Astor's Death - Condition of the Body


Jun 4, 2000
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LOL! Oh dear, but this brings back some fond memories.
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(I think George may know what I'm referring to.)

Smith, in this instance that is one 'Amazing Answer' that's most definitely incorrect. Have you visited George's web site for further details? The information there is based on three eyewitness accounts of the body's condition. I'd rather go by them than by the account that seems to have had its origins in the tabloid press of the time. This 'crushed and soot-blackened' story is oft-repeated and unchecked by Titanic authors, some of who - quite frankly - Should Know Better.

Sadly, this is not the only erroneous 'fact' that 882 1/2 Amazing Answers to your Questions about the Titanic contains. It's quite a lovely introduction to Titanica for younger readers but does repeat a few things as fact rather than surmise or Titanic myth.

If you look at Astor's biography on ET, you'll also see that it contains no mention of his recovered body being sooty or crushed. There's a very good reason for that. Again, see George's web site. Sometimes a little cynicism when looking at 'common knowledge' that's otherwise unverifed can be a Good Thing.
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Cheers,
F
(Still soot free despite half the state burning down around her)
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Dave Gittins said "I suspect that some of our military members would not find his actions strange."

As a matter of fact, I do. It's not an easy thing to put into words. Suffice to say that nobless oblige was taken very seriously then, and the concept of death befor dishonour still means a lot to dedicated military servicemembers now.

Smth Mize said "I don't know for sure, but I'm going to go by what the book says."

Be very careful of what "the book" says. Even the best ones have mistakes and while 882 1/2 Amazing Answers to your Questions about the Titanic, is as Shelley indicates a useful primer, it is anything but perfect. George Behe has provided a link to his own research where he provides the statements of three people who actually saw the body. This includes two people on the Mackey-Bennett and the commander of Colonel Astor's yacht.

Ain't nuthin' like going to primary sources!
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Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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Sorry it was past my bedtime when the hornet's nest stirred but here are a couple of late responses:

to George: A pleasure to brighten your day, and I'm happy to know I went down like a gentleman!

to Lester: I doubt that Astor's brief conversation with Smith in the foyer round about Midnight gave him any advice that was not available to others at that time (lifebelts on, up to the boatdeck, only a precaution). Was there a further conversation? In the spirit of Martin's original question, we can only speculate on what might have been said had Astor approached Smith at a later stage with any suggestion that he should receive special treatment (and I don't mean to suggest for a moment that he did). I reckon this would have brought the same response that Mrs Lucien Smith got when she made a similar appeal on behalf of her husband - (according to Walter Lord) he ignored her, lifted his megaphone and shouted "Women and children first!"

Bob
 
Dec 12, 1999
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Between the book and Mr. Behe, the better bet is usually to go with the latter...especially since he's one of those dedicated individuals who has put a lot of time and effort into this subject.

(No, I'm not trying to hit anyone up for favors!
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George Behe

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Dec 11, 1999
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Hi, Kritina!

Thanks very much for your kind words.

By the way, your signature ("Moose LaRue, the King of Swing") really tickles my funnybone. If you don't mind my asking, who is Moose and where does he hang out? :)

All my best,

George
 
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Tom Pappas

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Huh. According to three people who actually saw Astor's body, it was "clothed in a business suit and tan shoes" or "clad in full evening dress" or "in ordinary garments."

I remain agnostic.
 
Dec 12, 1999
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>By the way, your signature ("Moose LaRue, the King of Swing") really tickles my funnybone. If you don't mind my asking, who is Moose and where does he hang out? :)

George, I wished I could give you a long story about its origins...but it's only a character I once worked on! There wasn't much to him...old jazz man, working the late-night in a ha'penny dive...it never got off the ground...but the name sounds interesting as a signature!
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And in reference to Tom's statement...there is some contradiction among the accounts about the clothes, though the first two do agree when it comes to the watch. And while the first account mentions the face being swollen, how much would that have to do with the state of the body at the time of recovery? Would there have been some form of fluid accumulation in the tissues of the jaw that would have dissipated by the time Astor's body was viewed in Halifax?

But even if you factor in the one account with the swollen face, that absolutely does not sound like the sort of damage that would have been done to a body by a funnel.
 

George Behe

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Hi, Tom!

Although there are indeed uncertainties about the three eyewitness descriptions of Mr. Astor's undamaged body, I still regard them as preferable to zero eyewitness accounts that claim otherwise.

All my best,

George
 

Smith Mize

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Dec 20, 2002
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Fiona- I already went to his site, it's quite good, however... Every book I remember reading about the Titanic mentions Mr. Astor's body in somewhat those conditions. Most of them are chapter books that I won't dare spend my day trying to track down that info... The book I mentioned was the closest thing to fact that I could find AND look up. Like I said. "I'm not sure..."

- Smith [email protected]
 

George Behe

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Hi, Smith!

On a general note, it's worth remembering that authors often have a tendency to borrow information from previous authors in the mistaken belief that the research of those earlier authors was 100% accurate. (e.g. That's how gambler Jay Yates mistakenly reappeared in Dan Butler's recent Titanic book; Butler obtained his Yates info from a 1955 Titanic volume without knowing that the Yates legend had been disproved in 1983.)

If a Titanic book gives a specific source for a certain claim (e.g. "Lucy Duff Gordon saw gambler Harry Homer dealing from the bottom of the deck"), it at least gives the reader a basis for researching the subject for himself in order to confirm that Lucy D-G actually made the statement in question. However, if a book merely says that "Harry Homer dealt from the bottom of the deck" without providing any source for that claim, it is sometimes wise for the reader to treat such a statement with caution until specific documentation turns up to confirm its accuracy.

For what it's worth.

All my best,

George
 
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Timothy Brandsoy

Guest
Smith said:
Well, I don't quite understand what they mean by "Going down like a gentleman"
(;-0 It's not what I thought of originally!) But that reference is to Ben Guggenheim (he had the mistress) He knew he was doomed, but instead of tring to board a lifeboat he decided to get dressed in their (him and his valet) best dress clothing, sans lifebelt, and face the music.

I've never heard what the valet thought about it!
 
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Kelly Beth Vogelsong

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Timothy,

I've always been interested in that, myself. When someone was going "down like a gentleman," was it assumed by the "manservant" that he would be, also? With women, as well.

Definite degree of loyalty.

L8r~

KB
 
Sep 26, 1999
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Were photographs not taken of every body that was taken to Halifax? Would this not prove whether his body was hit by the fallen smokestack? I wonder why something such as this is so questionable? Its almost as uncertain as the last song played on the Titanic. Is the public allowed to see these photographs? I remember a while back someone was selling one on Ebay. How did this person obtain this photo?
 
Jul 9, 2000
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I'm sure there's a repository somewhere...probably Halifax...where you can find this sort of thing. Hope you have a strong stomach. You'll need it. The ocean is not kind to bodies. I saw two photos which are published in the second edition of Eaton & Haas Titanic, Triumph and Tragedy.

They're not pretty.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Dec 3, 2000
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I think that there is an earlier thread dealing with the post-mortem photos in which it was said that there is not one complete collection, and that the largest remaining group is of perhaps 50.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Eaton & Haas state that photographs were taken (only?) of unidentified or unclaimed bodies before interment, and that copies were sent to all White Star offices worldwide but no further identifications are known to have been made as a result. The more gruesome of the two examples shown in their book was one of the last bodies to be recovered, number 329. In contrast, Per Kristian Sebak's book 'Titanic: 31 Norwegian Destinies' includes a photograph of 'Sigurd Moen's corpse, safely back in Bergen'. Moen's body was another late recovery, number 309, and as a third class body would have received little or no attention from embalmers at the time of recovery. Moreover it didn't arrive in Bergen till late May. The picture, however, shows a body in perfect condition, as of a man who was literally 'not dead, only sleeping'. Something of a mystery.

Bob
 
Mar 18, 2000
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And there were two photographs of Titanic bodies that appeared out at Ebay at one point. I don't really recall the details, but the auction may have been closed down before someone bought them.
 

Jim Kalafus

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It was, and if I recall correct the person who placed them up for sale was none too pleased (allegedly sending emails to those who emailed him to complain threatening them with some unknown legal action) after complaints were made and the auction pulled. One of the photographs was of Wendla Heinenen, the other of an unidentified probable crewman.
 

George Behe

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Dec 11, 1999
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Hi, all!

I've just received an email from Mac Smith which is a breakthrough re: the question of the true condition of Mr. Astor's body. Mac kindly pointed out to me that Col. Gracie's book was very likely the source of the 'crushed body scenario.' Page 31 of "The Truth About the Titanic" contains the following description:

"From the fact that I never saw Colonel Astor on the Boat Deck later, and also because his body, when found, was crushed (according to the statement of one who saw it at Halifax, Mr. Harry K. White, of Boston, Mr. Edward A. Kent's brother-in-law, my schoolmate and friend from boyhood), I am of the opinion that he met his fate on the ship when the boilers tore through it, as described later."

I'm very grateful to Mac for sharing this information with me, and it appears that an update to my website article about Col. Astor's body is definitely in order. I wonder if we'll ever be able to resolve the conflict between the above description of Astor's 'crushed' body and the other three descriptions of his 'intact' body?

In any case, I find it interesting that Col. Gracie's description of Astor's crushed body makes absolutely no mention of the body being soot-stained. Is it possible that this 'extra' detail was tacked onto Gracie's account by another author who felt it needed some additional 'color?'

All my best,

George
 

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