went on to captain several winning Davis Cup teams from 1921 through 1926 as well as the 1934 team. At age 44, he retired from Championship Tennis.

He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame (Newport, Rhode Island) in 1957.

RMS Titanic Edit

Williams also gained fame as being a survivor of the RMS Titanic disaster in April 1912. He and his father, Charles Duane Williams, were traveling first class on the liner when it struck an iceberg and sank. Shortly after the collision, Williams freed a trapped passenger from a cabin by breaking down a door. He was reprimanded by a steward, who threatened to fine him for damaging White Star Line property, an event that inspired a scene in James Cameron's film Titanic (1997). Williams remained on the doomed liner almost until the very end. At one point Williams' father tried to get a steward to fill his flask. The flask was given to Williams and remains in the Williams family.

As Titanic began her final plunge, father and son jumped into the water. While Dick was able to save himself, his father was killed by the first funnel falling from the ship. [7] The 21-year-old Williams recalled, "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." He made his way to the partially-submerged Collapsible A, holding onto its side for quite a while before getting in. When Williams entered the water, he was wearing a fur coat which he quickly discarded along with his shoes. Those in Collapsible A who survived were transferred to Lifeboat 14 by Fifth Officer Harold Lowe. Although abandoned by RMS Carpathia, Collapsible A was recovered a month later. Onboard the lifeboat was the discarded fur coat which was returned to Williams by White Star. [8]

After entering the lifeboat, he spent several hours knee-deep in the freezing water. Carpathia arrived on the scene to rescue survivors. The ordeal left his legs so severely frostbitten that the Carpathia ' s doctor wanted to amputate them. Williams, who did not want his tennis career to be cut short, opted instead to work through the injury by simply getting up and walking around every two hours, around the clock. The choice worked out well for him: later that year, he won his first U.S. Tennis Championship, in mixed doubles, and went on to win many more championships including the Davis Cup with fellow survivor Karl Behr.

It was not until after the publication of A Night to Remember (1955), a book about the Titanic disaster, that Williams became acquainted with its author Walter Lord. In 1962, Williams met with Lord and gave a detailed account of the sinking.

Military service, business career, historical society Edit

Williams served in the United States Army during World War I and was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Honor. After the war, he continued playing championship tennis.

Williams, also a noted Philadelphia investment banker, was president of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Death Edit

Richard Norris Williams died of emphysema on June 2, 1968, aged 77, in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. [2] [9]


Richard Norris Williams

Mr Richard Norris Williams II, 21, was born in Geneva, Switzerland on 29 January 1891 the son of Charles Duane Williams.

Richard was travelling with his father from Geneva to Radnor, PA. Williams, an accomplished tennis player, had planned to take part in tournaments in America before going on to study at Harvard University. The men boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg as first class passengers (ticket number PC 17597, £61 7s 7d).

As they left their stateroom on C-Deck after the collision on April 14th they saw a steward trying to open the door of a cabin behind which a panicking passenger was trapped. Williams put his shoulder to the door and broke in. The steward threatened to report him for damaging company property.

According to a family member, at around midnight the two men went to the bar and found it was closed. They asked a steward if he could open up but the steward said it was against regulations. Charles handed his empty flask to Richard which today is in the possession of Richard's grandson Quincy II.

The two men wandered the decks as the ship sank under them, they went to A-Deck to look at the map where the ships run was posted daily, they returned to the Boat Deck to see the lights of the lifeboats glinting in the distance. Feeling the intense cold they retired to the gymnasium where they sat on the stationary bicycles while gymnasium instructor McCawley chatted to others that had congregated there.

As the Titanic foundered Richard and Charles found themselves swimming for their lives in the water, Richard was astonished to find himself face to face with first class passenger Robert W. Daniels' prize bulldog Gamon de Pycombe doing likewise, one of the other passengers had earlier ventured below to release the dogs from the kennels.

Richard saw his father and many others crushed by the forward funnel as it collapsed, he narrowly avoided being crushed himself, the resulting wave washed him toward Collapsible A and after clinging to its side for some time he was hauled aboard He and the other occupants were later transferred to lifeboat 14. He managed to forget the cold for a while when he was distracted by the sight of a man wearing a Derby hat with a dent in it. He attempted in several languages to explain to the man how to push it out but he didn't seem to understand. Eventually he reached out to do it himself but the man resisted thinking Williams was trying to steal his hat.

The survivors in Collapsible A had suffered terribly from the cold since they were waist-deep in freezing water. After his rescue the doctor on the Carpathia recommended the amputation of both his legs but Richard refused he exercised daily and eventually his legs recovered..

A month later Collapsible 'A' which had been abandoned by the Carpathia was recovered by the White Star Liner Oceanic, as this letter, from R.N.Williams to fellow Titanic survivor Colonel Archibald Gracie shows, its discovery led to a certain degree of confusion regarding Williams and his father:

'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. My fur coat was found attached to this Engelhardt boat 'A' by the Oceanic, and also a cane marked 'C.Williams.' This gave rise to the story that my father's body was in this boat, but this as you see, is not so. How the cane got there I do not know.'

The overcoat was also mentioned in a letter from Mr Harold Wingate of the White Star Line to Colonel Gracie:

'The overcoat belonging to Mr Williams I sent to a furrier to be reconditioned, but nothing could be done with it except dry it out, so I sent it to him as it was. There was no cane in the boat. The message from the Oceanic and the words 'R. N. Willians, care of Duane Williams,' were twisted by the receiver of the message to 'Richard N. Williams, cane of Duane Williams,' which got into the press, and thus perpetuated the error.'

Williams continued his tennis career and entered Harvard. Despite his traumatic ordeal and the injury to his legs Richard won the 1912 United States mixed doubles (with Ms. Mary Browne). In 1914 and 1916 he was United States singles champion, 1920 Wimbledon men's doubles champion (with Mr C. S. Garland) and runner up in 1924 (with Mr W. M. Washburn), 1924 Olympic gold medalist and between 1913 and 1926 was a member of the United States Davis Cup team.

Richard Norris Williams (left) at the 1924 Wimbledon Men's Doubles Final (watch video)

Richard Norris Williams

Williams served with distinction in the U.S. Army in World War I and was awarded the Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur and Croix de Guerre.

In later life Williams went on to become a successful investment banker in Philadelphia and was for twenty two years the President of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. He died of emphysema on 2 June 1968, aged 77. His body was interred in St. David's Churchyard, Devon, Pennsylvania.


(Courtesy of Michael A. Findlay, USA)


The secret bond of two American tennis aces who survived Titanic disaster

It is, according to the publisher Randy Walker, the 'greatest story in the history of tennis’.

So as the centenary of the Titanic sinking approaches this Sunday, how salutary that we should be reacquainted with two athletes bound together by their Ivy League education, patrician East Coast stock, eligible bachelordom, and the fact that they survived the most famous maritime disaster in history. Chronicling the story of Richard Norris Williams and Karl Behr remains fraught with sensitivity, even 100 years on. Lydia Griffin, Williams’ granddaughter, has denounced Lindsay Gibbs’ forthcoming novel on their lives as a 'fictional tale spun on a bare scaffold of real events’. Such controversy is regrettable, for theirs is a narrative almost impossible to sensationalise.

The faithfully-rendered 3D version of James Cameron’s Titanic would appear to have nothing on the undercurrents of class, love and valour that their ordeal encapsulated. Williams and Behr were hardly the most celebrated members of Titanic’s manifest when she left Southampton on April 12, 1912. Not when the passengers for her maiden voyage included such titans of American industry as John Jacob Astor IV, Benjamin Guggenheim and George Widener. It turned out that Widener, a streetcar magnate, was not the only representative of Philadelphia high society on board.

For also in his company in first class was one Charles Duane Williams, distant descendant of Benjamin Franklin and father to Richard, known as Dick, a highly promising junior tennis talent. The family had relocated to Geneva once Charles became ill, and the teenage Dick has been said to prefigure Roger Federer by virtue of his domination of the Swiss circuit and the effortless elegance of his play. He and his father had booked on Titanic so that he could compete in the American summer tournaments before enrolling at Harvard in the autumn. In the event, they made the crossing with just minutes to spare, when they disembarked at the wrong railway connection in Paris.

It was on the train that Williams had been shocked to catch sight of Behr, a successful lawyer and confidant of Teddy Roosevelt, not to mention a member of the US Davis Cup team. So accomplished was Behr on a tennis court that he reached the Wimbledon doubles final in 1907, although he found himself in Europe on a strictly non-sporting project. For what guided him was a girl: specifically, 19-year-old Helen Newsom, a friend of his younger sister, with whom he had slipped away to enjoy the sights of Madeira and Morocco on his first transatlantic cruise. The two of them had arranged to meet again when they were next in New York, but Behr decided to surprise Helen on the return journey. Thus did he settle comfortably into Titanic cabin C-148, armed with a diamond ring.

For the first days of the crossing, Behr was preoccupied with winning over Helen&rsquos mother and stepfather, Sallie and Richard Beckwith, both concerned at how he was eight years her senior. Williams instead invested his time on Titanic&rsquos squash courts, a blissful escape brutally truncated when, at 11.40pm on April 14, an iceberg ripped a gash in the hull. At first he was placated — despite the ghastly sound beneath — by the words of his father, who sought to reassure him that if the ship had been punctured, she could float for up to 15 hours: more than sufficient time for a rescue mission. Behr, it is reported, swiftly intuited the severity of the situation, ordering Helen to change into warm clothes and to leave all possessions behind except her jewels. He secured a place in one of the lifeboats only when J Bruce Ismay, managing director of White Star Lines, allegedly told him that men were needed to help the women and children with the rowing.

For Williams, the escape was more desperate. He and his father had tried to retain warmth by riding stationary bikes in the exercise room, but decided to abandon ship once they saw the letters of the ship&rsquos name on the bow slip below the water line. As they spoke on deck, one of Titanic&rsquos huge smokestacks crashed down, killing Charles instantly.

In that second, Dick dived into the freezing Atlantic. &ldquoI was not under water very long,&rdquo he wrote to a fellow survivor, having saved his life by clinging to a collapsible raft. He would watch as Titanic&rsquos stern flopped into the icy depths at 2.45am, finally encountering Behr aboard Carpathia on the harrowing onward passage to New York. Three months later they would meet once more. This time it was in a fourth-round match of the Longwood Bowl in Boston, with Behr prevailing in five sets. Neither, most extraordinarily of all, would utter a word about the ties that bound them.


Joseph Bruce Ismay

Mr Joseph Bruce Ismay was born at Crosby, near Liverpool on 12 December 1862. He was the eldest son of Thomas Henry Ismay and Margaret Bruce (daughter of Luke Bruce). Thomas Ismay was senior partner in the firm of Ismay, Imrie and company and founder of the White Star Line. The family lived at Dawpool, Cheshire.

Bruce Ismay was educated at Elstree School and at Harrow. When he left Harrow he was tutored in France for a year before being apprenticed to Thomas Ismay's office for four years. He then went on a one year tour of the world and upon his return was posted to New York where he worked at the White Star Line office for a further year. At the end of that period he was appointed the company agent in New York.

In 1888 Ismay married Julia Florence Schieffelin (eldest daughter of George R. Schieffelin of New York) and together they had two sons and two daughters.

In 1891 Ismay and his family returned to England. That year he was made a partner in the firm of Ismay, Imrie and company.


(Daily Mirror, 16 April 1912, p.8)

Thomas Ismay died in 1899 and Bruce became head of the business. Bruce Ismay led a thriving firm and displayed considerable business acumen, but in 1901 his firm was approached by American interests towards forming an international conglomerate of shipping companies. After lengthy negotiations Ismay agreed terms with John Pierpont Morgan under which the White Star Line would form part of the International Mercantile Marine Company. At that time the IMM was led by C. A. Griscom, president of the American Line, but in 1904 Ismay succeeded Griscom and held the position of president until 1913 when Harold Sanderson took over.

In addition to his interest in the company his father had created, Bruce Ismay was, during his life, also chairman of the Asiatic Steam Navigation Company, chairman of the Liverpool Steamship Owners Protection Association and the Liverpool and London War Risks Association as well as the Delta Insurance Company. He was also a director of the Liverpool, London and Globe Insurance Company, the Sea Insurance Company, the Birmingham Canal Navigation Company and the London, Midland and Scottish Railway. Of the latter he had been offered chairmanship but had declined.

One summer evening in 1907 (the exact date is unknown), Bruce and Florence Ismay dined at Downshire House in Belgravia, the London home of Lord Pirrie. Pirrie was a partner in the firm of Harland & Wolff, Belfast shipbuilders with whom the Ismay's firm had enjoyed a long and lucrative partnership.

Ismay and Pirrie were determined to formulate a response to the popularity of their nearest competitors latest ships. Cunard had introduced the Lusitania in 1907 followed shortly afterwards by the Mauretania. These ships had been built with the help of a government subsidy and had set new standards in luxury at sea as well as being faster and larger than any that had gone before.

Ismay and Pirrie decided that high speed, while desirable, was not the essential element in capturing the vital immigrant trade which was their main source of income at that time. They would concentrate on creating the largest ships to maximise steerage capacity while making them the most luxurious in first and second class accommodation in order to woo the wealthy and the prosperous middle class.

Ismay accompanied his ships on their maiden voyages and the Titanic was no exception.

On 10 April 1912 he boarded the Titanic with his valet Richard Fry and his secretary William Henry Harrison. While on board he was also assisted by Ernest Freeman who unlike the other employees was listed as a crew member.

Ismay was rescued from the Titanic in Collapsible C.

During his life Ismay would inaugurate the cadet ship Mersey for the training of officers for the merchant navy, gave £11,000 to found a fund to benefit widows of lost seamen and in 1919 gave £25,000 to establish a fund to recognise the contribution of merchantmen in the war. He divided his time between his homes in London and Ireland.

Joseph Bruce Ismay died on 17 October 1937 leaving an estate worth £693,305.

The Times obituary recalls some interesting insights into Ismay's personality but fails to make any mention of the Titanic:

[He was a man] 'of striking personality and in any company arrested attention and dominated the scene. Those who knew him slightly found his personality overpowering and in consequence imagined him too be hard, but his friends knew this was but the outward veneer of a shy and highly sensitive nature, beneath which was hidden a depth of affection and understanding which is given to but few. Perhaps his outstanding characteristic was his deep feeling and sympathy for the 'underdog' and he was always anxious to help anyone in trouble. Another notable trait was an intense dislike of publicity which he would go to great lengths to avoid. In his youth he won many prizes in lawn-tennis tournaments he also played association football, having a natural aptitude for games. He enjoyed shooting and fishing and became a first class shot and an expert fisherman. Perhaps the latter was his favourite sport and he spent many happy holidays fishing in Connemara'.


Karl Howell Behr

Mr Karl Howell Behr, 26, was born 30 May 1885, in Brooklyn, New York the son of Herman Behr and Grace Howell.

Karl Behr was educated at Lawrenceville School and Yale. He was admitted to the bar in 1910. Behr was also a well known lawn tennis star. Playing on the United States Davis Cup team in 1907. Behr, with Beals C. Wright, was also runner up in the 1907 Wimbledon men's doubles championship.

Behr boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg as a first class passenger he occupied cabin C-148 (111369, £30). He had been pursuing Helen Monypeny Newsom, a friend of his sister. In fact, part of the reason he was on the Titanic was to continue his courtship of Miss Newsom. Mrs Beckwith, Helen's mother had been attempting to discourage the relationship and had taken Miss Newsom on a "Grand Tour" of Europe to separate them for a time. It did not work as Behr invented a business trip to Europe and arranged to book passage on the Titanic for his return to America.

On the night of the wreck, Behr joined the Beckwiths, Helen Newsom, and Edwin and Mrs Kimball on the starboard boat deck. Although Third Officer Herbert Pitman was in charge of loading lifeboat 5 Bruce Ismay was also urging wary passengers into the boat. Mrs Kimball stepped forward and asked if they could all go together, and Ismay replied, "Of course, madam, every one of you." As a result, Karl Behr and his friends were rescued in Boat 5.

Whilst returning to New York on the Carpathia, Behr and some other survivors (Mr Frederic K. Seward - Chairman, Molly Brown, Mauritz Björnström-Steffansson, Frederic Oakley Spedden, Isaac Frauenthal and George Harder) formed a committee to honour the bravery of Captain Rostron and his crew. They would present the Captain with an inscribed silver cup and medals to each of the 320 crew members.

In March, 1913, just short of a year after the catastrophe, Karl and Miss Newsom were married in the Church of the Transfiguration. The couple had 4 children three sons, Karl H. Behr Jr. (still alive, Florida), Peter Behr (b. May 24, 1915, d. March 10, 1997 in San Rafael, California), and James Behr (b. July 16, 1920, d. June 14, 1976, Napa, California), and a daughter, Sally Behr (later Mrs Samuel Pettit, b. March 8, 1928, d. September 1995, Wilmington, Delaware)

Behr later went into banking he was vice-president of Dillon, Read & Co., bankers, of 28 Nassau St., NY. He was also on the board of the Fisk Rubber Company, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, and the National Cash Register Company. At his death he was a director of he Interchemical Corporation, the Behr-Manning Corporation of Troy, N.Y., and the Witherbee Sherman Corporation. His clubs included the Downtown, University and Yale, and the St. Nicholas Society.

Karl Behr's died on 15 October 1949, he was buried at Evergreen Cemertery, Morristown,New Jersey.

His widow later married one of his best friends and tennis partners, Dean Mathey. Helen died in Princeton, New Jersey in 1965.


2. The Socialite: Margaret “Molly” Brown

While most people know about Molly Brown and her bravery during the Titanic sinking, it is not as well-known that she was active in women’s rights and other causes both before and after the tragedy. Born on 18 July 1867, in Hannibal, Missouri, Molly and her husband, J.J. Brown, made their fortune in gold ore in Colorado. Molly sailed aboard Titanic from Cherbourg, France, after getting word that her grandson had taken ill back in America.

Molly Brown’s courage lasted far beyond her actions in the lifeboat, where she taught the other woman how to row and encouraged them all to sing to keep their spirits up. Once the Carpathia arrived, she worked to create the Titanic Survivors Committee, of which she became chair. She also acted as a translator on board, being fluent in a variety of languages. The committee raised money for survivors who had lost everything due to the sinking, no matter their class. When she was refused entrance to the Titanic hearings and was not allowed to testify because of her gender, she had her findings and account of the sinking published in a variety of international newspapers. Brown persevered despite the tragedy and used her fame afterward to further human rights for others.


SI Vault: The tale of two American tennis aces who survived the Titanic

The grass courts were green, the collars were white and, at least to the casual observer, the fourth-round match at the Longwood Bowl in Boston on July 18, 1912, was typical of that year&aposs U.S. lawn tennis circuit. Richard Williams, a 21-year-old upstart from Philadelphia, faced Karl Behr, 27, a veteran from New York City. Though a "tennis generation" apart in age, the two men cut similar figures: handsome Ivy Leaguers of East Coast patrician stock. (Behr was a Yale man Williams would enter Harvard that fall.) Both were at home at the tournament&aposs venue, the Longwood Cricket Club, whose wealthy members often arrived in high style, piloting a new mode of transit: the automobile.

This was top-level tennis 100 summers ago: men in starched polo shirts, long pants, leather shoes and stoic expressions, using wooden rackets strung with beef or sheep gut to bat the ball around for hours in the afternoon sun. They might reconvene afterward in the clubhouse for a brandy, perhaps stopping first to call back to the office. In the era before prize money, many of the male players moonlighted as lawyers or bankers.

From the clubhouse the winners would repair to their rooms to prepare for the next day&aposs matches the losers would throw on seersucker suits and head for Newport (R.I.) or Merion (Pa.) or Chevy Chase (Md.), whichever moneyed enclave was hosting the next tournament. But in 1912 some of the losers at Longwood might have stayed on for a day to check out a baseball game nearby at newly opened Fenway Park.

The Williams-Behr match was full of precise shotmaking, savvy tactics and gyrating momentum. The lanky, dark-haired Williams brought his aggression and superior athleticism to bear and won the first two sets. Then the sturdier Behr, who wore wire-rimmed glasses and held back his sandy hair with a not-yet-voguish headband, surged and gradually wore down Williams&aposs resistance. Over five gripping sets the veteran beat the newcomer 0𠄶, 7𠄹, 6𠄲, 6𠄱, 6𠄴.

It was a classic match by any measure, two future Hall of Famers exploring the limits of their talent. Fans ringing the court applauded lustily, and the other players toasted the two men as they walked off at the end. The following day&aposs New York Times gushed that the match "was declared by old-timers to be one of the hardest fought tennis battles seen during the 22 years of tournaments at Longwood."

Something gave the encounter a deeper texture, however. Few press reports mentioned it, and those that did hardly played it up. Certainly neither Williams nor Behr discussed it openly. Nor did the fans at Longwood seem to be aware of it. But just 12 weeks earlier𠅊nd 100 years ago next month—the two players, traveling separately, had survived the most famous maritime disaster in history.

UNDERWOOD & UNDERWOOD/CORBIS (WILLIAMS) GÜNTER BోLER COLLECTION (BEHR) THE MARINERS&apos MUSEUM/CORBIS (HEADLINE)

​On April 12, 1912, to great fanfare, the RMSTitanic began its maiden voyage. The world&aposs largest and most expensive ship—in fact, at that time, the world&aposs largest man-made object—pushed off of a pier in Southampton, England, stopped briefly at Cherbourg, France, and Queenstown, Ireland, and then headed west into the open Atlantic, destination New York City. More than half of the 1,317 passengers were consigned to steerage class, but above decks were some of the richest and most distinguished people on the planet. The manifest included millionaire investor and real estate tycoon John Jacob Astor IV and his pregnant 18-year-old wife, Madeleine mining titan Benjamin Guggenheim Macy&aposs department store owner Isidor Straus and his wife, Ida and Philadelphia streetcar magnate George Widener, who had traveled to Europe with his wife, Eleanor, and son Harry to purchase rare books and find a chef for the family&aposs new hotel, the Ritz-Carlton.


12 famous people who died on the Titanic — and 11 who survived

The Titanic is one of the most famous tragedies in maritime history.

And a number of its victims and survivors were quite famous too.

The ocean liner, which sank off the coast of Newfoundland on its maiden voyage to New York City, was billed as the paragon of luxury travel . As a result, many prominent individuals decided to book a trip on the doomed ship.

Some of the ship's most famous passengers included a top fashion designer, one of the wealthiest men in the world, and a famous British countess.

For the most part, most of the well-known people on board were first-class passengers. Researcher Chuck Anesi crunched the numbers, breaking down the demographics of the survivors . He found that 97.22% of the 144 female first-class passengers were rescued, while only 32.57% of their 175 male counterparts were saved.

Ultimately, he found that male second-class passengers fared the worse in terms of survival, with only 14 out of 168 making it out alive. The total survival rate for women was 74%, while the male survival rate was 20%.

Here are 12 of the most famous victims of the Titanic disaster and 11 prominent people who survived:

DIED: John Jacob Astor, millionaire

Millionaire John Jacob Astor was a member of the prominent Astor familyand helped build the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City. He was also an inventor, a science fiction novelist, and served in the Spanish-American War.

Astor was traveling with his wife Madeleine in Europe when she became pregnant. To ensure the child would be born in the US, the couple booked a trip home on the Titanic.

He was last seen clinging to the side of a raft . His wife survived the disaster.

Astor was worth nearly $87,000,000 at the time $2.21 billion in today's dollars. He was the richest passenger onboard the Titanic.

SURVIVED: Archibald Gracie IV, historian and author

Gracie achieved prominence in the wake of the Titanic disaster due to his meticulous and detailed account of the tragedy.

The historian and Alabama native, who'd written a book on the American Civil War's Battle of Chickamauga, was returning from a European vacation on the Titanic.

He was woken up when the ship crashed into an iceberg. After escorting a number of women to the lifeboats, Gracie helped other passengers evacuate the ship.

When the ship sank, Gracie surfaced beside an overturned lifeboat. He managed to climb on top with a number of other men, and they spent much of the night balanced there.

The historian was one of the first Titanic survivors to die after being rescued, passing away on December 4, 1912 at the age of 54. Gracie's final words reportedly were "we must get them all in the boats ."

DIED: W. T. Stead, investigative journalist

Stead was a highly influential editor who, in an uncanny twist, may have foreseen his death on the Titanic.

As the editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, the newspaperman published an explosive and controversial investigative series about child prostitution . He is credited with helping to invent investigative journalism.

A devoted spiritualist, Stead also established a magazine dedicated to the supernatural and a psychic service known as Julia's Bureau.

He also penned a fictional story in 1886 that bore an unsettling resemblance to the real-life events of the Titanic.

" How the Mail Steamer Went Down in Mid Atlantic, by a Survivor " tells a story of an ocean liner that sinks in the Atlantic. In the story, only 200 passengers and crew members of the original 700 people on board survive the disaster, due to a lifeboat shortage.

According to Biography.com , Stead didn't hang around on deck as the Titanic sank. He spent his final hours reading in his cabin.

SURVIVED: Nol Leslie, countess and philanthropist

Nol Leslie, Countess of Rothes, was one of the Titanic's most famous passengers at the time.

A popular figure in London society, Leslie became a countess after marrying Norman Evelyn Leslie, Earl of Rothes, in 1900.

Leslie and her cousin Gladys Cherry booked a trip on the Titanic. According to Biography.com , both Leslie and Cherry escaped on a lifeboat and assisted crew members in rowing the raft to safety.

The cousins, along with crew member Thomas Jones, reportedly advocated rowing back to search for survivors, but their fellow lifeboat occupants voted against it.

The countess reportedly helped take care of her fellow survivors on board the Carpathia. According to Encyclopedia Titanica, she was dubbed "the plucky little countess" in the press and was a major subject of the media frenzy that ensued in the wake of the disaster.

After surviving the Titanic disaster, Leslie became a prominent philanthropist and worked as a nurse during World War I.

DIED: Thomas Andrews, architect of the Titanic

Andrews was no ordinary Titanic victim.

The longtime Harland and Wolff employee designed the ship itself. He traveled on the Titanic's maiden voyage in order to observe the ship and make recommendations on areas where the ship could be improved.

When an iceberg damaged the Titanic's hull, Andrews immediately knew it was doomed to sink, according to the BBC .

The 39-year-old shipbuilder then began helping women and children into the lifeboats.

The BBC also reprinted a telegram from the White Star Line, which noted that, "When last seen, officers say was throwing overboard deck chairs, other objects, to people in water. His chief concern safety of everyone but himself."

SURVIVED: Margaret Brown, socialite

Socialite and philanthropist Margaret Brown is best known for surviving the Titanic disaster.

According to Biography.com , she was born in Mississippi to Irish immigrants. She married James Joseph Brown in New York City. The couple became fabulously wealthy when Brown's mining business struck ore.

Brown became a well-known socialite with a penchant for dramatic hats and social activism on the behalf of women and children.

Brown was returning from a voyage around Europe when she decided to book a trip on the Titanic.

During the disaster, she reportedly helped to row the lifeboat and demanded that the group of survivors row back to the spot where the ship went down, in order to look for survivors. This earned her the nickname " the Unsinkable Molly Brown " although her friends and family reportedly called her Maggie.

Brown's life was immortalized in the Broadway musical "The Unsinkable Molly Brown," which was later adapted into a Hollywood film.

DIED: John Thayer, railroad executive

Thayer was well-known in 1912 as both a former cricket player and aPennsylvania Railroad Company executive.

The railroad company vice president was traveling on the Titanic with his wife and son following a trip to Berlin. After the ship struck an iceberg, Thayer made certain that his wife and their maid boarded a lifeboat.

Gracie reported seeing Thayer looking "pale and determined" on deck before the ship sank. Thayer's body was never found. His son, however, survived by diving into the water and swimming over to an overturned lifeboat.

SURVIVED: J. Bruce Ismay, White Star Line executive

Ismay may have survived the sinking of the Titanic, but he never lived down the public scorn he received in the wake of the disaster.

The White Star Line managing director was the highest-ranking company official to survive the disaster. He boarded a lifeboat 20 minutes before the ship sank into the Atlantic.

He later said he turned away as the Titanic slipped beneath the surface of the water, saying , "I did not wish to see her go down. I am glad I did not."

Ismay caught a lot of flack for boarding a lifeboat before other passengers. He was ostracized in society and ultimately resigned from his post and kept a low profile. Today, Ismay's family say that he was unfairly maligned by the pressand that he never fully recovered from the ordeal.

DIED: Isidor Straus, co-owner of Macys and his wife Ida

The couple first met after the Civil War when a penniless Isidor Straus moved to New York City, according to Premier Exhibitions. Isidor and his brother later acquired Macy's, and he eventually became a powerful businessman and a member of the US House of Representatives.

According to Today , Straus was offered a spot on a lifeboat while the ship was sinking. He declined, saying he wouldn't board a raft until every woman and child had gotten off the ship.

Ida then refused to leave her husband. When her husband urged her to evacuate the ship, she reportedly responded, "We have lived together for many years. Where you go, I go."

Ida then ordered her maid to board a lifeboat. She also gave her a mink coat, quipping that she wouldn't need the garment anymore. The couple was last seen together on the deck of the Titanic. Isidor's body was recovered from the ocean, but Ida was never found.

Woodlawn Cemetary in the Bronx memorialized Isidor and Ida Straus with a cenotaph bearing a line from the Song of Solomon : "Many waters cannot quench love neither can the floods drown it."

SURVIVED: Cosmo and Lucy Duff-Gordon, landowner and fashion designer

Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon and his wife Lady Lucy Duff-Gordon were two of the most prominent passengers on board the Titanic.

Duff-Gordon was a major landowner and society figure in the UK, known for his fencing skills. Lady Duff-Gordon was a top British fashion designer, whose innovations included the precursor to the modern day fashion show.

The Duff-Gordons booked a trip on the Titanic in order to travel to New York City on business. When disaster struck, they both escaped on the first lifeboat that embarked off the ship.

According to Vogue , Lady Duff-Gordon described the scene on the Titanic, saying, "Everyone seemed to be rushing for that boat. A few men who crowded in were turned back at the point of Captain Smiths revolver, and several of them were felled before order was restored. I recall being pushed towards one of the boats and being helped in."

In the wake of the tragedy, Sir Duff-Gordon received criticism for not adhering to the ship's "women and children first" evacuation policy.

A few years later in 1915, Lady Duff-Gordon escaped death again after canceling her voyage on the doomed Lusitania.

DIED: Benjamin Guggenheim, mining magnate

Benjamin Guggenheim was a member of the powerful Guggenheim family, which earned its fortune in the mining industry.

He was traveling on the ship with his mistress Lontine Aubart and a number of staffers.

According to " LIFE Titanic: The Tragedy That Shook the World ," Guggenheim was initially optimistic about the ship's prospects, telling his maid that, "We will soon see each other again. It's just a repair. Tomorrow the Titanic will go on again."

Guggenheim, whose body was never recovered, reportedly put a rose in his buttonhole and quipped, "We've dressed up in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen."

He later passed on a message to his estranged wife to a Titanic survivor. "Tell her I played the game out straight to the end," he reportedly said. "No woman shall be left aboard this ship because Ben Guggenheim is a coward."

SURVIVED: Dorothy Gibson, actress

After getting her start as a young girl in vaudeville, Gibson went on to become a model and launch a career as a silent film star.

She was 22-years-old when she booked a passage on the Titanic. Gibson reportedly heard the ship crash into an iceberg. She grabbed her mother and together they escaped the ship on the first lifeboat.

"I will never forget the terrible cry that rang out from people who were thrown into the sea and others who were afraid for their loved ones," Gibson told a newspaper reporter shortly after the disaster, according to the History Press .

Gibson subsequently appeared as herself in a now-lost 1912 film about her experienced called " Saved from the Titanic ." According to the History Press , Gibson sported the same clothes in the film as she had on during the disaster. Gibson quit acting shortly afterward.

After that, Gibson's life is a bit cloudy.Her affair with a prominent film producer was a scandal in Americaand prompted Gibson to move to Paris. As WWII began, there were allegations that she herself was a Nazi sympathizer the veracity of those rumors is unclear.

Later, while living in Italy in the 1940s, the former actress was imprisoned by fascists. She survived prison but died shortly after the war.

DIED: George Dennick Wick, steel magnate

The industrialist was the founding president ofYoungstown Sheet and Tube Company, a now-defunct steel-manufacturing business.

Wick had been traveling in Europe in order to improve his health. Unfortunately, he booked a trip on the Titanic in order to return to the US.

Accordingto Encyclopedia Titanica , he was last seen on the deck of the ship, waving to his wife, daughter, cousin, and aunt as they escaped on a lifeboat.

SURVIVED: Elsie Bowerman, lawyer

Bowerman survived the sinking of the Titanic and went on to lead an extraordinary career.

According to Biography.com , the British suffragette and Cambridge graduate booked a trip on the ocean liner with her mother to visit friends living in American and Canada. They both survived the catastrophe by getting on the same lifeboat as Molly Brown.

When WWI broke out, Bowerman served in a traveling hospital unit that moved across Europe. Later, in 1923, she was admitted to the bar and became the first woman barrister to practice in the Old Bailey, the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales.

Biography.com noted that later in life Bowerman headed the establishment of the UN's Commission on the Status of Women.

DIED: Charles Melville Hays, railroad executive

Hays started out in the railway business as a teenaged clerk. He went on to become the president of theGrand Trunk Railway, which operated in Canada and the northeast of the US.

The American railway magnate may have had some reserves about embarking on the Titanic's maiden voyage. Biography.com reported that he "told his companions that the trend toward large boats might end in tragedy."

Hays' wife Clara and their daughter Orian were evacuated from the ship on lifeboats.

"After Charles and Clara were separated, she called out to every other lifeboat they encountered, hoping that he had made it on one of them," according to Biography.com . But Hays had died when the Titanic sank his body was later recovered and he was buried in Montreal.

SURVIVED: Helen Churchill Candee, author

An author and a single mother, Candee penned the early feminist work "How Women May Earn a Living" in 1900.

The American writer traveled extensively and befriended a number of prominent individuals, including Theodore Roosevelt and William Jennings Bryan.

She booked a passage on the Titanic in order to return to the US to care for her son, who'd been injured.

Despite breaking her ankle during the chaotic evacuation, according to Biography.com , the writer teamed up with Molly Brown to man the oars of the lifeboat.

Even after surviving the Titanic, Candee continued to travel the world, undaunted.

DIED: Henry B. Harris, Broadway producer

Harris was a major player on Broadway when he lost his life on the Titanic. He'd started producing plays and managing stars back in 1897 , and was returning to the US after a business trip to London.

He went down with the ship after ensuring his wife Renee, who had previously broken her elbow after falling down the ship's grand staircase, got on a lifeboat.

"Harry lifted me in his arms and threw me into the arms of a sailor and then threw a blanket that he had been carrying for me through the hours," his wife recalled, according to author Charles Pellegrino's website .

Renee achieved prominence by taking up her husband's line of work , becoming one of the first female theatrical producers in the US.

SURVIVED: Karl Behr, tennis player

The Independent reported that banker and tennis star Karl Behr only booked a trip on the Titanic in order to pursue his future wife, Helen Newsom.

Behr survived the disaster because he was asked to help row one of the lifeboats. According to Encyclopedia Titanica , it was reported that he may have asked Newsom for her hand in marriage while they were adrift in a lifeboat.

Behr went on to continue his successful tennis career after surviving the disaster.

DIED: Jacques Futrelle, mystery writer

Futrelle achieved success as a mystery author before losing his life on the Titanic.

The Georgia native started out as a journalist, working for the New York Herald and the Boston Post two now-defunct papers.

But, according to Biography.com , he's best remembered for his fictional stories. He penned a series about fictional detective Professor Augustus S.F.X. Van Dusen. His most famous story was " The Problem of Cell 13 ."

Futrelle and his wife dined with Henry and Renee Harris on the night the ship sank. Futrelle ensured that his wife got on a lifeboat and was last seen speaking on deck with John Jacob Astor.

SURVIVED: Edith Rosenbaum, stylist

Rosenbaum was a stylist, fashion buyer, and journalist who was returning to the US on the Titanic after embarking on a reporting assignment in Paris.

The Telegraph reported that a year before the Titanic disaster, Rosenbaum had "survived a car accident the year before in which her fianc, a German gun manufacturer, had been killed." Following the accident, her mother purchased her a small musical toy pig as a good luck charm.

As the ship went down, the stylist would play the toy's tune to calm and distract the crying children on her lifeboat.

"The children were crying and whimpering," Rosenbaum said, according to the Huffington Post . "And I said, I believe I'll play music and maybe the children would be diverted. . And the poor children were so interested, most of them stopped crying."

DIED: Archibald Butt, presidential aide

Butt led a distinguished and varied career before perishing during the Titanic disaster.

According to Arlington National Cemetery's website , Butt started out as a reporter, but later enlisted in the US Army during the Spanish-American War.

He served in Cuba and the Philippines. Later, he became President Theodore Roosevelt's military aide in 1908. He served Roosevelt's successor William Taft in the same capacity.

Arlington National Cemetary's website noted that Butt's "health began to deteriorate in 1912 because of his attempts to remain neutral during the bitter personal quarrel" between Roosevelt and Taft, possibly prompting his decision to travel to Europe.

There are a number of unverified accounts of Butt's behavior during the sinking with many sensationalized stories of the military officer leading the evacuation or threatening male passengers who tried to ignore the ship's "women and children first" protocol.

"If Archie could have selected a time to die he would have chosen the one God gave him," Taft said, in a private memorial service, according to the Smithsonian . "His life was spent in self-sacrifice, serving others. Everybody who knew him called him Archie. I couldn't prepare anything in advance to say here. I tried, but couldn't. He was too near me. he had become as a son or a brother."

The president later broke down weeping while delivering the eulogy at Butt's funeral.

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