George P. Baldwin Relates Experience
When Titanic Survivors Reach New York on Cunard Ship
George P. Baldwin of 309 Linden, who went to New York to meet the survivors of the Titanic on the arrival of the Carpathia, on which were expected Mrs. Fred R. Kenyon (who is Mrs. Baldwin’s sister), and Mr. Kenyon, gives an interesting description of what he terms the most heart-rendering spectacle he ever witnessed.
Knowing that the crowd would be very great and that the authorities were stringent about tickets to the Cunard dock, Mr. Baldwin wired ahead for tickets of admittance, and these were obtained in time for his arrival.
At 8:30 o’clock the ticker announced that the Carpathia was warping into the dock and Mr. Baldwin and a friend hurriedly left the hotel in a taxicab. Through a drenching rain they made their way down Eighth avenue to Fourteenth street, and then to the police lines one block east of West Fourteenth street, where they had to pass thru three cordons of police with fully a thousand or more automobiles lined up in army fashion for the survivors.
“On arrival at the second floor of the dock, where the vessels unload their passengers,” said Mr. Baldwin, “there was a concourse of fully 1,500 people, massed around the entrance for first and second class passengers, which was railed off, and I never so felt the impress of intense sorrow, such fearful agony of suspense. A pin could have been heard, had it been dropped, and millionaires like J. Pierpont Morgan Jr., the Astors, the Seligmanns and the Guggenheims were rubbing shoulders with men in the most modest walks of life.
“It was a positive leveling of wealth, a sight never to be forgotten, and agony was expressed in almost every face.
‘A short time afterwards the United States senate committee sent on from Washington elbowed its way thru the gates to be ready to go aboard immediately on arrival of the steamer, and to interview Mr. Ismay.
“These senators took their places inside the rail.
“About half an hour after I arrived we could see the red smokestack of the Carpathia passing along slowly on the side of the dock and hundreds of wild eyes and sorrowful faces on her decks without one single sound to express their feelings.
“At last the great moment had come when the covered gangplank was passed on to the vessel and the people were to know who was there and who was not.
“The survivors came out in single file; there were first two men and then a woman with a hood; I saw her face, it was Mrs. Kenyon, but I did not know her; behind came a man and woman and then little Mrs. Astor in a white turban and white sweater.
“All faces seemed the same, devoid of understanding, a pathetic laxity of thought after their terrible experiences.
“Had a composite picture been made of all these people, it would have given a perfect expression of two things, horror and agony.
“Fearing that I might not be near enough I went around to meet the first of them again as they were coming thru the lines and again looked into the face of Mrs. Kenyon, but did not recognize her, so swollen were her features from weeping; but I recognized the four-leaf clover on her hood and called her by name and I caught her as she staggered out of the line.
“I asked her if she came alone and she could only bow assent; and I knew she was a widow.
“The heart-rending scenes on that dock would be impossible to convey on paper and I don’t think there was a man or woman on the dock that night who was not shaking with excitement and who will not be a little kinder thru life to humanity in general.
“Mrs. Kenyon afterwards told me that the shock of the impact with the iceberg was very loud and heavy, but immediate danger was not expected, and altho she and Mr. Kenyon were then retiring, they had time to dress and she put on an overcoat and hood before they went to the deck.
“There was apparently no system, as the first few boats had been lowered without their full capacity, two of them having only sixteen people each. She was in the eightH boat and there were nearly sixty people in her boat, because by that time fear had commenced to take action.
“The sailors handling the boats seemed to know very little about them. There was no assignment, evidently, to any particular station, and men grappled with the ropes that probably never handled a life boat before.
“The tackle was as stiff as when first placed there, and , as the boats had never been detached from the cradles, they stuck stubbornly to them with the fresh paint.
“She asked Mr. Kenyon to accompany her, but he said he would not go aboard while there was a single woman or child on the Titanic. Mrs. Kenyon wanted to remain, but he insisted that she go and said he would probably join her the next day; and killed her good night. There were a sailor and three men on that boat and the rest of them were woman and children. The three men had gone aboard with the understanding that they could row, but when they reached the water it was found that none of them had ever handled an oar. In consequence Mrs. Kenyon and another lady helped row the boat miles thru the ice drift.
“At half past two in the morning, when two miles from the Titanic, she saw a blinding flash, heard a loud explosion on the Titanic and a man shot up and then all became dark and soon after the Titanic sank.
“The man who was shot up was Colonel Archibald Gracie, who was sitting on the funnel of the smokestack, and either by impact or explosion was blown out into the water beyond the wash of the Titanic when she went down and was able to swim to a collapsable life boat where many men were hanging at the time, most of whom were afterwards rescued by the smaller boats.
“At half past six in the morning Mrs. Kenyon was picked up by the Carpathia and was given a stateroom, the privacy of which did so much to hold her mentality from the terrible scenes of sorrow at all times in evidence in the salon. Mrs. Kenyon will not come to Oak Park until later, as she felt her place for the moment was with Mr. Kenyon’s mother in Connecticut.”
Oak Leaves [Oak Park, Il], Saturday, April 27, 1912, p. 4, c. 3:
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Added to Encyclopedia Titanica Tuesday 9th August 2011, last updated Wednesday 20th August 2014.