Today marks the anniversary of the sinking of the luxury liner R.M.S. Titanic on April 14, 1912.(More accurately, Titanic struck the iceberg on April 14th, but sank on April 15th.) A List of Chicagoans on Board the Titanic, plus as much biographical that is known, is provided at Genealogy Trails for Cook County.
There is also the story from Encyclopedia Titanica about Miss Ann Elizabeth Isham and the legend that she may have died trying to save her dog.
But, there is one Chicagoan who played a significant role in recording the events surrounding the sinking: Dr. Frank Blackmarr . At the time, Dr. Blackmarr was a passenger on the Carpathia, the ship that received the survivors, and he published the following report in the Chicago Daily Tribune on April 20, 1912. (The following is from the Encyclopedia Titanica)
Dr. Frank Blackmarr Tells Scenes When Survivors Reached Carpathia
WOMEN AT BOAT OARS
Spot Where the Titanic Went Down Covered with All Sorts of Debris
BY DR. FRANK BLACKMARR OF CHICAGO (A passenger of the Carpathia) New York, April 19 - [Special] On Monday morning at 1:15 the Carpathia's wireless operator, Harold Thomas Cottam, picked up a distress signal from the steamship Titanic. It was the habit of this boy before retiring for the night to pick up the nearest ship and say "Good Night." Having received the distress signal he at once notified the officers of the ship. When we arrived at the spot the Titanic had sunk. The sea was covered with wreckage of all kinds, mahogany splinters, white enameled wood, silk covered couches, pillows, and mattresses. We all saw a woman's hat floating in the debris. One fur coat floated by, suspended on a piece of wood.
From near at hand and from a distance, too, lifeboats were coming towards us, women occupying rowing seats in many of them, with a man at the tiller. Not a sound escaped their lips; no hysteria was in evidence. Their faces were pinched with cold. The task of raising them from the lifeboats to the ship's deck was difficult. The women with their blistered hands found it hard to climb any ladders. The majority of them were lifted in by a swing which consisted of a board with a rope from each side, connecting with a single large cable.
Ready to Aid Survivors
Officers, stewards, and stewardesses had been on duty for hours preparing to receive them. These same officers and crew after that had no opportunity to lie down for a rest until their journey was over.
Many of the women that came in the boats shuddled together in the seats witha dead sailor lying in the bottom of the boat.
When asked why it was there were so few men saved - an estimate of one in five - a woman passenger who had lost her husband said she begged him to get into he boat with her, but that he refused out of sympathy for the poor fellows who were left.
Astor Calmly Waited Death
Col. Astor, it is said, after placing his wife in a boat, as did some of the other rich men, returned to the middle of the deck of the Titanic, folded his arms, and went down with the ship. The conduct of these rich men goes to prove they were heroes.
The only panic at the beginning, as I understand it, was in the steerage, where there were many persons who lacked self-control. There was no shooting, as I learn, except that a steerage passenger told me he saw an officer trying to control the maddened rush by shooting two persons. The same officer shot himself a minute later.
Climbed Ledge to Safety
The stairway of the Titanic was so crowded with steerage passengers that it was utterly impossible for some to gain the upper deck. One man told me he climbed along the ledge of the boat until he reached the deck where he loosened a collapsible boat. A moment later the lifeboat was filled on its edges with women, children, and men. It began to sink with the load, and the women and children at the edge gradually slipped off, into the ocean.
The saddest moment of all, after the boat loads had been landed on the deck, was to see the poor widows and sons and daughters whose family relations had been broken, standing at the rail, looking into the distance with hands outstretched trying in hope to see their loved ones. There were numerous sick persons on board, but the illness was not so such physical as it was mental agony.
Dr. Blackmarr also wrote an article titled "The Titanic" and is acknowledged as one of the first people to provide details of the tragedy to the press. While on the Carpathia, Dr. Blackmarr approached many of the survivors for their account of the sinking including that of first class passenger Dr. Washington Dodge. It is a first-hand account written just days after Titanic went down and was included in Blackmarr's annotated scrapbook of the event. According to Encyclopedia Titanica:
Blackmarr died in the 1940s. The unique collection of documents and photographs passing, in the early 1960s, to a Chicago family. It was found in an attic in March 1998 and auctioned by Dunnings Auction House, Elgin, Illinois for $50,000 the same year. James T. Harper, a member of the Titanic Historical Society, was given access to the collection in April 1998 and transcribed the documents before they were sold.
So, where is Blackmarr's scrapbook now? Anyone know, or is this a job for the Museum of Missing History?