Biography of Colonel Archibald Gracie


Martin Williams

Edith Gracie was formally presented to New York Society by her parents at the tail-end of November 1912, at a grand reception held at the Hotel Gotham. This was a mere week or so before the poor colonel finally succumbed to the after-effects of his terrible ordeal on the Atlantic that April and one imagines he felt pretty rotten throughout. Edith wore a gown of white charmeuse, hand-painted with roses and trimmed with crystal fringing, whilst Mrs Gracie was in blue brocade with gold and pearls. There were lavish floral decorations (although most of the bouquets received were sent to the city hospitals) and among the guests was Mrs Gracie's sister, Mrs William D. Dutton, with whom she had been staying when news of the disaster broke. In fact, by her own testimony, and as related in the colonel's account of the sinking, Mrs Gracie had received something of a premonition and spent the night of 14th April on her knees, praying for her husband's safety.

Edith makes sporadic appearances in the Society columns of the contemporary press and seems to have been a popular sort of girl (hardly surprising, given her very winning smile evident in the photographs above). After her father's death, she continued her activities on the party circuit, attending some of the same functions as her contemporary, Lois B. Cassatt. Indeed, the two debutantes unwittingly synchronised one very important event in their lives - the announcement of their marriages, Edith to Dunbar B. Adams and Lois to Jack Thayer, which was made in the press on the same day in December, 1917. By that time, the United States had entered the Great War and Edith apparently did her bit by nursing the troops. Tragically, she was soon to be a victim of the Spanish influenza pandemic which wreaked havoc in the aftermath of the conflict, depriving her mother of her last remaining child (another daughter having been killed in an elevator accident in Paris). There was, however, some funny business surrounding her will and Mrs Gracie had her say in court. I'm not up on my legal jargon but, once again, I get the impression that she was not a woman to be tangled with...

Luke Owens

Has anyone ever gotten around to writing a comprehensive biography of Archibald Gracie? I'm particularly interested in the effect of his father's death in the American Civil War on his psychological makeup. His father died when Gracie was five years old, leaving him the only male in the family. Given the time, it seems likely that young Archibald's psyche was seriously affected by this.

BTW, is anyone as incensed as I am about the casting of Bernard Fox as Archibald Gracie in Cameron's flick?