Charlotte Drake Cardeza

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Peyton Jenkins

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In the musical retelling of "Titanic", late Sunday night, Charlotte Drake Cardeza (tho she is called "Cardoza" in the show) crashes the First Class Smoking Room and is reprimanded by JJ Astor and a character only referred to as "The Major". Is this encounter based on fact? If not, was Mrs. Cardeza the kind of woman who would do such a thing? I haven't seen the musical, only listened to the soundtrack, but from what I can tell, the character of Charlotte Cardoza seems to be a hybrid of Mrs. Cardeza and Margaret Brown. Can anyone shed any light on Charlotte Cardeza's personality for me?
 
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Peyton Jenkins

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'Kay, thanks.
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And for the record, I know that JJ Astor was a colonel, and I was referring to two different people: Col. Astor and another man who is only listed as "The Major".
 
Jun 8, 2002
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Good theory, Trent.

"The Major" in the musical, "Titanic", seems to me to have been a hybrid of several factual Titanic passengers, including Major Archie Butt. I saw the musical in Dallas, and though I enjoyed some of the music and staging, I am too familiar with the story to have been able to completely enjoy it for what it was--musical theater as opposed to historical reinactment--because of the trivialization and amalgamation of events and characters.

One of our researchers, I think it was Phil Gowan, recently observed that a possible reason why Archie Butt's character is rarely depicted in film and TV presentations of the Titanic disaster as himself is because of the awkwardness of his name to modern audiences. Can't you imagine the indignity of the teenage audience of James Cameron's "Titanic" twittering over the introduction to a passenger by the name of "Major Butt"? I can't blame screenwriters for repeatedly omitting Archie as a character for this reason. I'm just sad that his name prevented this amazing man from being portrayed and hence memorialized by a new generation of fans of the story.

Best regards,
Doug
 
May 12, 2005
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Well the dear Major shouldn't be excluded for reason of an odd sounding name. I mean he was in good company as far as Titanic names with a backside connotation - AStor, DUFF Gordon, WIDEner, etc...
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Apr 24, 2003
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A simple question:
Who were the Cardezas? Where did they come from and why did they travel?
I think, they are not so popular in Titanic history although they lived in one of the great suites on B-Deck. Why?
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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Manuel, there are few if any mysteries about the Cardezas. Charlotte's main claim to fame was her fabulous wealth, inherited from her father Thomas Drake who had created 'Kentucky Blue Jeans'. Charlotte's own wardrobe was rather more exotic and this, along with her jewels, accounted for most of her record insurance claim of $177,000, including $20,000 for a single diamond. Though Charlotte had inherited a huge mansion in Germantown, Pennsylvania, she spent much of her time travelling the world, sometimes on her own yacht, sometimes on luxury liners like the Titanic. On this occasion she was homeward bound after an African safari and a visit to her son Thomas in his Hungarian hunting lodge. Owing to ill health, Thomas decided to travel to the US with his mother to seek medical treatment. If there are relatively few questions here about the Cardezas, it may be because their lives are well documented and there are few if any gaps to be filled.
 

Ben Holme

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Feb 11, 2001
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Manuel and Bob,

I think, they are not so popular in Titanic history although they lived in one of the great suites on B-Deck. Why?

I've always wondered the same thing. The most plausible reason may concern the apparent absence of survivor accounts from either mother or son. There is a substantial amount of material on them in the archives of the Thomas Jefferson University, but I have yet to find an detailed account of their Titanic experiences. The names of other surviving passengers in 1st class were perhaps less familiar in 1912, but they figure more prominently in Titanic history today simply because they left detailed accounts of their rescue.

In addition to the above, it appears that while the Cardezas were undoubtedly prominent figures in Pennsylvania, they may not necessarily have been great social animals in the same way that other Philadelphians, such the Wideners, Carters, Thayers, and Ryersons were, hence the lack of survivor accounts in which Charlotte and Thomas are mentioned, at least by name.

Just some thoughts.

Regards,
Ben
 

Phillip Gowan

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Apr 10, 2001
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No doubt there is a "difference" of some sort in the way most of the first class Philadelphians and Cardezas are remembered. As Ben said, I think a part of it was that the Cardezas enjoyed their wealth but didn't interact in the social circles of Philly in the same way that the Wideners and others did. Even the Cardeza obituaries from Philadelphia papers tended to be short and had little fanfare. The New York Times actually seemed to take more of an interest in their passing-and philanthropy. But as others have mentioned, plenty is known about them and researcher Linda Greaves is the ultimate source on the Cardezas and has written the best biography of them that has been produced. She became good friends with the late Miss Celestia Cardeza of New York who was a half-niece of Thomas and knew him well. Celestia turned out to be a treasure trove of information that Linda was the beneficiary of.

Phil
 

Phillip Gowan

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Apr 10, 2001
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Incidentally, when Miss Celestia Cardeza died (ironically on April 15, 1998), she was the last member by the surname in the United States though the extended family once flourished in Pennsylvania. No one by the name of Cardeza lives in the United States today.
 
Apr 16, 2001
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Hi Ben,

I agree with everything in your above posting, but I hope you wouldn't mind my adding some additional material that you may or may not be aware of.

The Cardezas were not part of the "social elite" in Philadelphia society. Although they lived in fashionable Germantown (along Philly's Main Line) and owned one of the largest estates in that area, they were not welcomed members of the Philadelphia social register. Although Charlotte could be gracious and the perfect hostess, she was thought "crass" and "outspoken" for a woman in her social position at that time by many of her fellow Philadelphians. While other wealthy women traveled the world, it was Charlotte's desire to venture into deep, dark Africa on safaris and other dangerous expeditions that earned her the disrespect of others. She was a woman "way ahead of her time" doing things that other women of her stature just wouldn't AND DIDN'T do at that time. She earned this reputation during the 1890s in particular.

She was not particularly fond of Philadelphia society, and may have actually been the one to have turned her nose up at them. Nobody on the Titanic ever mentioned the Cardeza traveling party by name - including some of the women who were in boat #3 with them. I firmly believe that Mrs. Cardeza was the woman Mrs. Spedden described having had a flask of brandy in the lifeboat, and was busy barking orders during the night. Subsequently, "this woman" whom Mrs. Spedden never named, intended for herself to be the first person up the road ladder when they reached the Carpathia. Mrs. Spedden recalled having enjoyed the pleasure of pulling "this woman" down when she attempted to climb the ladder. I've often thought that Mrs. Cardeza was the woman who was stepped on the poor woman (probably Mrs. Dick) who yelled "Look at that woman. She stepped on my stomach - horrible creature!" Thomas Cardeza and his valet were possibly the "two rough looking men" who sat near Elizabeth Shutes who spent much of their time smoking - although some suggest they may have been two of the stokers who entered the boat.

I suspect that Mrs. Spedden and the other occupants of boat #3 knew who Mrs. Cardeza was - if not before than later. Furthermore, Charlotte's identity was protected to save herself the embarrassment of her behavior. This MAY be a reason why the Cardezas remained silent concerning their experiences. Interestingly, Charlotte's faithful maid, Anna Ward, spoke briefly to the press after the sinking - gloriously praising her employer's heroics, naturally.

Thomas Cardeza was thought of more highly than his mother. A sportsman with an aggressive nature, he often apologized to others for his mother's eccentric behavior.

Several members of old Philadelphia families that I've spoken with were polite in offering that while Charlotte was philanthropic (particularly in her later years), she had an "unpleasantness about her" that others noticed and remembered. Many believed that Charlotte's charitable gifts in her later years were to attone for her past transgressions. She was frequently at odds with her son and daughter-in-law. To those she loved and cared about, she was generous and a faithful friend. To those she disliked, or to those who she felt had crossed her, there was no chance of redemption or reconciliation. A most definite-minded woman.

In my opinion, I find her to be one of the most fascinating women on board the Titanic. Defiant and feisty, I think her actions on the night of the sinking are well known thanks to those who remembered her - if not by name.

Regards,

Mike
 

Ben Holme

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Feb 11, 2001
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Hi Phil -- Interesting info there on what became of the Cardeza clan eventually. Thanks for that tidbit. No Cardeza names in the whole of the United States? That's quite an astonishing statisitc! It seems that the very opposite is the case with other prominent Titanic families with Philadelphia connections. I understand, for example, that there are still plenty of Wideners still dotted about the Philadelphia area.

I seem to recall I've heard Linda's name mentioned in connection with the Cardezas, I believe it was through correspondance with a relative of Anna Ward. Sounds like some good sleuthing on her part led to her stumbling on quite a goldmine!

Hope you're doing well.
 

Ben Holme

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Feb 11, 2001
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Hi Mike -- Many thanks for the additional detail on Charlotte's position, or lack thereof, in Philadelphia society. Was glad you and Phil could confirm that. That's an interesting detail about her reputation suffering as a result of her tiger-hunting antics on Safaris in Africa. I have to wonder why, when Eleanor Widener had very similar dangerous experiences with second husband, Hamilton Rice, was she not looked upon with similar disdain? I suppose it was a little while later, and people's sensibilities may have changed, even in that relatively short space of time.

I'm very much in agreement with you that Mrs. C. was the woman with the brandy flask observed by Daisy Spedden. Significanty, the descriptions of both Mrs. Spedden and Henry Sleeper Harper virtually narrows it down to Charlotte. She is described as being large of stature, and as all other boat #3 women do not fit such a description (although I cannot rule out Mrs. Graham on such evidence, having never seen a photo of her) we are left with Charlotte Cardeza. I also agree that it was likely Mrs. C. whose over-zealous attemps to be first out of the boat led to a fellow occupant's stomach being stepped on. Originally, I was included among those who thought the "rough looking" men were stokers. However, the detail of them smoking cigars rather than cigarettes suggests that they were passengers rather than crew - as you say, probably Cardeza and Lesueur.

You're right--they may well have known the identity of the "fat woman" but for some reason, kept her identity a secret. Interesting that her maid sung her praises. Interesting comments about Thomas' character. As Charlotte's story is more well documented, there seems to be less insight into his personality than his mother's.

I'm encouraged to hear that she mellowed with age. There's no dispuating that she's one of the most interesting women on board. A character indeed!

Best Regards,
Ben
 

Phillip Gowan

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Apr 10, 2001
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Hey Ben,
Yes Linda has quite a close relationship with the Ward relatives and has been fortunate enough to see many of Anna Ward's cherished possessions from her years working for Mrs. Cardeza. If you want, I can send you a copy of Linda's biography--she did a fantastic job and researched it for years. I used to correspond with her but haven't heard from her in quite some time so guess her interest in Titanic has waned. But she was really a good researcher--can't praise her enough. Incidentally, Linda and Anna Ward's family believe that the "fat woman" was indeed Charlotte. I have photos of Mrs. Graham and she does not fit the description. Also, Mrs. Graham and her daughter were much more refined people--even too refined. I have Margaret's later life account of the sinking and the most outstanding quality of it is how reticent she was to give meaty details.

No, there's not a single Cardeza in the whole United States now. Celestia does have a sister living and there are other Cardeza descendents, but no one wearing the surname.

I don't have a mailing address for you so sent that to me privately and I'll get the Cardeza bio to you.

My best,
Phil
 

Ben Holme

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Feb 11, 2001
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Hey Phil!

I would be delighted to receive a copy of the Cardeza biography! Kind of you to offer.

Yes, I learned a lot from a brief exchange I had with the relatives of Anna Ward. It appears she wasn't too dissimilar from her emplyer. Apparently, Annie behaved towards many other people similarly to how Mrs. Cardeza behaved towards her -- imperious and demanding to be the center of attention.

I will try and dig up my old emails. Seem to remember I was told other fascianting stories. One in particular springs to mind about some mutual dislike amongst Charlotte's employees :)

Will be in touch shortly!

Best,
Ben
 

Phillip Gowan

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Apr 10, 2001
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Maybe that's why Annie and Charlotte were able to work together thru all the years. Charlotte was generous to Annie in her will and even paid for all the funeral arrangements for Annie's mother and much much more. Do you have a copy of the will? I posted it to one of the forums some time back but don't know if you saw it. One of the most interesting wills I've ever read--even mentions a little blue Swiss watch made especially for her in Switzerland and given to her in the 1850's by her father. I think Annie got it in the will but it hasn't surfaced among Annie's effects in possession of her relatives today.

Phil
 

Phillip Gowan

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Apr 10, 2001
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By golly Darren I think you have me eating crow. But that must be a newcomer as no one in the United States by that name had a valid driver's license in 2002.

Thanks for pointing this one out.

Phil