Last year, on April 15th, it was the hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. There were many news articles about the famous sinking, but one of them caught my attention. It featured an interview with J. Joseph Edgette, Ph.D., from Widener University, and it was about the pets that were on the Titanic’s maiden (and only) voyage.
As a dog lover, I was intrigued, so I did a bunch of research and created a PowerPoint presentation on the subject. I’ve had the opportunity to present it to several audiences; it comes out to about 12 minutes or so.
I uploaded it to SlideShare, so I could publicize the presentation. For your enjoyment and edification, I’ve embedded the Slideshare widget below so you can view the presentation online.
If you’re curious, here’s the text of the talk that accompanies the slides.
1. Titanic: The Forgotten Passengers
The Titanic sailed from Southampton on April 10, 1912, and sank after striking an iceberg on April 15, 1912. Even after 101 years, the tragedy of the Titanic still echoes in our collective memories. There are so many stories of that fateful journey – of bravery, of cowardice, of self-sacrifice, and more. Tonight, you’re going to hear some more stories, some of the lesser-known stories. Because Titanic wasn’t just a human tragedy. Come back to Titanic with me, and let me tell you about … the forgotten passengers.
2. Dogs on the Titanic
The first picture is of Titanic leaving on its maiden voyage from Southampton; it would stop at Cherbourg in France, then Queenstown (now Cobh) in Ireland, before heading across the ocean on its doomed voyage to New York.
The next two photos are the only pictures in existence of Titanic’s forgotten passengers, the pets that were brought on board. The on-board photos were taken by amateur photographer Frank Brown, who left the ship in Ireland. His are the only surviving photos of the pets on the Titanic, as well as the interior of the Titanic – White Star Lines had commissioned Eastman Kodak to take the official photos of the ship in New York, but Titanic never arrived.
3. The Other Passenger List
There were 12 dogs confirmed to have been aboard the Titanic, plus one unconfirmed. Pets had to have tickets, too, so each pet, regardless of size cost roughly half the price of a full ticket, or a child’s fare. Even the lone canary on board cost 25 cents. As a result, only the rich, first-class passengers brought pets aboard. First class passengers were even planning a dog show on board, to be held the morning of April 15, many hours after Titanic had already sunk. Small dogs were kept in cabins with their owners.
Larger dogs were kept in an on-board kennel on F deck. Three small dogs are known to have survived, and legend has it that the last, unconfirmed dog, Rigel, also survived, but there’s no way to verify now if the animal even existed.
4. The Survivors
Only three of the confirmed dogs survived – they were all small dogs, kept in the passengers’ cabins, and carried aboard the lifeboats by their female owners. Officers thought Margaret Hays dog was a baby, since she wrapped it up in a blanket because of the cold. The other two dogs were carried onto lifeboats by their female owners – it’s doubtful if the staff even knew the dogs were being carried since they were so small.
5. The Toy Poodle
The only other dog that had a real chance of survival was “Frou-Frou”, a toy poodle owned by Helen Bishop. The dog was so scared that she didn’t want her mistress to leave, and even ripped Bishop’s dress with her teeth by tugging on it to keep her master with her. But one of the ship’s staff told Bishop to leave the dog in the cabin, saying that they’d be right back. Helen Bishop always bitterly regretted leaving her dog behind – Frou-Frou ended up being the only dog trapped in a room when the ship sank.
6. Dogs on Deck
Somebody went to F Deck and set the other dogs free – legend has it that it was John Jacob Astor IV, the richest man in the world, who apparently regarded his pets as family members. Astor remained on board, and died when one of Titanic’s funnels fell on him. Survivors reported the surreal sight of dogs racing up and down the slanting decks of the Titanic, the excited barking forming a weird counterpoint to the continued musical accompaniment of the Titanic’s musicians.
Astor is known to have died when one of Titanic’s funnels collapsed and fell on him.
7. Three Famous Dogs
From the “Famous Picture”… 1. Dog, the Fox Terrier: owned by William Dulles – no stories persist about this dog, except that he didn’t survive. 2. Gamin de Pycombe: After the Titanic went under, Robert Daniel’s champion French bulldog was seen swimming strongly in the water, but must have eventually succumbed to the frigid conditions. 3. Great Dane: The saddest story, though, belongs to the Great Dane owned by Anne Elizabeth Isham. She loved her dog so much, she visited him every day on F deck. She had a seat on a lifeboat, and got out so she could try to save her dog. She was spotted days later by a recovery ship, frozen in the water, with her arms wrapped around her faithful companion.
8. The Legend of Rigel
Rigel was a black Newfoundland who belonged to First Officer William Murdoch (who perished with the Titanic). Newfoundlands have webbed feet, a rudder-like tail, water-resistant fur, and are cold-climate dogs. Rigel survived swimming in the water until the rescue ship Carpathia arrived (just under two hours after the ship sank).
His barking prevented the Carpathia from running over one of the lifeboats whose occupants were too weak to be heard. He was later adopted by Jonas Briggs, a crewman on the Carpathia. This story is disputed, but difficult to verify either way. The newspaper clipping is from 1912.
9. The Legend of Jenny
All large ships back then had rats, and usually kept one or two cats on board as rat catchers. Titanic even had a sighting in one of its first-class public rooms, when a rat ran across the room in full view of dozens of first-class passengers.
10. Quiet as the Grave
Even though the Titanic lies now on the bottom of the ocean, the stories aren’t over. Tonight, you heard a few more stories about the the famous doomed ship. The legend of the Titanic lives on in our memories.
11. Biography: David Keener
13. Credits (2)