Info on Benjamin Guggenheim


Matt Simons

If you want to know about Benjamin Guggenheim, here is a report I wrote on him.

Benjamin Guggenheim was born in Philadelphia on Oct. 26, 1865. He was the fifth of seven sons, and his father Meyer Guggenheim, was the founder of the famous house of M. Guggenheim & Sons, which came to America from Switzerland in 1848.
When Benjamin Guggenheim was 20 years old his father sent him to Leadvilie, Col., to take charge of the Guggenheim mining industry, which was, at that time, enormously successful. He was in Leadvilie for a short time, and while there he realized the possibilities of going into the smelting business. This interest was the beginning of the Guggenheim family fortune, and would account for the majority of it.
The first smelting plant was built in Pueblo, Colorado, and Benjamin Guggenheim took charge of it, running it with great success that the family withdrew entirely from commercial business and devoted their energy to the smelting industry. This success in Colorado led to the building of smelting plants in Aguascalientes, Mexico, and Monterey, California, and an immense refining plant in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.
In 1894 he married Floretta Seligman, daughter of a prominent New York City banker. They had three daughters, Benita, Peggy, and Hazel Guggenheim.
He managed his plants for several more years. With the enormous success of his smelting industry increasing, it was soon to be the largest Smelting and Refining Company in America. After knowing of his great success he went to Europe for a vacation.
Two years later, in 1903, he returned to America, and built a large mining plant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The factory manufactured mining machinery, and three years later it was merged with the International Steam Pump Company, in which Mr. Guggenheim had been a large stockholder for a number of years.
Guggenheim became Chairman of the Executive Committee, serving this position until January 1909, when he was elected President. The company had seven plants in America and one in England. There were around 10,000 men working in the industrial workshops, where the products were of infinite variety. From the smallest feed pump to the enormous pumping engines capable of supplying a city's mains with 20,000,000 gallons of water daily. These workshops were the main part of Guggenheims Company.
Guggenheim inherited a great deal of money from his father, though he did not inherit his father's business. He grew distant from his wife for business reasons, and was frequently away from their New York City home. He had an apartment in Paris, France and was returning home to New York City on the RMS Titanic.
Guggenheim considered himself a playboy, and he was. He had originally booked the Lusitania, but certain reasons caused him to change his ticket. He had ticket number 17539 for the first class stateroom B-84 on B-Deck. His ticket cost £56 18s 7d. His valet Mr. Giglio stayed with him in the stateroom, and his chauffeur, Mr. Rene Pernot, traveled in second class.
Mr. Guggenheim was 47 when he boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg, France on April 10, 1912, accompanied by his mistress, a French singer named Léontine Aubart of Paris (1887-1964).
The trip was rather smooth sailing from then on out. And after a stop at Queenstown, the Titanic put her full speed as she sailed out to sea off of the coast of the Old Head of Kinsale.
At around 11:30 on April 14, 1912, the Titanic collided with an iceberg and began to sink. Thomas Andrews rushed to the bridge to report what had happened. He stated that the first 5 watertight compartments were flooded, one of which was boiler room number 6. He explained that the ship could only stay afloat with the first 4 watertight compartments flooded, and that the water would flood over the bulkheads at E-Deck, from one to another flooding the compartments as it went. He mentioned that the mail hold was already underwater and that the ship would go down by the head. He told captain E. J. Smith that the ship would sink in 1 to 2 hours, and moments later Smith ordered everyone to the boat deck. Not to long after that, Smith ordered women and children into the lifeboats first.
Soon after Smith’s orders, Bedroom Steward Henry Samuel Etches helped Mr. Guggenheim into his lifebelt. He ignored Mr. Guggenheim’s protests that “This will hurt”, and finally managed to get the mining and smelting tycoon into a lifebelt and a thick sweater, and up to the boat deck
Word came to the passengers that there was only half the number of lifeboats needed for the 2,200 passengers on board, and faced with certain death, Mr. Guggenheim assured Ms. Aubart and her maid, Ms. Emma Sägesser, were safely in a lifeboat, and despite Etches best efforts, he and his valet returned to their stateroom and changed into their finest evening wear
After that, Guggenheim and his valet went up to the boat deck, at approximately two o’clock a.m. on April 15, 1912. That night he is said to have said, "We've dressed in our best, and are prepared to go down like gentlemen." And later that night he is said to have said to a steward, "Tell my wife I did my best in doing my duty." Guggenheim and his valet sat in chairs on the deck, sipping brandy and smoking cigars while the Titanic sank.
On April 15, Senator Simon Guggenheim said at night, that his brother, Benjamin Guggenheim, President of the International Steam Pump Company, was on board the Titanic. He explained that Mr. Guggenheim has offices in London and Paris, and went aboard the ship three days ago for business reasons. Judging from the reports that women and children were put into the lifeboats first, the Senator supposed that his brother died during the sinking, but was no at all sure. Benjamin Guggenheim, his valet, Mr. Giglio, and his chauffer, Mr. Pernot, all died aboard the R.M.S. Titanic.

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