Henry Harris

Jan C. Nielsen

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Dec 12, 1999
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Mrs. Henry Harris, a survivor, reported that her husband, Henry, Walter Douglas, and Edgar Meyer helped her and other women get into lifeboats, and that they even helped with lowering the lifeboats. She says she last saw the three of them, heading toward the stern, with their lifebelts on.

This information was derived from a New York Times article. Does anyone have any independent confirmation of these facts?
 

Ben Holme

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Feb 11, 2001
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Hi Jan,

Although, significantly, I have never come across an account in which Mrs. Harris herself makes reference to the heroic behaviour of her husband, Douglas and Meyer, I did notice, and was intrigued by the last section of Leila Meyer's brief account in which she relates Mrs. H's observations which do indeed place the three helping to load and lower "the last boat" (almost certainly collapsible D). Unfortunately, I don't have the exact quote at hand.

Examining the accounts of others from the forward port boat deck vicinity, Mrs Harris' observations would appear to make sense, as they correspond to various other "last sightings" of the men. Walter Douglas, for example had previously helped his wife into boat #2, lowered from the same davits that D (Mrs Harris' boat) would later occupy. There is no evidence to suggest he went elsewhere during that time. It's also worth mentioning that the Douglas' knew the Meyers (at least by name) and Mahala Douglas even remembered seeing Edgar Meyer in the same location (i.e. boats 2 and D). It seems reasonable to assume, therefore, that the "remaining" men would have helped where they could before heading aft to apparent temporary refuge. It seems odd that Rene Harris only mentioned the Strauses as being their only company at the "collapsibl D" juncture in her 1932 "Liberty" account.

Hope this helps,

Ben
 
Apr 16, 2001
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Hi Jan and Ben,

I hope I can be of some help here also. I can neither confirm or deny the report. Based on my research, it is certainly possible, like Ben said, that Walter Douglas was in the vicinity of boat D since he had just placed his wife and their maid Berthe in boat #2 just minutes before.

One needs to be careful about believing everything Mrs. Harris said about her experience. Walter Lord, a good friend of Rene, was never convinced of her tale of leaving the Titanic all through the years he knew her. He jokingly commented on one occasion "that she must have thought that every man left on board stopped what they doing to carry her into the last boat because of her injured arm...."

In all fairness to Rene Harris, she was obviously suffering from the shock and exposure. Perhaps wishing to be of some comfort to the families of those that lost loved ones, she frequently wrote and claimed that various men, all valiant, put her into boat D. Names included Emil Brandeis, Col. Astor, Major Butt and of course, Walter Douglas, Edgar Meyer and her husband. It is impossible to say just where all these men were during the Titanic's final minutes but I think poor Mrs. Harris exaggerated a bit in naming so many men. Perhaps she was accurate, but, like Ben clearly pointed out, the 1932 Liberty magazine interview fails to mention them. Rene Harris wrote to the Brandeis family that Emil was in her cabin playing cards with she and Henry when the impact occured. She told Walter that only she and her husband were playing cards at that late hour ~ naturally so. She may have forgotten that Emil was hosting a party for department stores buyers, presumably in his cabin, on that fateful Sunday night.

As to whether or not Meyer, Douglas and Henry Harris headed toward the stern following Rene's departure, I can't say since I've never seen any other survivor make this claim. In some accounts, Rene stated that Emil Brandeis was with her husband near the end and that both stood there and watched her lifeboat drop to the sea. She went on to say that she NEVER saw them move from where they were standing and seemed to stick to that story more often that the rest.

Hope this helps.....

Regards,

Mike
 

Ben Holme

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Feb 11, 2001
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Hi Mike,

Many thanks for the add'l information regarding Rene Harris' lesser known accounts. Judging from her various accounts (and those of others) it seems that most point to a large number of first class passengers being present at the collapsible D loading/lowering stage - although as you say, many are to be taken with a grain of salt. I did find it strange that Rene didn't mention Brandeis in Liberty magazine. Do you know if she ever made reference to John D. Baumann in the accounts you are familiar with?

Thanks,

Ben
 
Apr 16, 2001
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Hey Ben,

Surprisingly, Rene made no mention of John Baumann at all in any of her accounts that I've seen and read. I knew that Baumann and Henry B. Harris were friends (Harris had been named executor of Baumann's will which, of course, proved a problem since both died in the sinking) but I always found it strange that Rene never mentioned him.

I once asked Walter Lord if Rene ever mentioned John Baumann to him. Walter replied, "John who?" Needless to say, Walter never remembered hearing about Baumann in all the years Rene was friends with him.

I've always wondered why Baumann was an enigma the night of the sinking and also thought that perhaps Rene was not fond of him - thus his erasure from her spoken memories of the disaster. Just a thought but who knows? It's also possible that she really didn't know him that well.

I must say that Baumann is a somewhat of a mystery leaving behind a trail of questions concerning his life. His wife Edna has been traced but even that didn't shed too much light on him as a person.

It would be a real prize to find an account by someone who remembered him that fateful night.

Best regards,

Mike
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Glancing through, I note that she made no specific mention of anyone other than her husband at the loading of 'D' in her 30 May 1912 interview:

I was one of the last to leave the 'Titanic'. I didn't want to go. An officer made me go. My husband kept me away from the rail of the boat. 'Don't look over, Renee,' he warned me. 'It will hurt your arm.' So I did not know until I was tossed into the boat that we were even then only seven feet above water. We were sinking and he didn't want me to know it. 'Take care of that woman. Her arm is broken,' he called ot the men, but they threw me into the boat anyway. I looked up at him and cried out, 'Harry, won't you say good-bye to me?' And he spoke the words I have told you. ['Good-bye, sweetheart, I'll see you again.']. They were the last I ever heard from him. Seven minutes after my husband kissed me and tossed a blanket after me into the boat, the 'Titanic' sank.

It's interesting that Jerome Wilson, assistant to William Morris (vaudeville promotor and business associate of the Brandeis family)sent a message on the 19 April that while Mrs Harris' condition 'will not permit my interviewing her', she stated she was playing cards with Emile Brandeis at the time of the collision. No mention at that stage that he had helped her into a boat. She seems to have elaborated on this when speaking to Mrs Arthur Brandeis, saying that the Harrises and Brandeis had a 'hearty dinner' together on Sunday and Emil had proudly spoken of his niece and nephew, telling the Harrises that they would meet them in New York. This is again a bit vague about the end - 'The men staid [sic] on deck as the women were powered into the lifeboats.'
 
May 12, 2005
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All,

I may not can offer much to this discussion except to add my hunch that Rene's was a mercurial personality, to put it nicely, which had a bearing (I believe) on the tenor of what she chose to record about her Titanic experiences.

Anyone reading Broadway playwright Moss Hart's autobiography will get a vivid impression of Rene's tough, gutsy persona. She was no shrinking violet - except, it would appear, when it came to telling a thoroughly faithful account of the Titanic disaster.

From what has been shared above, I'm seeing a pattern of elusiveness in her accounts. Granted she had just broken her arm the day of the disaster and might well have been under sedatives, which could explain impaired or fragmented memory, but there is also a bit of "hedging the truth" in her later accounts.

For example, in her much-discussed "Liberty" magazine story she makes veiled references to the Duff Gordons of whom she writes with absolute disdain. Yet contemporary press stories I've uncovered prove that "Lucile," at least, was an associate of Henry B. Harris, having costumed several of his plays in New York as well as contributed to the Actor's Benevolent Fund, which he chaired. After Henry B's death, Lucile continued to dress shows Rene was producing. So there was obviously an amicable professional relationship.

A copy I have of a 1932 letter of Rene's to Lucile, reveals that the two women were personal friends dating to before the time of the sinking of the Titanic. In this letter, Rene harshly reproaches Lucile for statements made in the latter's recently published autobiography which she interpreted as reflecting negatively on American women who lost their husbands on Titanic. Lucile's comments in her book were certainly broad-brushing but Rene's barbs, in her letter, are as fierce as the green ink she used to pen the missive.

This falling out between old friends I believe is what inspired the ridiculous, unsubstantiated remarks she made against the Duff Gordons in her magazine article.

My roundabout point in sharing this tale, is that Rene was, in my estimation, not above telling falsehoods that suited her in the moment. This to me is blatantly shown in this case of her turning coat on a long-standing friend just as an emotional whim.

Randy
 

Ben Holme

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Feb 11, 2001
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Hi Ing, and many thanks for sharing that extract with us. New to me, that one! It's interesting that the above interview appears to have been written from an acutely personal viewpoint, even more so that "Liberty", which may explain why she neglected to mention the presence of others nearby. Perhaps she considered it extaneous information at the time, and given the nature of the interview? I believe at least one of her accounts mentions George Rosenshine, a close friend of her husband who also helped his mistress onto 'D'.

Randy--While it cannot be disputed that Rene was a feisty characer, I'm in total agreement with you regarding Rene's disparaging, albeit veiled remarks levelled at the Duff Gordons in later years. I believe I had read previously that this was at least partly due to her having taken umbrage at some of Lucile's remarks concering the behaviour of various 1st class American widows, and this comes across very clearly in her "Liberty" account. In particular, I recall Rene's subtle but obvious comparison between the Duff Gordons and fellow New Yorkers, Frederick and Jane Hoyt - speaking of the latter;

Fred Hoyt was one of the few surviving men who were saved honourably.

Also, her cheif crticim of Sir Cosmo (that he allegedly managed to persuade an officer to allow him access to the boat deck when so many other men were prevented from doing so) appears somewhat unsubtantiated as no other survivor, to my knowledge, ever made reference to officers barring access to the actual *decks*. Although, given the circumstance, the souring of good friendships is often inevitable, it would seems as though Lucile offered little provocation here.

Mike--Interesting tidbits re. Baumann there. Makes me wonder if Walter Lord's question was a rhetorical one! Baumann is one of several passenegrs whose shipboard movements have never been recorded, Klaber, Goldschmidt, Natsch being several others.

All the best,

Ben
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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G'day Ben -

I can get a copy of the account to you, if you like. It was republished a couple of years ago in the Commutator. The Omaha paper extracts re Brandeis were pulled off microfilm by Kerri, and are not particularly legible!

The Liberty Magazine article is an interesting one - the May 1912 interview was given mainly to talk about Harold Lowe (indeed, she specifically states she gave the interview to draw attention to his actions). In the 1932 story, however, she speaks of him only in the context of his alleged exchange with the Duff Gordons (and makes the observation that she still regards him as one of the finest men she ever met). However, in the 1912 interview, which recounts her exchanges with Lowe both on the Carpathia and in NY, there is no mention of him rescuing her from intrusive photographers! It doesn't mean the exchange didn't happen - Lowe, particularly on the Wednesday, seems to have been interacting a good deal with the passengers. However, I suspect that - as is typical - the later account has become an exagerated version of some incident, and was evidently coloured by whatever it was that prompted her later resentment against Lucile. I recall that this was the subject of one of the first discussions we ever had, Randy, and I remember how intrigued I was when you related your theory as to why the relationship between the two women soured.
 

Ben Holme

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Feb 11, 2001
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Hi Ing,

If it's not too much trouble, a copy would be most appreciated! Kind of you to offer - although quite how I managed to overlook that one during my 3.00am raid of your living room is beyond me!

I find it interesting to speculate as to the reasons for various relationships deteriorating in the aftermath of the disaster. Elmer Taylor's decidedly caustic remarks levelled at Catherine Crosby, his former shipbaord acquaintance on Titanic also spring to mind (quite possibly attributable to the fact that Taylor stepped into boat #5 (#7?) while Mrs. Crosby's husband remained behind). The Brereton-Stengel episode - which descended into near fisty-cuffs - is another. At least some friendships (ex. Lowe and Harris) remained consistently amicable.

Ben
 
May 12, 2005
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Ing,

I well remember that first marathon phone conversation. That was when we were "supposed" to be enemies, right? I have to admit I myself was worried about how we'd get along but the moment I heard that beautiful accent of yours, I surrendered completely; I'm still hooked!

As to the credibility of Rene's allegation that a near-altercation occured between Lowe and the Duff Gordons on Carpathia, I wanted to say that I now share your belief that, while the encounter was no doubt dramatized in her telling of it, there was quite likely SOME sort of exchange that transpired between them. We will probably never know the true nature of the episode. Certainly I disbelieve Rene's account that he "bawled" the couple out. But I do think he approached them and said something in Rene's defense, even if it was only to ask them to move to another part of the deck to take their pictures.

Ben,

The relationships between survivors over the years are indeed interesting material. Mabel Francatelli, later Haering, Lucile's secretary, worked for her until around 1920 but thereafter kept in close touch. A friendship had been forged that remained firm throughout Lucile's life. Mabel or "Franks," as she was affectionately known, was devoted to "Madam" even long after her former employer had passed on. In correspondence that has survived, I have found it endearing that Lucile, who was only about 5'4", so often referred to her tall, rather imposing secretary as "my little Franks" and "dear little Franks," etc. It shows her own utterly genuine, loving devotion to her younger friend.

Randy
 

George Behe

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Dec 11, 1999
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Ben wrote:

>Do you know if she ever made reference to John D. >Baumann in the accounts you are familiar with?

Hi, Ben!

Mrs. Harris's single reference to Mr. Beaumann (that I've been able to find, anyway) said that Mr. Beaumann was grateful to Mr. Harris for assisting him in a time of trouble and stood by him without attempting to enter a lifeboat.

All my best,

George
 
Dec 7, 2000
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In one of her accounts, Mrs. Futrelle mentions a young man who was a friend of the Harrises, who also came into the cabin (C83). Who is this man? I don't recall Mrs. Harris mentioning him, or if she did, I was unaware of his age.

Daniel.
 
Apr 16, 2001
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Hi Daniel,

Good question. I have always wondered who Rene Harris was referring to also. In an attempt to learn the answer, I had asked Walter Lord a number of years ago. Unfortunately, he couldn't shed any light as to whom Rene was talking about. I even asked if he ever remembered hearing about John Baumann being a friend of Henry B. Harris. His answer was "John who?" He said that in all the years he knew Rene, she never mentioned Baumann by name to him. She always spoke about Emil Brandeis and Edgar Meyer however.

Mrs. Harris gave so many interviews after the sinking to various newspapers and magazines that its possible she did make mention of Baumann. George mentioned he found such a reference. Is there a source?

It is still so strange that given Rene's habit of name dropping, she didn't mention Baumann more often if at all.

In one account she was adamant that Emil Brandeis was playing cards in her cabin with both she and Henry B. shortly before the accident. She told Walter Lord that only she and her husband were playing. If there is any truth to a third party being a player with them, I wonder if it was Baumann. Brandeis was apparently hosting a cocktail party for department store buyers - according to Spencer Silverthorne.

I answered your e-mail concerning the Greenfields and Mrs. Flegenheim earlier. I hope it will be of some help.

Very best,

Mike
 

Ben Holme

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Feb 11, 2001
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Hello George,

Very interesting find, many thanks for the info! Do you know if Rene Harris elaborated at all upon what exactly Baumann's troubles were? It's always nice to find at least *one* survivor account of one of the more elusive passengers.

Daniel -- I am not familiar with that particular account by Mrs. Futrelle, but perhaps the "young man" could be Edgar Meyer who, as Mike pointed out, was quite well acquainted with fellow New Yorkers, the Harrises? I think it's possible that the Meyers occupied one of the aft suites on C-deck, not far from the Harrises and that Edgar, by that time, had placed the Mrs in boat #6 and had returned below to look for his friends. Baumann is another possibility but I do not have an age for him and could not, therefore, say if he could possibly the description of a "young man" although I'm disinclined to think so.

Best Regards,
Ben
 
Dec 7, 2000
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All,

According to Hermann Soldner's excellent passenger list, Baumann was over 60 years old! No known age is given, but this is a rough estimate judging by the age of his daughter. So there is no way that he was the young man who came to the Harris cabin.

I also thought that Meyer might have been the person, as I knew the Harrises were friendly with him, but as far as I'm aware, that's the first mention I saw for a young male friend coming into the Harris cabin. This occurred not too long after the collision. Messrs Harris and Futrelle had gone out to investigate, and Rene and May sat in C83 waiting. I don't have the Futrelle account with me at the moment, but it was either before, or soon after the men came back that this young friend came in. So this could not have been after Meyer placed his wife in a boat.

Mike, a reply waiting for you already.
happy.gif


Regards,

Daniel.
 

Brian Meister

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Mar 1, 2001
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Daniel,

It is my belief that John Baumann was
in his 40's and thus more of a contemporary
of Henry Harris. Not only has Baumanns' sister
been traced, but Edna Baumann's employment
records, will, and estate settlement
scrutinized and there is no mention of any
children whatsoever. I have even visited
Mrs Baumanns family plot in California.
Somewhere along my research path, I en-
countered someone who told me that Mr Baumann
was on the Titanic because the Harrises had
found him in strained circumstances in Europe
and arranged passage for him to return with
them, thus his name appearing very late, and
with no cabin assignment. But this has never
been proved elsewhere.
I have always been surprised that in the
information supplied here on ET, there was
no record of age or origin of the material
given. Mr Baumann is one of two first-class
passengers whose ages have not been confirmed
.....yet.
 

Phillip Gowan

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Apr 10, 2001
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Daniel, I too am curious about where you found a reference to a Baumann daughter? I have hundreds of pages of personnel records for her covering many years and she never refers to any relatives whatsoever other than stating that she is a widow. Her estate went to a variety of friends.
 

George Behe

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Dec 11, 1999
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Hi, Brian!

>Somewhere along my research path, I en-
> countered someone who >told me that Mr Baumann
> was on the Titanic >because the Harrises had
> found him in strained >circumstances in Europe
> and arranged passage for >him to return with
> them, thus his name >appearing very late, and
> with no cabin assignment. >But this has never
> been proved elsewhere.

I'll send you and Phil G. a little tidbit that might be useful to you in that regard.

All my best,

George