I thought I'd left an earlier message praising your article but evidently not. So let me tell you, it's great!
That's a lot of detective work you've done and good luck to you and Phil in your ongoing research. What a character this guy was. And a sad end. What is it with Titanic suicides?
All in all it was a great story. Thanks for sharing it with us. We are all always appreciative of soundly based research from writers who really care about their subject. It shows in every word that you do.
Thanks very much Randy and Michael:
If you two would get together and tell me which six numbers to buy on tonite's California Lottery I could quit my day job and do this full time, and have money left over to hire Gowan and Behe. GoHerBe. That's got a ring to it.
Michael: I've got my hands full with the Californians. Like who in the world knows anything about the Klasens and Vestrom?
Dear Mike, Hulda Kristina Löfqvist Klasén was a 36 year old seamstress from Gotland, Sweden. She was going to Los Angeles; she had lived in America since 1902 and had been back in Sweden to get her niece Hulda Amanda Adolfina Veström, whose father allegedly lived in the US at the time.
Klas Albin Klasén travelled with his sister Gertrud Emilia, 1,5 years old. The two latter were probably not related to Hulda Klasén (although there is a possibility).
The following article was just published in the British Titanic Society quarterly journal, "Atlantic Daily Bulletin." My thanks go out to Phil Gowan and George Behe for their continuing help. We have since found the great niece and another distant relative in Southern California and are continuing to find out more information about this most interesting passenger.
George A. Brereton -- Mystery Man
By Mike Herbold
George M. Behe wrote an excellent two-part article for “The Titanic Commutator” in 1982 called “Fate Deals A Hand.” The story is told of George “Boy” Bradley and other gamblers aboard Titanic. Their activities on the evening of April 14, 1912, before and after the ship hit the iceberg, include attempts to draw unsuspecting victims into card games. Details are given of the many newspaper interviews they gave after the rescue ship Carpathia landed in New York. Bradley identified himself to reporters as George Brayton and George Braden of Los Angeles. On the Titanic passenger list, in the first class section, he was listed as “Brayton, Mr. George.”
In his second great Titanic book, Walter Lord retells some of those same April 14th and 15th incidents. He then goes on to tell how George Brayton tried to swindle wealthy survivor Charles Emil Henry Stengel in a horse racing scam a few weeks after the disaster.
No matter how much was written about him, George Bradley was always elusive. Unlike most passengers, especially those in first class, you will find no record of a birth date, birth place, or date and place of death. It turns out that George had one more card up his sleeve -- his last name was not Bradley or Brayton or Braden.
In the May 1998 Kenneth C. Schultz catalog of ocean liner memorabilia, the following description appeared about an item that was for sale: ‘Titanic: And another truly spectacular piece! Her 1st class color portrait passenger list -- The former property of 1st class passenger and survivor, Mr. George Brayton. The list was folded in his pocket as he escaped the Titanic that memorable night and is to the best of my knowledge one of the only existing lists to actually have been aboard. The previous 2 I’ve sold were both advance copies as is Walter Lord’s.’
‘This list was acquired from Mr. Brayton’s great niece who in a letter to me -- that will accompany the list -- gives us some new information. “My great uncle was one of the surviving passengers of the Titanic. His name was George Brereton and is misspelled on the list. He is listed as Mr. George Brayton..... I was always told he was on his honeymoon though there is no mention of a Mrs. on the list. I suspect there were many errors overall, not just the misspelling of Brereton. My grandmother Emily Brereton Lathrop, her brother George, and several other siblings were from Los Angeles.”
‘The list is folded and both covers are off but present, else sound. The list has been kept for years in a World War II bonds envelope with “Titanic passenger list” written on it. You, of course, get that and the letter along with the list. Another super opportunity to own a piece of history. $25,000.00.’
Kenneth Schultz sold the letter and list and can’t find a copy of the niece’s address. But luckily Brereton is not a very common last name, and there were not many Emily B. Lathrops in California. With help from Phillip Gowan, death certificates were found for both George and Emily, and the true story of George Andrew Brereton is starting to unfold.
George (Nov. 11, 1874) and his sister Emily Barbara Brereton (Dec. 13, 1876) were both born in Minnesota to Daniel Brereton of Ireland and Mary Rohe Brereton of Germany. George’s birth city was Medelia. At some time, George had a wife named Grace and Emily was married to Horace Newton Lathrop. They all lived in Southern California together. George was a car salesman and Emily a housewife.
George and Emily were close. In later years they both lived at the same address, 7021 Miramonte Blvd., in southeast Los Angeles. In its day it was probably very nice, with tall palm trees lining either side of a wide street. The house still stands today, but the area is now a crowded working class Latino neighborhood.
Much information is still being learned, but we do know that in 1942 George was a widower. Tragically, on the morning of July 16, 1942 at 7:40 am, George Brereton raised a 12 gauge shotgun to his head and pulled the trigger. He was 67.
The Breretons and Lathrops were close in death as in life. There are a total of 8 of them buried together in Block J, Section 9592 of Valhalla Memorial Park in Burbank, California (just north of Los Angeles). There are only six gravesites, however. The numbers given are the lot numbers. In the top row are:
1. Paul B. Lathrop, 1878-1934
2. George Andrew Brereton, 1874-1942
3. John A. Brereton, Sept. 12, 1878--Jan. 22, 1951
On the bottom row, the grave markers read like this:
4. Horace Newton Lathrop, 1871-1944. In between the name and the dates is the following inscription: Horace B. Lathrop, May 3, 1913--Oct. 19, 1984
5. Emily Barbara Lathrop, Beloved Mother, Douglas-Eugene-Horace B.,
6. Eugene W. Lathrop, 1907-1989.
Two other family members are listed in the same section. William Edward Brereton was cremated. His ashes were apparently buried with John. Horace B. Lathrop died in 1985 and was also cremated. His ashes were apperently buried with his father.
The search for information regarding George Andrew Brereton is just beginning. Phillip Gowan has discovered that his father Daniel Brereton was also in California in the early 1900’s, in the Northern California town of Sausalito. It turns out that William Brereton was born in Medelia, Minnesota -- lengthening the time that we can prove the family was there. With help from Phillip and George Behe, we are looking for more information about George’s wife Grace, his other brother John,
and his in-laws. If we are really lucky, maybe we’ll even find one of his old decks of cards.
That's an excellent story. Quite a guy. Does anyone know who Brereton played cards with on Titanic? Do you know where Daniel lived in Sausalito? I might go and take a picture of the house, if it still exists. Once again, congratulations to you and Phil for the work you did.
I recently saw an original of the passenger listing for the second voyage of the Olympic. Amongst the passengers was Thomas Andrews and a certain George A. Brereton. Would this be the same George Andrew Brereton (a.k.a. George Arthur Brayton / Bradley) who sailed on the first voyage of the Titanic?
Yeah, that's him. He continued to sail the seas for many years plying his trade. In fact, it was on one of the subsequent trips that he met his second wife. Her parents were sending her and her sisters to England in hopes that she'd find a "royal" to marry. Instead she found Brereton. But he pretended to be a blue-blood and on his son's death certificate it lists the father as "Sir George Brereton." What a hoot!
Thanks for confirming that. If his "trade" was gambling and swindling who was he hoping to swindle on the crossing? I'm aware he swindled fellow survivor Stengel several weeks after the sinking in a horse racing scam. Was Stengel also his intended victim on the crossing?
What happened to his second wife? Did she die before Brereton shot himself or did she see the light and do a runner?
Hey Boz, am sure Brereton was swindling whoever he could on the trans-Atlantic crossings.
Hazel and George Brereton had a stormy relationship. Hazel couldn't have children so they adopted one son, Danny, who was said to be the out-of-wedlock child of a well-known movie star. Danny didn't turn out to be a gambler but he was a very unsavory character. He died a year before his mother and those responsible for the estate were reluctant to even enter his house, afraid of what they might find.
Hazel and George finally divorced and Hazel then married a Maytag heir and lived to be a very old woman. She wasn't such a nice little trick herself and Mike Herbold has uncovered some information that even suggests criminal activity on her part.
She and Brereton may have been well suited for one another. She was a very unpleasant looking woman--as George Behe once remarked when I showed him a photo of her--"looks like she was dying of Tuberculosis."
... and speaking of George Behe, he has a two-part article on the gamblers in the Titanic Commutator. It is in two of the 1982 issues, but I can't remember which ones. I don't have the original issues just yet, but I hope to really soon!
I do have a photocopy of the article and it is excellent, well worth the read as it gives an excellent insight into the life of a gambler, as well as giving a good account of the gamblers on the Titanic.
Also you might want to visit this past thread on ET:
It is about Titanic-connected people who traveled on the Olympic, and there's some gambler info as well. This is what I said in one of my posts:
"He actually traveled under his real name; George A. Brereton, arriving on the Olympic in N.Y. on 16 Aug. 1911!"
The gambler info I posted on that thread however might make more sense once you have acquainted yourself with George's article.
PS. I think some 1982 Commutators might appear on ebay soon. There are two sellers that have have been listing issues. One has been listing them since 1972 and is up to 1981 at the moment, and the other has been listing them since the 90's and working back into the 80's.
I have that copy of the Commutator with George's article on the gamblers. It was the first issue of the journal I got after I joined THS at the age of 13! I read that story over and over and can still recall the dramatic sketch of Rene Harris that accompanied it. The issue is a bit worn and torn but I've saved it in hopes that I can have George, now a good friend, sign it for me someday (if we ever meet!)
Many thanks for your help, Phil and Daniel. It never ceases to amaze me how people become what they are, in the case of Brereton a liar, thief and cheat. He's not even a likeable rogue although I still feel a bit sorry for him, having lost his son to TB and his first wife to suicide.
It's interesting how his experiences on the Titanic did not seem to change his way of life at all. I'd have thought he would have seen it as an opportunity to make amends and become a decent bloke but alas, the opportunity of making easy money at the expense of someone else was too good to miss.
I was amused by the story of Brereton posing as royalty. How mad is that? Did Hazel, his second wife, actually marry him because she thought he was blue blood? From how you describe her she doesn't sound the gullible type. If he was maintaining he was a "Sir" up until at least the time of his son's death, how on Earth did he keep up this charade for so long?