Major Butt's Departure from New York

Mark Baber

I came across this article while researching something else, and thought it might be of interest. It's from The New York Times, 3 March 1912.

Sails Away in it for Rome, the Envy of the Ship

Major Archibald Butt, military aid (sic) to
the President of the United States, sailed
yesterday for Europe on the North Ger-
man Lloyd liner Berlin for a rest in a
suit of clothes that won the admiration
of every passenger on the deck of the
liner, including a deaf and dumb Greek
sponge merchant from Patras. His cam-
bric handkerchief was tucked up his left
sleeve like Kipling's pukka Indian sol-
dier man.

He wore a bright copper-colored Nor-
folk jacket fastened by big ball-shaped
buttons of red porcelain, a lavender tie,
tall baywing collar, trousers of the same
material as the coat, a derby hat with
broad, flat brim, and patent leather shoes
with white tops. The Major had a bunch
of lillies in his buttonhole, and appeared
to be delighted at the prospect of going
away. He said that he had lost twenty
pounds in weight following the President
in his strenuous tour through the West.

When asked if it were true that he was
engaged to Miss Dorothy Williams of
Washington, Major Butt replied sadly:
"I wish it were. This bachelorhood is
a miserable existence. I have distress
signals flying at the fore, and will refuse
no reasonable offer to enter the matri-
monial field. I'll do the best I can, and
if this leap year gets away before I get
a wife I shall feel very much discour-

The gallant Major did not wear an over-
coat, and he winced once or twice when
he was posing the windswept deck for
the photographers.

Major Butt is bound for Rome, ac-
companied by his friend Francis D. Mil-
let, the painter, who is to take charge
of the American Academy of Arts in
the Eternal City. Mr. Millet said that
the present buildings are to be recon-
structed at a cost of $1,500,000, and new
properties are to be taken over by the
Academy. The central building of the
Academy is the Villa Aurelia.



What a fascinating article. Major Butt was a right spiffy dresser. I really do think someone ought to commission a search through one of the image archives to find the pictures of Major Butt in his suit. These would be the last known photos of him, would it not? Poor guy. What a loss.


Charlene Vickers

Man, if I were wearing a copper-coloured jacket with red buttons and a lavender tie and somebody tried to take my picture, I'd wince too!
Hello Robert,

The caption reads that one of the gentleman in the distance behind Jack Odell is Major Butt. But there are three men standing close together. Which is Major Butt?




Ben Holme

Hi Brandon,

I've always assumed Butt is the man standing to the right in the dark overcoat. Could be wrong...which begs the question; who are the other two men?


I jumped to the (perhaps erroneous) conclusion that Major Butt was the middle of the 3 (incidentally, there appears to be a glimpse of the leg of a 4th, to their left). The middle figure appears smart and not entirely inconsistent with the description given above.


The man on the right might be a member of the crew - doesn't his headgear look a little like a naval hat? Also, the length of his coat is similar to that of a picture of Captain Smith I have in front of me at the moment. It's in Leo Marriott's book "Titanic" (p.72) (I'm not sure if it's on the web). That's not to say that it is Captain Smith, just to suggest that it might be an officer's coat.


Archival photographs of Archie Butt on the "Berlin" in his colorful attire, he the "Beau Brummell" of the White House, would be so interesting to see on this site. I hope someone can find such in the New York paper morgues and post them. Speaking of which, Major Butt refers often to the then version of the "papparazzi" in his published papers, asking his sister-in-law, Clara, for example, if she saw the photograph of himself taken with the President at such and such function in the New York papers. There are images of Archie in several publications, rarely identified but clearly he, including Theodore Rex, the new biography of Roosevelt's presidency, by Edmund Morris. Butt is as endlessly fascinating to me as he was to his contemporaries in Washington and New York. His writing is excellent--gossipy without cruelty, but so entertaining. He is also candid about himself, particularly his attachment to Mathilde Townsend--the apparent love of his life.
I am also still searching, as are others (George Behe) for the oil portrait of Butt painted by his friend and Washington housemate, Francis D. Millet. Does anyone have a lead for us? I am only a distant relation and can only hope that his immediate family in Augusta inherited this painting and are preserving it. The National Gallery of Art in Washington is the best resource for the dispensation of a work by Millet of a D.C. personality such as Butt, but it's been a deadend.