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Passenger profiles

This discussion on "Passenger profiles" is in the Lusitania Passengers and Crew section; I am starting a separate thread for this, after having posted the profiles of some ...

      
   
  1. #1
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    I am starting a separate thread for this, after having posted the profiles of some interestsing and off the beaten track Lusitania passengers on the thread about Diana Preston's book.
    SHOW BUSINESS ASPIRATIONS: Rita Jolivet and Charles Frohman come to mind immediately, and Amelia Macdona has been touched upon in another thread, but there were other passengers (see the lengthy entry about David Samoiulescu aka David Samuels on the Diana Preston thread) with show business links.

    GEORGE SIDWELL,48, was a Canadian passenger travelling in third class who was lost in the disaster. He left a wife, Mary , and eleven children - 23,21,20,19,15,13,12,10,9,6 and 10 weeks.
    Sidwell had been a church organist, music teacher, and composer. After several of his songs were published with some success he left the organist's job and turned to composition full time. His repetoire consisted of "popular" songs, marches, and patriotic tunes, and his wife would later claim that one particular song had been sold to an English concern for $2000.00, thus his presence on the Lusitania. The song, along with the rest of his unpublished catalog of tunes was lost with the ship and, if the story was at all true, the English concern opted not to publish the 'working copy' they must have been sent. George Sidell had earned perhaps $2000.00 per year for the final 5 years of his life, but left no property, and assets which consisted of a single $500.00 insurance policy. His wife was later granted $8000.00, with separate payments of $1000.00 going to each of her seven youngest children.

    NORMAN STONES,29, despite what was written in Hoehling, was a professional vocalist by trade. He was also a poultry and fruit farmer in Texada Island B.C. and was en route to England to join a University Officer's Training Corps. His wife, Hilda Mary, was returning to England to attend a sick relative. The Stones' were carried down with the ship, with only Norman surviving. I have not been able to trace any dates or reviews for Norman Stones performances and do not know if he continued singing after the war.

    C. HARWOOD KNIGHT was a pianist of some note, who resided in Baltimore and Paris. He and his sister, Elaine Harwood Knight, were en route to the Paris apartment when they were lost. I am planning a future expanded article in the Knights (whose story is worthy of more than one) which will provided considerably more detail.

    GEORGE L. P. VERNON, 45, is best known as a secondary character in the Rita Jolivet story- her brother in law, who was with her and Frohman at the end and who did not survive. However, he is another passenger worthy of an expanded biography.

    He began his career as a banker, and then became a well reviewed concert singer. Presumably it was at that stage of his career that he met Inez Henriette Jolivet, Rita's sister; a professional violinist whom he married prior to 1910. Checking their Ellis Island records one sees that they travelled abroad, together and separate, on a regular basis, on the best ships and used "the best hotels" as their principal NY residences. Following his stage career, George worked as an importer's agent, and as a promoter. During the final months of his life he had changed jobs again and was representing the Russian Government in the placing of munitions contracts. For the last decade of his life his average yearly salary was said to have been $20,000.00

    Inez was with her father and brother in Kew, England in May 1915, when George began the final voyage. His purpose in travelling was said to have been both business -the arms contracts- and personal - escorting Inez back to the US. Rita Jolivet would later claim that her own presence on the Lusitania was a last minute impulse decision (to see off her brother before he went to war) and that she did not know George was aboard the ship until she met him prior to sailing. She also claimed that her cabin, on D Deck forward of the dining saloon, was a totally unsuitable small inside (she did not recall the number)in which she would not have travelled had anything better been available. George's final moments aboard the ship are well documented, but also documented is the fact that he, like Rita, survived the actual sinking - he died in the presence of one who knew him, in a situation analogous to that of Rita.

    George's body was recovered (201)and buried in a private grave in Queenstown- Row 20, #6. Inez returned to America in June, on a ship which contained not only many Lusitania survivors but also the Titanic's Eloise Smith and Robert Daniel (thanks to Mike Poirier for that detail) and with her name misspelled on the manifest. She first went to the home of friends in suburban New Jersey, where she remained for a time, and then apparently returned to New York City where she shot herself on July 22nd. Her cremains were later interred in her husband's grave in Queenstown.

    George's parents were the beneficiaries of a $20,000.00 life insurance policy, and his mother was left a sum of $10,000.00 in his will. It was noed at the time that he contributed "delicacies and luxuries" to his parents far beyond what his brothers (a minister and a music teacher, respectively) were able to, but there being no legally concrete record of this, his 81 year old mother was granted a settlement of $5000.00 for his loss in 1924.

    One aside- Throughout the legal case, George Vernon was referred to as George Ley Pearce Butler, and his mother Hepzibah Vernon Butler. A mistake, or was George Vernon a stage name?



  2. #2
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    CAROLINE HICKSON KENNEDY: Continuing with the story of this woman, which I began on the Diana Preston thread.....I've been emailing back and forth about her with Randy Bigham for some time, looking into her career as a fashion entrepreneur, and pursuing the details of the business and legal fiasco which followed her death on my own, and throughout there was something vaguely familiar about her address- referred to discreetly in the ads as "Fifth Avenue at Fifty Second Street"- which I could not place. I knew that her neighbors just to the south on Fifth were the Morton Plant family (whose mansion became Cartier's showroom during the final year of her life) and her "across the Avenue" neighbors were the William K. Vanderbilts, but I could not place the importance of her address-657 Fifth-until last night when I realised that for over 30 years the refaced building which formed the core of Hickson's showroom had been New York's most infamous mansion- the home of a female entrepreneur of another sort, Madam Restell. Restell, to put it bluntly, was America's first millionaire abortionist and from the 1840s onward probably New York's most visible symbol of "vice rewarded." Although harassed by segments of the press constantly, she was only sentenced once during her 30+ year career, and it was strongly rumored that she was being protected by some of the "best people." Unlike other "she-imps from hell" (as she was once referred to) she refused to keep a discreet profile, "taking the air" in the best neighborhoods, dressing
    "ostentatiously," advertising her services in the newpapers, and most tellingly of all, hanging out a sign in front of her Fifth Avenue residence. That her mansion stood directly across from the Fifth Avenue property of St Patrick's Cathedral (at that time the Cathedral grounds extended one block further north than they do now) was thought at the time to have been an act of spite on her part but likely wasn't- the placement of the Catholic Boys Orphanage on the Fifth Avenue blockfront facing her home probably WAS symbolic. The house was, in many ways, the most talked about mansion in the city, and there were many harrowing- and likely untrue- tales of the goings on within. From reading her biographies it would seem the reality was that Madam R was kind of a Margaret Sanger for an earlier generation and not the dragon lady she was portrayed as in her lifetime. In 1878, as the William K Vanderbilt mansion was being built across Fifth from the Restell residence, she was arrested for selling abortafacients to Mr. Comstock- the list of what was found in the residence is rather vague "ruby liquid" "White powder" but contains two items "syringes" and "10 condoms" which would have landed her in a great deal of difficulty had she lived to stand trial-as it turned out, she committed suicide in her bathtub although rumors began immediately that she had been 'silenced' by one of her clients who was fearful of what might have come out at her trial. The mansion, unsellable as such, was raised by two stories and incorporated into the extremely respectable Osborne Apartments and Hotel next door, which Madam Restell had owned, and then converted to commercial use. In the earliest photo I have found of the Hickson Building, it appears that the former Restell mansion had been rersurfaced with a bland Beaux-Arts style facade, but in the latest Lusitania-era photo I have found of the structure the fenestration is so different (although the structure was still 6 stories) that I believe the Hickson family either tore the mansion down at some point around 1910, or massively renovated it. In that form it survived as late as 1975, but I believe it is gone now. Here is a photo of the house, from a collection of views of notorious NYC landmarks, as it appeared immediately after the suicide.

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    Wow! The expanded version of the "House of Horrors!" Thanks for the added details, Jim, of the history of this address. I do think bad luck followed this place into the Hickson ownership rather a bit.

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    Rather. Even Julian Eltinge did not escape the wrath of 657 Fifth. What amuses me is that the home of New York's foremost "fallen woman" was, in terms of style, in considerably better taste than the vulgar monstrosities the Vanderbilts erected across the street from it- but was always held up as an example of degeneracy.

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    Good point about the crass taste of the Vanderbilt "asylums" of that period. But what's this? Julian Eltinge gets thrown in the mix, too!? Haven't heard this one.

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    Well, his gowns WERE done by Hickson after Caroline and Katherine were dead, and he DID meet a singularly bizarre fate.

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    Wow - this has gotten really scary. Abortion clinics run from 5th Avenue mansions, shipwreck victims and a man in drag. Connect the dots to Lusitania. "Who'd-a-thunk-it?"

  8. #8
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    I just read an interesting, but depressing, account of what was unearthed during a "dig" at the site of a lower-class equivalent of the Restell mansion downtown (in the book Gotham Unearthed, which is about archaeological exploration in NYC) which adds an additonal unpleasant dimension to the history of 657 Fifth.

 

 

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