Edith Russell Article An ET Research Plea


May 12, 2005
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Dear ET Message Board Members and Friends,

Over the last year my main research focus has shifted from my proposed book on "Lucile" (now thankfully re-agented)to an in-depth article on Edith Rosenbaum Russell.

The amount of source material that has accumulated for this piece has been more encouraging than I could have imagined when I undertook the idea of writing about Edith Russell.

To date, I have 60+ pages of notes taken from contemporary publications, including a separate clippings file of Edith's articles for Women's Wear Daily and the New York Herald (1911-1922). In addition, I am in touch with a private source who has agreed to loan me a total of 7 letters of Edith's (from her WWD editor, 1913-27), 3 early photographs of her (1910-13), and an original corrected manuscript proof for an interview with Edith by a colleague (c. 1928).

In addition I am in correspondence with a journalist who served as an unofficial secretary for Edith when she was soliciting her autobiography in London in the 1970s. The correspondence she is sharing, including internal memos from Cassells Publishers, will be invaluable.

So far I have enlisted the cooperation of William MacQuitty in sharing his personal memories of Edith and in gaining his permission to quote some of his public statements about her. I hope to pursue the same cooperation from others who were in contact with Edith over the years, including Walter Lord and Edward Kamuda.

I want to specifically thank George Behe, for loaning copies of print articles and recorded interviews, Phil Gowan and Brian Meister for sharing rare documents and unpublished photographs, Don Lynch for putting me in touch with Lord and MacQuitty and for his usual encouragement and counsel, Kyrila Scully and Shelley Dziedzic for lending me their very wise and pretty ears through all this, Daniel Klistorner for sharing newspaper articles on Edith as well as copies of Edith's White Star Line damages and injury claims, Phil Hind for permitting me to make this unorthodox appeal in his remarkable forum, and last but never least Inger Sheil for undertaking some very special ongoing research in London.

My point in going on about this is to urge any others whom I've not yet been in communication with (and who have information on Edith Russell and wish to share it with me for use in publication), to please contact me ASAP as I am now putting my projected story into narrative beginning today and I hope to have it finished by the end of January.

Nothing is too small a contribution so long as it's original and documented. A newspaper write-up. A picture not widely seen. Leads on a documentary source or contact person. Advice. Suggestions. I am open to assistance and information from everyone. And unlike some researchers, I believe in granting full acknowledgement to my sources. I promise you will be duly credited.

I intend this article to be thorough in every particular, to be to date the most accurate and honestly presented account of Edith Russell's life and career. I hope those who share an interest in this extraordinary woman, so much a part of the mythos of Titanic, will enjoy the final product.

Below is a list of specific questions I hope you all can help me answer:

1) What was the date of the issue of Cassells Magazine which carried an early (c. 1913-14?) Titanic story by Edith Russell (then Rosenbaum). This is proving an elusive account.

2) What is the source (publication, radio/TV interview?) for the oft-repeated quote of Edith's which I'll paraphrase as "I've had every misfortune but the plague and a husband." I must track this as it's essential that it be concretely documented.

3) What other publications, if any, besides WWD, the NY Herald, and Cassells, did Edith regularly contribute to?

4) Does anyone know if there were any other friends (besides Lord, MacQuitty, Kamuda, the Kennedys, and the Lawfords) with whom Edith was in contact in her last years?

5) Does anyone know if Edith visited the US after 1953?

6) Can anyone help me with complete citations for the following newspaper/magazine articles:

a)"I Lived Through a Night of Terror" by Edith
Russell (It was published April 14, 1962 but I
have no idea what publication it's from. I am
thinking it is British.

b)"The Truth About the Titanic" by Michael
Dorland. It appeared sometime around 1972-73.
Again, no publication title is known.

6) Does anyone know where Edith is buried? No obit I've found makes any reference to her burial. I assume it was in England. Any leads will be much appreciated.


In a follow-up post I will share some highlights from what I've prepared so far, including an excerpt from the introduction to the story which features a quote from William MacQuitty.

I hope anyone with any knowledge of Edith Russell's doings, particularly late in life, will care to share it with me. I will gladly pay all copying and mailing expenses. I may be reached at lucileltd@aol.com. I will provide my phone/fax numbers and my address via e-mail.

All best wishes,

Randy Bryan Bigham
 

George Behe

Member
Dec 11, 1999
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Hi, Randy!

> 2) What is the source (publication, radio/TV >interview?) for the oft-repeated quote of Edith's >which I'll paraphrase as "I've had every >misfortune but the plague and a husband." I must >track this as it's essential that it be >concretely documented.

I have a newspaper obituary of Miss Russell which contains the quote, but the clipping (datelined London, April 5) is from an unknown newspaper. I've been unable to find the original interview in which Miss Russell made that statement, but I'll let you know if anything should turn up.

Randy, I'm really looking forward to reading your article about Miss Russell; with your reputation for thorough research, it's bound to be the last word on the subject.

Take care, old chap.

All my best,

George
 
May 12, 2005
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George,

Thanks. I have the same obit. I'm thinking the original statement must have come from a later interview as they tend to be peppered more with little humorous bits like that.

As I just told Kate Bortner in an IM, I've gotten such a lot of help with this story from good folks like yourself that I feel my success will be a shared one. I could never have gotten this thing up and going without you guys.

And Kate, sorry for the abrupt end to the chat. I got booted off-line! That's twice my computer has "stuck" today.

My best to you both,

Randy
 

Jason D. Tiller

Moderator
Member
Dec 3, 2000
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Niagara Falls, Ontario
Randy,

I'm also looking forward to your article on Edith Russell when it comes out.

Best regards,

Jason
happy.gif
 
Dec 7, 2000
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Randy,

What about the other transatlantic disaster in which Edith supposedly lost most of her Titanic articles. I've only ever seen this mentioned and nothing more on the story.

6. a) I think it was from an Australian publication. I have asked around and searched several of the more known women's magazines from the early 60's but have never been able to find the article.

Best of luck to you with this project. I'm really looking forward to it coming out!

All my best,

Daniel.
 
May 12, 2005
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Daniel,

RE: other ocean disaster

I'm not sure on that one. As you know old Edy claimed lots of things (including surviving a tornado in her youth which is so sketchy it's nearly unverifiable).

I know she said she was on the Majestic when it went aground. Some researchers believe she was actually on the Celtic which was grounded in 1928. However I have found that the Majestic ALSO went aground in 1934 and was afterwards scrapped.

She was travelling a lot still in those years, from what Phil Gowan tells me, so its possible she really was on Majestic. I tend to think she was on it rather than Celtic as she

A) had sailed on Majestic several times already and she

B) always went by the biggest & best ships except during the war when she took some of the rather nondescript American liners of the day. Celtic was certainly not glamorous enough for Edy in my opinion.

I'm trying to ascertain which voyage of the Olympic she was on when it "hit a tidal wave." I am sure she was exaggerating as usual but any help from you Olympic experts will be appreciated. (And Mark thanks for your feedback on Olympic & Edy; your info will help narrow down the quest).

Daniel, if you find out titles on any of the newspaper articles let me know. I have never heard, by the way, of this bit re: Edy losing her Titanic momentos in another shipwreck. Perhaps this was the Majestic?

Randy
 

Inger Sheil

Member
Dec 3, 2000
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You blokes know I stand ready to assist if you've got a good idea of titles/dates, and if they show up in the BL catalogue for Colindale. I'm also ready to haul out passenger lists at the PRO for tempestuous voyages if there's a decent idea of ships/dates...although I seem to recall a half-finished job for Daniel that I've had lurking on my 'to-do' list for quite a while now that needs to be done first.

Looking forward tremendously to the article, Randy - she was certainly a richly coloured individual, and I can't think of a better person to pull the strands together and tell the story.

~ Ing
 
May 12, 2005
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All,

With thanks to Daniel Klistorner, who shared his copy of Edith Rosenbaum's White Star Line "Liability" claim, here are a few nuggets from that interesting 10 page document.

Filed in District Court in New York on Feb. 8, 1913, through her counsel Otto Samuels, Edith's claim demanded reimbursement for not only the loss of her own possessions but that of her extensive Parisian and Viennese importations of women's, men's, and children's wearing apparel, accessories, and other merchandise for a number of New York firms for which she worked as a buyer as well as for some private clients for whom she also served as buyer and stylist.

Among Edith's corporate customers were Fifth Avenue retailers Bergdorf Goodman, Lord and Taylor, and Franklin Simon. Among her private clients were saprano Geraldine Ferrar and Broadway comedienne Ina Claire, then appearing in Henry B. Harris' production of "The Quaker Girl" which was costumed by Lucile, Lady Duff-Gordon (talk about 6 degrees of separation!)

Anyway I won't list here any of the numerous and pricey designer-brand ladies' garments which Edith was importing, as they will be of more interest to readers of the ET fashions thread where I 'll post them later. Instead, for our amusement, I'll list a few of the odd-ball and seemingly inconsequential items Edith lost:

8 gun-metal knives and a knife sharpener - $14.00
1 dozen tobacco pouches - $6.00
silver flask - $4.00
laundry bag - $3.00
gold thimble - $3.00
rubber syringe and tube - $3.00
hot water bag - $2.00
fruit tray - $2.00
silver key ring - $2.00

Some other things on the list - a bottle of travelling salts, a sewing box in the shape of a baby doll, a travel clock, a couch cover, a lamp, carpets, and curtains.

Can you imagine worrying over a key ring, a thimble, or a laundry bag? I do believe Edith was a little P.O.'ed!!!

Though Edith would claim it took her more than "3 and a half years and acute starvation" to pay off her debts to clients, the truth is the success of her business over the next few years made her quite wealthy in her own right.

More later.

Randy
 
May 12, 2005
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Ing,

You know I appreciate all your help more than I can say. But thank you for being such a trooper, looking things up for me when you're so busy with your own research.

I'll be emailing you straight away as I've just run across an odd reference indeed to Officer Moody, quite by chance. I do believe I've found for you your very own "Titanic Imposter" yarn!

Randy
 

Inger Sheil

Member
Dec 3, 2000
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60
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Randy - oooooooo! Waiting on tenterhooks to hear about this! It wouldn't be the 'Quartermaster Moody', would it, who was giving interviews (or at least one interview)in NY?

~ Ing
 

Arne Mjåland

Member
Oct 21, 2001
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I have an obituary about Edith L. Russell from "Cincinnati Engine" (Ohio) from April 5 1975.
According to the obituary Miss Russell fell ill about 10 days before her death, and entered the Mary Abbot Hospital. She had lived in a London hotel room for years. There is also something about a stuffed pig which was given her for good luck after she had survived a car crash in France.
She led an adventurous life as a traveler, Paris fashion writer and World War I correspondent.There is nothing in the obituary about where she was buried.
 

Arne Mjåland

Member
Oct 21, 2001
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There is a 10 minute interview with Edith L. Russell in a video cassette also containing interview with Alfred Nourney from 08.08.1962.
I bought it from SWR Media, Stuttgart for DM 150.
In the interview Edith L. Russell talks about her lucky stuffed pig. For anybody interesterd the e-mail adress to SWR Media is Helga.Bonkosch@swr.de.
 

George Behe

Member
Dec 11, 1999
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Hi, Randy!

>I'm trying to ascertain which voyage of the >Olympic she was on when it "hit a tidal wave." I >am sure she was
> exaggerating as usual....

Perhaps, or perhaps not. Olympic had her share of encounters with bad storms and freak waves, so it's possible that Edith was telling the truth.

On Dec. 16, 1921 Olympic was wallowing in the midst of a terrific storm and was unable to proceed. She suddenly took a severe roll, and passengers and furniture tumbled across the deck. A steerage passenger, Domenico Serafine, had his spine dislocated and died shortly afterwards, while passenger John Onsik's ankle was so badly crushed that part of his leg had to be amputated by Dr. Beaumont.

On Feb. 27, 1925, without any warning, a freak wave suddenly swelled underneath the Olympic and completely engulfed her bridge; among other things, the 70-foot wave succeeded in bending the pedestal of the liner's compass.

Perhaps Edith Rosenbaum was on board the Olympic during one of these two voyages. (A review of the NARA passenger lists might be in order.) :)

(As frightening as the above two events must have been, they pale in comparison to what happened when the Rheinland encountered a freak wave....)

All my best,

George
 
May 8, 2001
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>>>...they pale in comparison to what happened when the Rheinland encountered a freak wave...<<<<So I say, "that looks like an interesting ship to look up".. Fifteen minutes later I am still trying to find an American site to find out what happened without luck! :-(
If it is ship number F209, it appears to be a newer ship and still afloat.
(Meanie...I have to drink a Mt. Dew to calm my nerves :)) (That is reason enough for me!)& hope Mike Standart will send me a link.
 
Dec 7, 2000
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Randy,

As for the disaster where she lost her Titanic items, I'm not sure but I think the ship sank. Anyway, this would have been after 1953, as in March of that year she was showing off her items to Life magazine.

Severe storms on the Atlantic were not rare, and Olympic received her own share of them. George is right about the ones he mentioned (George did you get the info from Simon Mills' book - that's where I remember reading the info). I think Olympic also encountered a storm in Jan. 1912 and another one in 1914. As we have Edy's Olympic travels to NY (westbound) and not eastbound, to Europe, it might be hard to determine which Olympic crossing she was on. Inger can check the passenger lists at PRO, but considering that Edy was going to France, I doubt she would appear on the PRO lists (as they list passengers that disembarked at English ports). What we need to find, is a place that has passenger lists for passengers disembarking in Cherbourg.

Also Randy, as for the video Arne mentioned, if I'm correct these interviews were all given in German. Edy spoke several languages, and gave this interview in German in 1962.

Best Regards,

Daniel.
 

George Behe

Member
Dec 11, 1999
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Hi, Daniel!

> (George did you get the info from Simon Mills' >book

No, it came from original research I did for my Commutator article, "Encounters in Mid--Ocean" (which was about freak waves etc.)

Hi, Colleen!

According to the Rheinland's Captain Randle, a freak wave submerged the entire vessel for a short time. Randle said that only the ship's funnels and masts were above the waterline; every lifeboat was washed away, one man was lost overboard and several officers and crew received broken limbs.

All my best,

George
 
May 12, 2005
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George,

Thanks a million for the references to the 1921 & '25 incidents on Olympic! I'm going to try and link something up with these. I know Edy took the Olympic westbound at least 2 or 3 times - once in 1913 and once again in 1922. I'm sure she crossed eastbound on it as well but that will take a while to check into I'm afraid.

Daniel,

Yes, Mark Chirnside gave me info on the 1914 incident to Olympic.

I cannot imagine Edy was shipwrecked post-1953. (Surely she was not on the Andrea Doria!!!) I think if Edy had been in a sinking in those years, when she was already getting a lot of publicity thanks to the movies coming out on Titanic, it would have been quite newsworthy and we'd have heard of it by now.

Looking through passenger lists in England or France will be too time consuming at this point, so what I'll do is take the dates of known mishaps to Olympic and check the Times or other papers to see if she was interviewed re: it. If I can't find anything to place her on board a particular ship, I will have to refer to the incidents in passing in my article and stress that they are not confirmed.

As to the German TV interview, yes I gathered it would not be in English. I have already inquired about the price and hope to hear back soon about that. I will let you know ASAP. I still want it as it is a potentially valuable source. Plus I've never seen any of her TV appearances, only the newsreel footage of her on the set of A Night to Remember.

I can always have her talk translated. (If any of our German friends here are up to the job, I will be glad to pay for this service!)

Thanks to everyone for their imput!

Best wishes,

Randy
 
Nov 22, 2000
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Randy, Didn't she just escape being on the General Chantzy or some such ship - can't recall the exact name but could find it if it becomes necessary.

Geoff
 

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