Thursday, April 12, 2012

Remembering the 12 dogs aboard the Titanic

From the collection of J. Joseph Edgette
By Tanya Mohn, contributor 

There were 12 dogs aboard the Titanic, including these three shown tied to a deck railing who did not survive the ship's sinking.

For the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking, just about every aspect of the storied liner – from safety issues to class differences among passengers – is being explored, analyzed and celebrated.

But little attention is being given to another group of Titanic travelers: the 12 dogs that made the voyage.

A new exhibit at the Widener University Art Gallery, in Chester, Pa., that opened Tuesday hopes to change that by including photographs and stories of the dogs and their owners who sailed on the Titanic, said J. Joseph Edgette, professor emeritus of education and folklorist emeritus at Widener University, who produced and curated the exhibit.

“I wanted to include things that people don’t normally run across,” Edgette said, noting that there were no Titanic-related exhibits that he was aware of that focused on the famed ocean liner’s canine passengers.

“Everybody knows about the iceberg, how the ship went down, and the heroic stories, but it doesn’t go beyond that, yet there are hundreds of other aspects that we need to give attention to,” said Edgette, who based much of his findings on eyewitness accounts of the evacuation, ship’s records and his own research. “Until recently, most scholarship has not covered the dogs.”

Only three dogs survived, he said.

Those that were saved included a baby Pomeranian named Lady, owned by Margaret Hays of New York City, who kept the puppy in the cabin with her, Edgette said. When passengers were evacuated, Hays wrapped it in a blanket. Crew members allowed her to get in a lifeboat with the puppy. “Because they assumed it was a baby, it survived,” he said.

Others that lived were Sun Yat-sen, a Pekinese belonging to Henry and Myra Harper (of Harper & Row publishing fame), also of New York City, and a small Pomeranian owned by Elizabeth Rothschild from Watkins Glen, N.Y.

All surviving dogs were small and were kept in the first-class cabins of their owners, Edgette said. “The crew was very respectful of first-class passengers and usually gave them what they wanted to make them happy.” The nine dogs kept in the onboard kennel perished, though the kennel was well-kept and the dogs were well taken care of, he said, by crew who fed and walked them.

Of the 12 dogs on board, four were from Philadelphia families. Two of those that perished were owned by William Carter, a coal magnate. Carter’s children were worried about their pets, but their father assured them the dogs were safe and encouraged his children to get in the lifeboats, Edgette said. The family survived, and later received insurance reimbursement from Lloyds of London in the amount of $100 for daughter Lucy’s King Charles spaniel and $200 for son Billy’s Airedale.

One century after the Titanic sank during its maiden voyage, the historic day is being commemorated around the world. NBC's Stephanie Gosk reports.

Other dogs that died included two Airedales named Kitty and Airedale, owned by John Jacob Astor IV and his wife, and a fox terrier named Dog, owned by William Dulles, an attorney from Philadelphia.

Perhaps one of the saddest stories is that of Ann Elizabeth Isham, who was already in a lifeboat when she got out to go to the ship’s kennel to retrieve her Great Dane. She never made it back.

“Two to three days later, a passenger ship’s crew member, not too far from the site of the sinking, found her,” said Edgette. “She was clutching a Great Dane.” Isham’s body, along with 326 others, was retrieved from the water, but no dogs were, he said.

The exhibit features photos of the dogs and their owners, some supplied by the families involved and others taken onboard, including a group of dogs tied to the rail on the Titanic’s deck, which perished, and a photo of crew members walking several dogs.

One photo shows the Titanic’s captain, Captain Smith, holding a Russian wolfhound called Ben, named for industrialist Benjamin Guggenheim, who gave the captain the dog as a gift for his daughter. But Ben never made the journey, as he disembarked before the ship sailed.

In addition to the dogs, the exhibit will focus predominately on the 68 Philadelphia-area families who sailed on the Titanic, including the Widener family, for whom Widener University is named. Three family members sailed on the Titanic, but only one survived. (Peter A.B. Widener was on the board of trustees of the parent company that owned White Star Line).

The show also includes displays about the company that built the Titanic, details about the ship, information about the recovery of bodies after the sinking, how local families memorialized members who lost their lives after the tragedy, as well as Titanic’s impact on popular culture.

National Canine Cancer Foundation


CJ/Rick said...

Thanks for the heads up!

STELLA and RORY from Down Under said...

Thanks for the story. We had never realised there were dogs on the Titanic. How amazing but sad. No worries, and love, Stella and Rory

Finn said...

Great post! I hadn't thought of dogs being aboard the Titanic, but it makes sense. What a tradegy.

BlackDog's Photographer said...

Thank you for the post. I never realized there were dogs aboard the titanic. Sad to think about but a very interesting fact that most don't know. Thanks.

Sagira said...

I didn't realize there were dogs on the ship as well. Sad that only 3 survived. :(

Martha and Bailey said...

As others have said, we had no idea that there were dogs on board!
Fascinating story. Thank you for telling us all about it. Such a tragic journey for humans and canines. Hard to believe it is 100 yrs.

Tweedles -- that's me said...

We watched some story's last week about the Titanic, and dogs were not mentioned. It is very sad to think about those doggies- just like it is sad to think about all those people who died. So much fear and sadness in the Titanic story.
But it makes us cry more tears about the innocent doggies.


Wow, that was exceptionally interesting. Thank you, Mimi...
sending lotsaluv to a special friend.

♥Mona + Weenie + Mommy, too♥ said...

Thanks so much for posting this story. I did know about the dogs on board and a man that gave his life trying to save them. I have been planning my March adoption post to be dedicated to him and now I have a little more I didn't know.

God Bless ... Sarah

Sweepy said...

Now I won't ride any Titanic!
If Keeper brings me along on any rides I will tie myself to her!

Little Reufus said...

Wow! I did naught know there were goggies on board. It is berry sad fur all a board. Berry sad indeed.

But it hass made me fink... My the Mom hass nebber been on a creuse on a counta she prefers teu vacay wif her sweet boys... but iffen she whas on that big boat and it did go down, Yeu wood find her clinging to the me in the lifeboat. I would be wearin my navy bleu Sunday suit wif clip-on tie and my swim trunks under neaf.

wif lubbs from Little Reufus