The passengers aboard the Titanic formed a social microcosm of sorts, with representatives from almost every socio-economic class. Today — in honor of Fateful by Claudia Gray — we’ll highlight some of the celebrities who sailed first class on that doomed voyage.
- Millionaire John Jacob Astor IV and his wife Madeleine Force Astor (who was pregnant at the time). Astor was a real estate builder, investor, inventor, lieutenant colonel in the Spanish-American War and even wrote a science-fiction novel called A Journey in Other Worlds. He did not survive, but his wife and unborn son did.
- Industrialist Benjamin Guggenheim was on the boat with his mistress. Upon learning that he would not be rescued, he dressed in formal evening wear and sat on the great staircase smoking a cigar. He sent this message: “”Tell my wife, if it should happen that my secretary and I both go down, tell her I played the game out straight to the end. No woman shall be left aboard this ship because Ben Guggenheim is a coward.”
- Macy’s co-owner Isidor Straus and his wife Ida: She would not leave his side, even when offered a seat on a life boat. “I will not be separated from my husband. As we have lived, so will we die together.”
- Denver millionairess Margaret “Molly” Brown (known afterward as the “Unsinkable Molly Brown” due to her efforts in helping other passengers while the ship sank): Both she and her husband came from poor backgrounds, but made money through his engineering efforts. Molly was instrumental in Colorado’s suffrage movement and was involved in a number of philanthropic organizations that helped the poor and children.
- Journalist William Thomas Stead: He is credited with “New Journalism” — he was the first to use interviewing as a technique and was known to have a tabloid-esque style. He was a loud proponent of European peace, and dabbled in spiritualism through automatic writing. He is said to have predicted his death by drowning on a large ship.
- After her husband left her with two children, Helen Churchill Candee supported her family by writing for Scribner’s and The Ladies’ Home Journal. She became a feminist and wrote two successful books. She then moved to Washington and became an interior decorator. Her most famous client was Teddy Roosevelt. She survived the Titanic and went on to be a world traveler and acclaimed writer.
- Author Jacques Futrelle and his wife May: Born in Georgia, Futrelle started his career as a journalist, but later focused on mystery/detective novels. He refused to get in a lifeboat, but forced his wife into one. She later published his last book posthumously and dedicated it to “the heroes of the Titanic.”
- Travelling in first class aboard the ship was White Star Line’s managing director J. Bruce Ismay. He was responsible for lowering the number of life boats to 16, the minimum allowed. He also encouraged the captain the test the ship’s speed, even after hitting the iceberg. This caused it to sink faster–more passengers may have been rescued if the ship hadn’t sunk so quickly. Ismay managed to survive, but was flayed alive by the press and public, and labeled one of the worst cowards in history.
- The Titanic’s builder, Thomas Andrews, was on board to observe any problems and assess general performance. After the ship was damaged, he is the one who uttered the iconic line from the movie that the Titanic’s sinking was a “‘mathematical certainty.” He determined that the first five of the ship’s watertight compartments were rapidly flooding and knew that if more than four flooded, it would inevitably sink. He estimated that the ship would be gone in less than an hour. Many reported that Andrews was a true hero, urging people into lifeboats, searching rooms and handing out life vests. His body was never recovered.