Summer intern Timothy from Boston discusses the sinking of the RMS Titanic on April 15, 1912.
As a young child I had a strange fascination with the history of the Titanic. If it was related to the Titanic, I was reading it. As I grew older this obsession with the ill fated ship mellowed down, but not my interest in history. Fast forward twenty years and I find myself spending a summer cataloging for the Theodore Roosevelt Center. Most of the letters pertain to Roosevelt’s bid for President and his involvement with the Progressive Party. It was not until I came across a letter from Roosevelt’s secretary Frank Harper to Mr. Morris Amdur that I realized there were would be objects within the collection that referred to the Titanic.
Letter from Frank Harper to Morris Amdur, May 24, 1912. From the Library of Congress Manuscript Division.
Within the letter, Frank Harper sends Roosevelt’s apologies for not being able to make it to a synagogue dedication, although he would have liked to attend due to his long friendship with Isidor Strauss. Strauss was the co-owner of Macy’s Department Store and a victim on the Titanic with his wife, Ida, when it sank on April 15, 1912. It is not surprising that Roosevelt would have been close friends with the Strauss family, as Isidor’s brother, Oscar Solomon Strauss, was the U.S. Secretary of Commerce and Labor while Roosevelt was President.
My second encounter with the Titanic and Roosevelt came a few days later when I cataloged a letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Edward H. Butt.
Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Edward H. Butt, May 28, 1912. From the Library of Congress Manuscript Division.
In this letter Roosevelt expresses his appreciation and love for Major Archibald Willingham Butt to Edward H. Butt, Archibald’s brother. Butt was a Military Aide to both Roosevelt and President William H. Taft, and was on the Titanic with friend and artist, Francis Davis Millet. Both went down with the ship. When I searched for more information on Butt within the archive, I located a letter from W. J. Oliver to President Taft, in which Oliver sends his deepest sympathies to Taft and recollects on a man who was such an important friend to them both.
My final encounter with the Titanic and its far-reaching devastation was a letter from Frank Harper to Caspar Whitney.
Letter from Frank Harper to Caspar Whitney, May 29, 1912. From the Library of Congress Manuscript Division.
Harper is essentially asking Caspar Whitney to continue the fundraising for a monument to the artist Frederic Remington who had died in 1909. Within the letter he mentions cartoonist Homer Davenport, who until his recent death had been in charge of fund raising for the monument. Interested in finding out about Davenport, I soon learned that he died less than a month after the sinking of the Titanic. One of his last cartoons was in fact on the subject of the ship sinking and there was speculation that his pneumonia was caught due to waiting on the docks for the Carpathia, which carried the survivors of the Titanic disaster.
The Titanic sinking was one of the largest disasters at the time, with effects far-reaching and touching many. Roosevelt was just one of the many people who were affected by this disaster and, as more objects are cataloged, I am sure we will find more connections between Roosevelt and the RMS Titanic.
Timothy Bowen recently earned his master’s in Information and Library Sciences from Simmons College. He currently resides in Boston where he is also an intern at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. He also holds an undergraduate degree in Art History and Sociology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.