Mr Edwin Charles Wheeler (known as Fred / Frederick) was born in Bath in 1886. Fred Wheeler was the personal valet to George Washington Vanderbilt (1862-1914) and had been so for about 12 years. G. W. Vanderbilt was the grandson of shipping and railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt, and creator of Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. At the time of the Titanic's maiden voyage, Mr Vanderbilt and his wife Edith were booked to occupy a first-class cabin. However, they changed their minds at the last minute and sailed on the Olympic, but sent most of their baggage along with Fred, who boarded the Titanic as a second-class passenger at Southampton under ticket 2159 which had cost £12 17s 6d.
Wheeler perished in the disaster. His body, if recovered, was never identified.
It is not clear why the Vanderbilts changed their minds about sailing on the Titanic. According to a New York Times article dated April 30, 1912, they did so at the urging of Edith's mother (Susan Dresser), but since she had died in 1883, this cannot be correct. It is possible that the Times confused Edith's mother Susan with Edith's sister who bore the same name, but there is no way of knowing for sure. The Biltmore Estate Archives contains a letter from George Vanderbilt's niece, Adele Sloane Burden, expressing her relief in learning that her aunt and uncle had changed their minds and were safe. Fred can be seen strolling on the Boat Deck with Ada and Elsie Doling in an often reproduced photograph taken aboard Titanic.
Articles and Stories
New York Tribune (1912)
Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55).
New York Times, 30 April 1912
Karen Kamuda, USA
Don Lynch, USA
Sue Clark, USA (Research Assistant, Biltmore House, Asheville, NC)
Steve Coombes, UK
Larry Manofsky, USA