Miss Francatelli apron

Mike Poirier

Member
Dec 31, 2004
1,472
0
106
Hi Michael,
I was impressed with the condition as well.
I thought she was a secretary and would have no need for an apron, but Jim pointed out that women used aprons for stuff like sewing and the like. Who knew?
Best
Mike
 
Apr 11, 2001
4,565
4
168
An excellent point Mike about the apron. What I find disturbing about the exhibition of this piece is that it is on a dress form over what is clearly a black domestic parlormaid's dress with detachable collar and cuffs. "Franks" was not in any sort of domestic service, but in a companion and secretarial role. It is also a curious thing how, of all garments to be wearing when her lifeboat left at about 1 a.m., this apron would have been on her person. Most likely it was already in a carpetbag or valise, and not being actually worn or intentionally packed. Women, not usually having any large pockets like a man, wore aprons for many things, and secretaries often had oversleeves and bibbed aprons to keep carbon paper, ink and ink typewriter ribbon stains off white shirtwaist blouses. This particular apron is unusually fancy with broderie anglaise trim- which is not a cheap sort of embellishment. I am certain if Lady DG had wanted tea or anything of that nature, a stewardess would have waited upon her, not her secretary onboard. I question the link which reports that Miss Francatelli worked for "a wealthy landowner", and some further confusion about how long she stayed with Lady DG, her marriage to the New York restaurant worker, and if she left Lucy's employment in 1921 or the other date mentioned. Here are the links- you can read the differing details. In any event, this apron as it is now exhibited is very misleading as is the term "maid". I would also wish the museum would give a better provenance of the piece. Of course the statement that it is the only surviving garment from the ship is also totally incorrect.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/merseyside/4528865.stm
https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/discus/messages/5811/194.html?953621460
 
Dec 7, 2000
1,348
8
168
All,

With reagrds to "Franks" I know it has been often said that she was not a servant to Lady DG and was more of secretary and companion, and even dined with the DG's. However, Franks was booked on the ship as a "maid". Both Sir and Lady DG paid about 39 pounds for their passage. Franks was on Lucile's ticket, and was the additional 15 pounds of the cost, which was the cost for a servant booked into 1st class.

This probably explains why Franks was on E deck, rather than perhaps on A deck next to Lucile, if she was just a traveling companion. Servants booked into 1st class couldn't always be accommodated next to their employers or were placed in the same cabin, such as the Carter and Douglas maids. One of the "maids" (it may even have been Franks -- but I could be wrong), referred to having a cabin on E deck, where various other maids were berthed. This was true as Maioni, Kreuchen, Franks, Wilson were all on E deck. There may even be others, but we don't know their cabins.

I wonder if Franks would have been required to eat in the Maids and Valet's saloon, because she was booked as a maid, or whether she was allowed to eat in the a la carte Restaurant because individual meals were paid for.

Regards,

Daniel.
 
Apr 11, 2001
4,565
4
168
I guess the term "personal assistant" had not yet been invented Daniel! :)
Oh, I would have a hard time imagining Miss Francatelli dining with domestic maids and the odd manservant, and I am sure Lady DG would not have wanted that either. I would bet she took her meals with "Madame".
 

Jim Kalafus

Member
Dec 3, 2000
6,088
7
198
Was just reading a 1912 Lamport and Holt Line brochure, which illustrates why servants travelling on the Olympic class White Star ships were fortunate:

SERVANTS: are charged two thirds of the minimum first class fare and accomodations are assigned on sailing day. Maid servants, holding servants' tickets, dine in the nursery with the children of first class passengers. Men servants dine in the second class dining saloon.

Dining in the nursery every meal on one of the month long L&H New York to Buenos Aires voyages seems like a foretaste of hell. Also seems like a clever means of getting free childcare and supervision on the part of the shipping line. Those carrying servants' tickets were barred from entering the first class public rooms.
 

Bob Godfrey

Member
Nov 22, 2002
6,046
57
208
UK
Certainly those travelling at the servants' rate on Titanic were barred from the dining room and probably also from the restaurant, if the rule-makers had ever envisaged such an unlikely possibility. I imagine that would suit their preference as they would feel more at ease and less conspicuous in the essentially 2nd Class venue of the maids and valets saloon than in a swish restaurant full of ladies and gentlemen dressed in their best. If Lady Duff had really wanted to spare Miss F the indignity of dining 'downstairs', she would surely have paid out a few more pounds to provide her with an unrestricted 1st Class ticket.

Randy, where are you?
.
 
Apr 11, 2001
4,565
4
168
I agree Bob-you can bet the First Class was spared the homely vision of Alice Cleaver in her nursemaid kit (with maybe even the streamers on the cap!) gnoshing French cuisine at table. I suspect, knowing Lady DG's temperament, she had just what and who she wanted at table and everywhere else. Laura, no doubt was very nicely dressed, and entirely presentable anywhere on board, which was the starting point for this thread about the misleading exhibition of that apron displayed as it is on a house servant's uniform. Most likely Randy will weigh in soon. It is a minor but intriguing topic for reflection. One can also imagine delectable little meals served in the Upper Crust cabins I suspect that service was available for those who wished utmost privacy, or who were infirm.
 
Dec 7, 2000
1,348
8
168
All,

Last I heard from Randy, he was away. I'm not sure if he's back yet, but when he does get back, I'm sure he would chime in!

According to Lady DG's autobiography, Franks did dine with them in the Restaurant. This is what I was wondering about, whether a "maid" would be banned from this room, or allowed to eat there considering that the meals were paid for individually. Franks may have snuck in because I'm sure she would have been well dressed, or else no barring was enforced.

Lady and Sir DG booked their tickets from different offices (or at least they did not have corresponding tickets), so unless they were charged differently for their identical accommodation, I still think that Lucile saved on costs by booking Franks as a "maid" for some 15 pounds (minimum being 26, or the 39 pounds each of the DG's paid for their rooms). This is further supported by the fact that the Mr. and Mrs. Morgan are listed with a "maid", rather than Franks being mentioned under her own name, which I think she would have been if she was booked as a full fare passenger.

The maids and valet's saloon was a very nice room anyway. After all, a 1st class servant cost more than a 2nd class full fare passenger, and all three classes (so to speak) basically dined on the same food, served from the same galleys.

Regards,

Daniel.
 
Apr 11, 2001
4,565
4
168
Well of course, Daniel- smart thinking- "Discretions and Indiscretions" would have it! Snuck in? Oh no- Lucy would walk in with Franks on her arm and a brass band right up to the Captain's table I bet!
 

Bob Godfrey

Member
Nov 22, 2002
6,046
57
208
UK
Laura Francatelli did have a rather distinguished look about her so yes, she could probably have passed muster among the dining toffs at least for luncheon on occasion. I wonder if her motivation in wearing her pinnie was to save as much of her wardrobe as possible by piling on as many items as possible - short of her nightgown which famously went down with the ship. :)
 
Apr 11, 2001
4,565
4
168
That's the other issue Bob- where does it say she wore it off the ship? Can't imagine anyone running 'round in a pinnie at that hour. Of course who would believe a squirrel fur coat either? At least that was warm! Funny how things obtain such a Holy Grail status if they just were in somebody's purse. Lulu Drew just had that famous hatband in her purse, and forgot all about it. Louise Kink Pope had the shoes she had on and the steamer robe she was wrapped in-Frank Aks had Mrs. Astor's scarf, etc.- and they have all become objects of near-veneration. I think it is highly likely that apron was in a hand valise or carpet bag. Technically then she would have taken it off the ship with her. Somebody ought to tell this museum though that there are OODLES of things off the ship from steward's jacket to pocket watches, men's suits to eyeglasses and rings , many items still around from the lifeboats or recovered from bodies brought into Halifax.
 
Apr 11, 2001
4,565
4
168
Forgot to mention Lucile's own kimono which is carefully documented and recently exhibited in the UK and Edy Russell's famous "mule" slippers at Greenwich. Somebody did not do their homework over at Merseyside.
 

Bob Godfrey

Member
Nov 22, 2002
6,046
57
208
UK
And Marion Wright's 'lucky coat' is in a glass case somewhere in Oregon. We could send a list to Merseyside, though if it's strictly clothing worn on the night it maybe won't be a very long list. And if 'Mrs Astor' really was the source of all those items of spare clothing ascribed to her, the poor woman must have been au naturel by the time she reached the Carpathia!
 

Bob Godfrey

Member
Nov 22, 2002
6,046
57
208
UK
Daniel, your mention of the M&V saloon as a very nice room suggests the possibility of an available photo or a detailed description? I'd be interested in that. I've seen only the representation on the deck plan, which makes it look cramped and more like a crew mess hall than a passenger dining area. I believe on the Britannic the M&V saloon was planned to be in the location which on Titanic/Olympic was the hospital on D deck. Twice the size and with sea views! But perhaps rather noisy with the kitchens right alongside.
 
May 12, 2005
3,109
1
108
Hello everybody,

I suppose it was only a matter of time before I opened my big mouth on this subject. So here goes.

I don’t want to be too critical but I’m a little curious about the authenticity of this museum costume, as it isn’t what "Franks" herself recalled wearing when she escaped Titanic, according to a letter she wrote a friend shortly after the disaster. As you’ll see from excerpts below, it can’t be ruled out, however, since she was a little vague at one point about what she ultimately wore when she ran up to Lucy Duff Gordon’s cabin after the collision with the berg. One thing that does seem clear is that she didn’t "carry" the apron; she stated she saved nothing else but what she wore; "I haven’t a stitch left," she said, "or a penny in the world," moreover that "everything of mine" went down.

In Franks’ well-known, and yet elusive, letter of April 28, 1912, written on Ritz-Carlton stationary, to her friend Marion ("Mary Ann") Taylor, she wrote that "she was just getting into bed" when Titanic struck the ice and that she "slipped on my dressing gown" before going out in the corridor to investigate. After standing around in the hall for what she claimed was 20 minutes, watching officers coming by on their inspections and other crewmen fastening watertight doors, she said "I thought I shall fly on a few things and go and tell Madame."

Those are her own words —— "fly on a few things." What she chose to wear must have been something of a grab-bag assortment for in her autobiography Lucy DG confirmed that:

"….I remember that I teased Miss Francatelli about the weird assortment of clothes the poor girl had flung on before leaving the ship, for she was generally very fussy over her clothes…."

As Shelley Dziedzic has rightly pointed out above, aprons were not uncommon items of apparel for working women. Secretaries and stenographers often wore them, as did nurses, governesses, etc. I have a photo of the secretaries at Vogue magazine wearing them in 1914, although they were worn over fashionable gowns of silk and velvet, not a maid’s uniform. Also, as Shelley says, these were generally quite utilitarian, not lacy, such as a parlor maid might wear. The one that supposedly belonged to Franks (and by the way, that’s a nickname she used herself) is quite formal and therefore strange for her to wear in her capacity as secretary and companion. It isn’t , however, out of the realm of possibility that she wore such a frilly "Fifi the Maid" thing; it’s just very odd.

Another aspect puzzles me. Supposedly, the only blood relations of Laura Mabel Francatelli (later Mrs. Max Haering), are cousins and a nephew. Are these individuals the ones who donated the apron? These people were contacted a few years ago by another researcher and myself, and while he may have since come to a different conclusion than I did, I believe one of the "relatives" was an imposter. I won’t go into it, but there’s some question, as far as I’m concerned, about who Franks’ surviving relations are.

Finally, Franks was not a maid! There’s nothing wrong with being a maid ——— "some of my best friends" …. Etc. ——— so it’s not out of snobbery that I say this with emphasis. I’m just trying to correct a common misunderstanding. Franks was a "servant" only in the since that any employee would have been considered that in those days, but she was not Lucy’s personal maid. Lucy had a maid already —— her name was Rachel Mason —— but she luckily stayed behind in Paris when Lucy and Cosmo sailed on Titanic.

Franks, as Daniel Klistorner correctly informs us, was travelling at a reduced rate, sharing Lucy’s ticket. This was a decision likely made by Cosmo, who was a thrifty soul, and not by Lucy, who was no where near thrifty. Not having Franks booked in a cabin nearby was simply because she didn’t need her nearby; she could call for the steward or stewardess if she needed something. Plus, this was a rare opportunity for Lucy and Cosmo to spend some time together, Lucy having been very busy building up her company in those years. That’s why they were travelling under an alias —— and (ironically) to avoid the usual press hoopla in New York that occasioned Lucy’s visits to her branch there.

Franks was a tall and imposing person, and came from a well-regarded, talented Anglo-Italian family (her uncle had been Queen Victoria’s chef) and, as a business woman in her own right, she would have been considered above the status of a maid. Lucy’s autobiography makes clear that Franks accompanied her and Cosmo on walks on the promenade and to dinner with them in the a la carte restaurant on the evening of April 14. She would not have been dressed in any sort of a uniform but in fashionable clothes. Her letter to her friend, and Lucy’s letters later, prove that Franks was very well-dressed in her capacity as Lucy’s lady companion/personal assistant.

Lucy Duff Gordon, contrary to what is thought about her today, was no social snob and detested class prejudice, which she herself had suffered. I would like to have heard a steward tell her that her secretary couldn’t dine with her; she might have swung her swagger stick at him (which she actually once did to a reporter!)

Best wishes to you all,
Randy
 

Senan Molony

Member
Jan 30, 2004
1,688
1
106
Dublin
Here is a piece from the snobs' magazine, the Tatler, one of a file of GREAT Lucile material I recently acquired from a vintage fashion collector here in Ireland.
(I'll bring it up to Belfast next year for some others to check out. There are 71 items directly related to Lucile, her sister, her business and her family, mostly clippings and trade papers. Some fantastic material. I have already turned down an offer of 1500 Euro for this little lot.)
This is scanned this at low resolution:

96280.jpg


Just look at this caption. Isn't it simply SPLENDID? How snobbish can one get?
 
Apr 11, 2001
4,565
4
168
Very nice photo Senan, and one I had not seen before. Sounds like a great repository of information there-oh, I agree, Tatler and Town and Country did write in the style to cater to the sensibilities of that upper crust elite. The same is true today, only it's the Sloane Rangers and the horsey set. It's a wise magazine editor who knows his or her market and writes "their language".
 
May 12, 2005
3,109
1
108
I guess I don’t see anything snobbish about the caption. The Duff Gordons WERE unfairly treated in the press. And Cosmo WAS only a passenger. There was no special obligation he had, over and above any other male passenger in a lifeboat that night, to go back and save swimmers. It is reverse class prejudice that singles him out, when there were many other men, of lesser means, who didn’t lead a rescue effort either. If a titled gentleman was less than a hero for not going back, so were several regular blokes. And, bottom line, it WAS the job of the crew in charge of the lifeboats to go back, regardless of what any passenger, however well-heeled, thought.

By the way, I have the above photo of Lucile by Lallie Charles and many like it, having spent a lot of time at the Illustrated London News Picture Library, which retains the copyright to The Tatler, The Sphere, The Sketch and other society mags. The picture was featured in the May 29, 1912 issue of The Tatler, to be exact, although it was taken in 1907. There were actually about three poses from this session. To purchase a copy of the photo, or find others, go to:

http://www.ilnpictures.co.uk/

This library is currently cataloging all its photos for online searching. Not everything is searchable yet, but the librarians are very helpful, and they can find what you want.