Karl Albert Midtsjø, 21, was born 4 August 1890, the son of Johan Hansen and Marie Midtsjø he was one of eight (possibly 11) children. He came from Krøkstad, Ski, near Christiania (Oslo), Norway. Karl's family were farmers and they had to work hard to earn a living. Several of his brothers and sisters died during childhood.
Karl Albert started to work at an early age but like many of his contemporaries in Norway he decided to emigrate to the USA. He bought his ticket from Christiania to Chicago on the 30th of March 1912 at the Elster agency. The ticket cost 238 NKr, including a train ticket to Chicago. Of this about 87 NKr. (£4 15s 6d) was for the trip on the Titanic.
Karl travelled from Christiania to Hull on the 3rd of April on the Wilsons Line Steamer Oslo. He boarded the Titanic at Southampton. Like most single third class male passengers travelling alone he was quartered toward the bow possibly sharing with Johan Nysveen.
When the accident occurred Karl Albert and Johan Nysveen went up to the deck, Johan who was 61 years of age, realised that he probably couldn't be saved so he gave his coat and watch to Karl Albert. Karl Albert was given permission by First Officer Murdoch to climb down the tackle and into lifeboat 15.
When he arrived in New York Karl Albert was sent to St. Vincent's Hospital from where he wrote to his brother on 19 April:
New York, 19/4Dear Brother,
I have now arrived in New York and I have been placed in a hospital. We have been billeted here by some higher authority. It is not that I am ill, but I don't think they had anywhere else to put us up. I was lucky with the Titanic. It is pure chance that I survived, because things were quite chaotic. I can't say that I was the least afraid, although only just over a hundred third class passengers were saved, 210 of the crew and the rest from first and second class. But a few millionaires also went down the drain from what I hear. I have lost everything I had of clothes and money, and all I have are the clothes I stand in. Well, it was no fun to be in a little boat out on the Atlantic. It was pretty well in the middle of the Atlantic. We sat in the lifeboats and thought now it is their turn and soon it will be ours. It is no joke when such a big ship is sinking. It was a serious situation when the rockets went off. It was a clear, starry night and the stars shone just as they do at home, even though it was a four-day voyage by steamer to reach land. It would take a whole day to tell it all, but I must be content with a few words. We are treated like royalty and looked up to almost as if we were unnatural and there are plenty of people who want to help us. I am well and fit and the disaster has not affected me. However, you can be quite solemn when you have seen something as terrible as this. I can still hear the cries for help. And someone was shot when they tried to push their way into the boats. [Part of letter missing]
But nobody did... by them then, although there had been dancing and card playing all the way and you felt just as safe on board as on land. And then it just sank in a couple of hours. Give my best regards to father and all my nearest. Send this letter home when you have read it, because I haven't time to write more letters.
Karl's claim that passengers had been shot attempting to enter the boats was used by some to justify the controversial portrayal of Officer Murdoch on the film Titanic (1997).
After some days at the hospital Karl Albert travelled by train to Chicago. On the 26th of April 1912 he arrived in Chicago. He was immediately interviewed by the city largest Norwegian - American newspaper "Skandinavian" and the interview was in the paper the same day.
Shortly after this, Karl Albert travelled to Cummings, North Dakota to give back to the relatives of Johan Nysveen his coat and watch. He stayed with them for some weeks, and told them about Johan Nysveen's last days on the Titanic. This was very much appreciated by them.
Karl Albert Midtsjø claimed 423 NKr. for the loss of his property:
2 pair of shoes
6 pair of socks
4 pair of underwear made of wool (new)
Bows and ties
On 15 September 1913 Karl was married to 25 year old Anna Christine Paulson from Wittenberg, Wisconsin. On January 5, 1915 their son Marvin Gilbert Midtsjø was born, and in 1917 they moved to Evanston, Illinois. Karl Albert got a job as a caretaker.
In 1921 they moved back to Norway, but after a year they returned to the USA. They moved to Maywood, Illinois where Karl continued work as a caretaker, but around 1930 he started to work as a landscape gardener which he did for seven years until ill health forced him to stop.
Karl Albert, even as a young man, suffered from hereditary heart disease and died 25 January 1939 in Maywood, Illinois at the age of 48.
His wife and son then went to Wausau, Wisconsin where Mrs Midtsjø died in 1959. They both were buried in Chicago.
Their son changed his name to Marvin Midland (anglicised from the Norwegian) and lived in Denver, Colorado where he died on April 26, 1997.
In 1997 when the movie "Titanic" was presented in Norway. The county of Ski invited the relatives of Karl Albert Midtsjø for the premiere. Between them were 3 of his nephews and nieces who still remembered their uncle Karl Albert in the USA.
References and Sources
State of Illinois Certificate of Death
Unidentified Newspaper (Chicago, IL), January 26, 1939, Obituary
Per Kristian Sebak (1998) Titanic: 31 Norske Skjebner, Genesis Publishers
Claes-Göran Wetterholm (1988, 1996, 1999) Titanic. Prisma, Stockholm. ISBN 91 518 3644 0
Phillip Gowan, USA
Per Kristian Sebak, Norway
Øyvind Sollie, Norway
Leif Snellman, Finland
Claes-Göran Wetterholm, Sweden
Articles and Stories
Chicago Daily News (1912)
Chicago Evening Post (1912)