Mrs Brown and George Brereton


Mike Herbold

I just bought a 39 page pamphlet published in 1956 by The Golden Press of Denver, Colorado. Its entitled "The Unsinkable Mrs. Brown," by Caroline Bancroft.
This paragraph on page 28 brought me right out of my chair:

"On that fateful April night when J. Bruce Ismay, chairman of the Board of the White Star Line, wanted to make a record time for an Atlantic crossing, Mrs. Brown was walking on the promenade deck with George A. Brayton, a friend from Los Angeles. The hour was twenty minutes to midnight. Suddenly there was a bump and a lurch as the giant ship hit and scraped along the hidden ledge of an iceberg, submerged in the north Atlantic seas."

This is the first mention I've seen of Mrs. Brown being with good old George Brayton (real name George Brereton). After Carpathia landed, he gave a very exaggerated newspaper interview that Walter Lord quotes in ANTR where he says he was on deck at the time of the collision.

Most versions I've read about Mrs. Brown, however, have her in her room reading when the iceberg was hit. Kristen Iversen's recent book "Molly Brown, Unraveling the Myth," and Christine Whitacre's "Molly Brown, Denver's Unsinkable Lady" both have Mrs. Brown in her room. Neither book ever mentions George Brayton anywhere.

I'd appreciate hearing from any experts on Mrs. Brown about any possible connection to George Brayton. Drop a note here or contact me at [email protected]
Hi, Mike!

>This is the first mention I've seen of Mrs. Brown >being with good old
>George Brayton (real name George Brereton).

I'm pretty sure ol' George was just spinning his wheels re: Mrs. Brown. (Many of the Homer/Brereton/Romaine newspaper interviews were similarly 'peculiar' when it came to facts; for instance, Harry Homer told one reporter that he was saved by jumping piggyback onto a Titanic crewman and that the crewman leaped into a lifeboat with Harry clinging to him for dear life.)

I love these guys. :)

All my best,

By the way, Mike, the Brown/Brereton interview originally came from the Denver Post; my notes say it was from the April 18, 1912 issue, but it might have been the 19th instead.

All my best,

Hi, Mike!

An addendum:

I suspect that Mrs. Brown was at least acquainted with Brereton (since it was actually she, not Brereton, who was being interviewed by the Post and who mentioned Brereton's name), but I now recall a bit more about my introduction to that particular interview.

The Brown interview which mentioned Brereton began on page 1 of the Denver Post, and I made a microfilm printout of that portion of the article. When I went to page 6 to print out the remainder of the article, though, the interview became so incredibly outlandish that I lost all confidence in its accuracy and didn't bother to copy the rest of it. (I regret that lapse, now, but -- at the time -- it seemed like the waste of a perfectly good dime.) :)

If someone here would like to fill us in on the portion of the Brown interview which was published on page 6, Mike and I would sure love to see it. :)

All my best,

As always, thank you. George. But I wish I was with you at the time with an extra dime, old chap.

I know you placed Homer/ Brereton/ Romaine playing cards with Walter Miller Clark in "Fate Deals A Hand." It does my heart proud to think that good old George Brayton-Bradley-Braden-Brereton did not spend all his waking hours trying to bilk rich passengers and might have had time to walk with a lady on deck on a chilly, star-filled night.

(My sick mind even fantasizes the two of them below decks in the back of a Renault, thus inspiring a movie scene 85 years later.)

But George Brayton's April 19th inteview in the New York Sun is equally outrageous. George says he spotted the 300 ft high iceberg about 200 yards away when the lookout shouted. Then he saw Captain Smith shouting orders. Then he and the other promenaders (he doesn't mention Mrs. Brown) rushed to the bow and noted that Titanic would definitely hit the iceberg, and then ran all the way to the stern. Besides the error about Captain Smith's location, George and the group would have to have world class speed to cover the 300 to 400 yards they did dressed in street clothes before the ship travelled the 200 yards to scrape the berg.

It interests me, though, that Mrs. Brown mentions Brayton by name. As much as I like good old George, its seems more reliable that Mrs. Brown mentions him by name rather than vice versa. Carpathia docked late on the evening of April 18th, so the fact that both interviews appear on the 19th in different newspapers also interests me. That means they did not have time to read each others interviews. Do you know if the New York Sun and Denver Post were related? If they were not, it would lend a little more credence to each story.

Best Regards,
Ouch, I take offense to the car scene reference about Mrs. Brown, who may have been full of stories, but most certainly was NOT that kind of a woman.

Brown's nieces kept only the first page of the Denver Post article in their scrapbook clippings "Mrs. J.J. Brown of Denver is Heroine of the Titanic" New York, April 19, 1912 - To The Denver Post... Consider the article's subtitle, which ends "Gives thrilling version of the great disaster and the rescue". It is indeed full of sensational hype and untruths, and I'm not sure any of the quotes attributed to Brown were accurate. The family did not keep the continuation of it on p.6, so it must have been pretty bad.

Indeed I wondered how she could have been two places at once. I trust that Kristen Iversen sorted it out for her carefully researched book "Unraveling the Myth", where she settles on the reading in bed story. This is from the later version Brown wrote herself for the Newport (R.I.) Herald, which matches what she apparently sent to Col. Gracie. He died before returning it to her but wrote that he forwarded it to his publisher. The original is lost.

The second thing to note is the sources. Caroline Bancroft's methods and motives were not the best. Although there may be some truth in her mean booklet, it has plenty of untruths and relied far too heavily on the Hearst-satellite, sensational Denver Post, whose 10/28/1912 obit contains more than its share of outrageous myths about Brown. The Post had been making sport of the Browns for years, so I'd guess they intentionally linked her with a gambler.
Mike Herbold wrote:

> It does my heart proud to think
>that good old George Brayton-Bradley-Braden-Brereton did not spend all
>his waking hours trying to bilk rich passengers and might have had time
>to walk with a lady on deck on a chilly, star-filled night.

Hi, Mike!

It's quite possible you're being too charitable to our hero; don't forget Brereton's 'innocent' conversations with Henry Stengel on board the Carpathia and how those conversations led to Brereton's later attempt to bilk Stengel in a horseracing scheme (the same scheme that Henry Gondorf used in the film "The Sting.") Brereton's shipboard acquaintance with Mrs. Brown might not have been quite as innocent as it seemed. :)

>It interests me, though, that Mrs. Brown mentions Brayton by name. As
>much as I like good old George, its seems more reliable that Mrs. Brown
>mentions him by name rather than vice versa.

I have no doubt that Mrs. Brown was acquainted with Brereton on board the Titanic and that she mentioned his name to the newspaper reporter. However, the outlandishness of the Denver Post interview convinces me that Mrs. Brown's entire account (including her walking with Brereton at the time of the collision) was distorted beyond all recognition by either the reporter who recorded the interview or by an editor who messed around with the interview after it was filed at the office. For that matter, the account says that Mrs. Brown was sobbing and crying during the interview, too, so it's possible that she herself was too hysterical to give a calm and rational account of the sinking. (In a paragraph that preceded her mention of Brereton, Mrs. Brown supposedly claimed that "Every baby of a tender age has died. Think of it! Right here in this room (on the Carpathia) a score of little babies have died of insufficient medical treatment, and their mothers have cried hideously for three days.")

For what it's worth, I think Mrs. Brown's later detailed account (in which she said she was in bed during the collision) is far more reliable than the interview we've just been discussing. (That being the case, I also think that Brereton was seated comfortably in the smoking room playing bridge whist with Homer, Romaine and Clark at 11:40 p.m.) :)

> Do you know if the New York Sun and Denver Post were related?

I'm afraid I don't know, old chap.

Muffet Brown wrote:

>Brown's nieces kept only the first page of the Denver Post article in
>their scrapbook clippings
> The family did not keep the continuation of it on p.6, so it
>must have been pretty bad.

Hi, Muffet!

It sounds like I was in good company to judge the page 6 segment as not being worth a dime. :)

All my best,

Apologies to Muffet Brown for putting my foot in my mouth while trying to put my tongue in my cheek regarding the Renault.

As a totally unrelated aside, I find it interesting that your grandfather was working on a farm in Montague, California at the time of the Titanic disaster. I had an aunt that lived up there in what is still a fairly remote part of Northern California, so I can imagine it being very beautiful and unspoiled 88 years ago. My Titanic interest is anything having to do with California, so I'll have to file away your great grandmother's connection for future reference.

Thanks, George Behe, for your insight. Mrs. Brown didn't get back to Denver until the evening of April 29th, so the Denver Post interview had to take place in New York and be wired from there, which could add further room for error. I can't find my William Randolph Hearst books right now, but it looks like the New York Evening Journal and New York Morning Journal were the Hearst papers, so I imagine their reporters are the ones who fed the interview to the Denver Post.

It does sound like Mrs. Brown was suffering from some kind of post disaster tramautic syndrome at the time of this initial interview. Either that or the reporters put a lot of words in her mouth. I too doubt that either one was on deck when the iceberg was hit, but it's obvious she at least knew George Brayton-Bradley-Brereton.
Another thought on the Denver Post interview of Brown. In the A&E Biography video, my friend & fellow Molly enthusiast Stan Oliner, now retired from the Colo. Hist. Society, gave his version of her first encounter with the press on the Carpathia. He said she told them "not now" because she was too busy with needy survivors (presumeably those needing help connecting with friends/family and finding places to stay). Indeed, Brown's brother Dan could not get her to leave the Carpathia until much later.

I heard a reporter(can't remember paper)retaliated against one man who wouldn't talk to them, writing that he escape dressed-as-a-woman. It is possible the Post was similarly peeved & short on substance for 4/19 article.

An interesting thing is that through all her research, biographer Iversen could not find the original,legendary "I'm unsinkable" quote.

Mike- It's nice to hear that the Montague area up around the Oregon-Calif border where my grandfather was 4/1912 is still beautiful and relatively unspoiled. I'd like to visit it someday. The telegram he sent from there to Carpathia still exists, with her note penciled in (presumably to inquire back) about my baby father.
As for real inspiration for Renault scene, my source very close to Jim Cameron has a funny story. While working on movie, Cameron got a new Hummer. While taking his friends for a ride, one teased him about the roomy back seat. He said something like "That's it! Titanic needs a car scene."

Mike- Re. Calif. connections, you should know that Oak Hill Mem. Park in San Jose has inscription mentioning Titanic loss of 1st class Seattle businessman John Bert Brady, on his family's monument. His sister was Ella Brady Tucker; I don't have his parents' names at hand. It's written up/pictured in a book on the cemetery's history.
Thank you for all the sidebars, especially that Cameron hummer. Everybody is always fascinated my Mrs. Brown, but I have to admit that everything I read about her went in one eye and out the other until this string started the other day. I'll have to re-read the Iversen, Whitacre, and (even the cute little) Blos books again and re-watch the A&E and Molly Brown House videos with a little more attention.

Thanks for the John Brady tip. Have been so busy with Brereton and other Californians lately that I haven't had much time to spend on his mother and sister after the SF Earthquake. I don't get up to Northern California much anymore but sounds like a San Jose weekend would be worthwhile.
George and Muffet:
Eureka!! Thanks to a note in the book section, your page 6 of the April 19th Denver Post has been found. It's in that tall book "Extra Titanic," subtitled "The Story of the Disaster in the newspapers of the Day." The cover page and pages 1 thru 6 of the April 19th edition are all included in full.

You are right about how sensational the articles are. Especially good on page 6 is the staged picture of a rowboat full of 9 forelorn women being rowed by a man who is standing up (ala George Washington), with Titanic in the immediate background, billowing smoke from the first and fourth stacks, and still imbedded in a big iceberg. If that pictures not worth a dime, George, nothing is.

Mrs. Brown's "interview" is definitely sensational, but very complimentary. In fact she comes across as super-heroic. After describing her work in the Carpathia's hospital, she says "Don't ask me how I did it - I don't know myself."

Alas, my poor friend George Brayton (Brereton) was not so heroic. After Titanic hit the iceberg, George and Mrs. Brown "lay stunned on the deck." And while she was downstairs retrieving her jewelry, "Mr. Brayton had jumped overboard with a life preserver and then I was alone - helpless, unable to move or say a thing."
Hi, Mike!

Good detective work!

You know, you're right -- that article *was* worth a dime! :)

All my best,

Mike, thanks for filling in the scenery of p.6 of article and giving me name of book. In meantime I found reprinted text sans picture in the "Colorado Prospector" commemorative history publ. It also describes a Mr. W.H. Haven of NY also with them, "Brayton" remaining in water 4 hrs after jumping overboard apparently on impact with berg, 2 women dying at Brown's side in boat, a steerage woman in her boat who lost 4 children & husband & had frozen feet, and that no other women during the whole disaster rowed, among other improbabilities.

Only thing likely true was that Rostron told reporter that Brown could be found in ship's hospital and nothing would persuade her to leave it til everyone was looked after.

I must admit I was disappointed when I found out she couldnt have had a bunch of last messages whispered to her from dying victims aboard Carpathia to give to friends who came looking for them, since the survival rate after April 15 was apparently 100% according to historians. The idea was so heroic! But, as well-documented, she & committee spent alot of time raising money and interviewing destitute survivors to determine their needs & help them get assistance. And her (or at least the committee's) confrontations or negotiations with Ismay appear consistently enough in her accounts that I believe them.)

The paper which claimed to be the first Denver one to actually get an interview with her is the Rocky Mtn News, whose reporter got on her train in Akron, Colo, 3 hrs from Denver, when she came home 4/30/1912 and gave everyone interviews at Brown Palace Hotel.
Dear Muffet Brown,

Do you have an e-mail address. If you do, could you please contact me at [email protected] I think I can add a few things about the cabins and decorations, the thred has since been closed.

I also have a few questions as well.

Plz contact me if possible.