TEL Morro Castle


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Michael Friedman

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Hi, Hildo

It seems I need to make a visit to the library, in order to find the book with the passenger list. It would be good to consult other sources; although I enjoy Thomas & Witts' writing, I am aware of at least one glaring error in their Morro Castle book.

I will get back to you with my findings, if any.

Regards,

Mike
 
M

Michael Friedman

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Hi, Hildo

It seems I need to make a visit to the library, in order to find the book with the passenger list. It would be good to consult other sources; although I enjoy Thomas & Witts' writing, I am aware of at least one glaring error in their Morro Castle book.

I will get back to you with my findings, if any.

Regards,

Mike
 
Hi Hildo and Mike: The book with the passenger list for the Morro Castle is Fire At Sea: The Story of The Morro Castle by Thomas Gallagher. The book itself is readable, but like many late 1950's non-fiction books reads more like a novel than a piece of serious research ( "He ran aft through the clearing but it was no use. The smoke was like another kind of darkness; it allowed no light, no air, no life at all. He began to smother and to regret having come back, when suddenly, confronted by the flames again, he realized he had gone past the radio room." being typical) and seems largely to have been researched through the newspapers. Another book you might want to look into is Hal Burton's The Morro Castle which is, in my opinion the best of the four I've read. If you can find a copy, the German Morro Castle: Die Sterbestunde eines Schiffes (Rudolf Van Wehrt- 1935) is probably the most lurid of the lot.
 
HILDO: You asked about the Morro Castle Stewardesses. They were: Lena Beck; Harriet Brown; Aagot Halvorsen (drowned); Sarah Kirby; Lena Scwartz, and Ragne Zabola (drowned). Miss Zabola allegedly jumped with steward Sidney Ryan while the ship was still under way and was pulled into the propellors. Sarah Kirby was evidently a senior citizen and is quoted in Hal Burton's book as praising the crew. Lena Schwartz's testimony figures heavily in Shipwreck (Gordon and Witt). The stories of the others remain to be told. One other female staff member was Ella Jacoby, the manicurist. According to one story (and I forget whether it was in Shipwreck or Fire At Sea) she supposedly died performing some bizarre attempt at rescue. However, her name is consistently on the published "saved" lists and a photograph of her aboard one of the rescue ships was run in the Baltimore papers the day after the fire, so it can safely be assumed that she did NOT in fact burn to death while trying to free a caged bird in the lounge, or whatever the half-remembered legend was.

LIFEBOATS: Numbers 10; 3;5;9;11 and perhaps 1 were lowered. Burton claims that six boats were used, but gives numbers for only 5 of them. I am taking a guess about #1 being the unnamed boat. There were 85 people and 408 total spaces in these boats.
 
Hello James,

Thank you for your information.

About the stewardesses of the Morro Castle, only two died.

And thanks for the name of the book, I am going to try to get it.

Regards,

Hildo
 
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Michael Friedman

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James & Hildo,

I was perusing my copy of "Shipwreck" over the weekend, & it contains the alleged account of Ella Jacoby successfully freeing the parrot, only to die in the flames.

Regards,

Mike
 
HILDO: Try to find a copy of Hal Burton's Morro Castle: Tragedy At Sea. Though not without errors, it is by far the best of the lot. Last time I checked, Bibliofind.com had a fairly impressive collection.

CHILDREN ON BOARD: Harder to trace than the Stewardess question, for on the list the boys were referred to as "Master" while the girls were listed as "Miss" regardless of age making it hard to separate the minors from the unmarried women aboard. However, a partial list: Mervin G. Bregstein (drowned- father survived);John and Ruben Holden (father survived, mother drowned);Raymond Lione (drowned, along with his father. Mother and younger brother survived); Robert Lione; Dickie Rueda (drowned. Mother and younger brother saved); Benito Rueda; Braulio Saenz (fatally burned along with his mother. Two sisters drowned); Caina Saenz (drowned after being seriously burned); Marta Saenz; Arthur Sheridan (drowned. Mother saved).

SARAH KIRBY: Is listed twice on the Morero Castle roster. Once as a stewardess and once as a passenger from Brooklyn NY. There are several such errors on the list. So now I am not sure if she was an elderly stewardess; a passenger accidentally listed amongst the crew as a stewardess, or if there were two people abpoard with the decidedly uncommon name of Sara Kirby.

Michael: So, it was Shipwreck! Didn't Shipwreck also have lurid descriptions of passengers being felled by large shards of glass and emerging from burning corridors as fireballs? ( I had the imnpression that Shipwreck was written with one eye on the screenplay market) Which raises a question- how many passengers DID die aboard the ship? Most sources list four (Margaret and Braulio Saenz; Monroe Berliner, and Catherine Cochrane) although the final published list of the dead also includes Mrs Frances Murphy of Germantown PA as one of those fatally burned; a surprisingly low total considering how fast the fire spread and some of the other factors involved such as the late hour and the alleged drunkenness of many of the passengers.

Also, was the error of which you spoke (still in Shipwreck) the one in which they refer throughout the text to Charles and Selma Widder who were, in fact, Charles and Selma Filster?

PASSENGERS AND BIRDS: In addition to the non-death of Ella Jacoby, as I recall there was also a crew member who claimed to have released a bird early on in the fire (described at length in one of the books) AND an account of George Rogers rescuing yet another caged bird from the crew's quarters. It seems as if an AWFUL lot of time and risk was taken to rescue the avian segment of the ship's complement.
 
Hello James,

Thanks for the information about the children aboard Morro Castle. And thanks for the name of the book, I will try to get it.

Regards,

Hildo
 
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Michael Friedman

Guest
James,

Right on all counts. Shipwreck contains accounts of people being cut down by flying glass, moving human fireballs, etc. Maybe it actually happened, maybe it didn't. Maybe the authors got their information from histrionic news accounts; I don't know. But you're right, it does begin to sound more like a screenplay for a made-for-TV movie than a serious piece of research ("exit fireball, stage left").

Re: Passengers & birds. You make a good point. Recently I read an account about Elizabeth Nye saving a canary when she escaped from the Titanic (I think it was in Judith Geller's book, but I'm not sure). It wouldn't have struck me as so odd if I hadn't read a copy of a book assembled at Ohio State University - one of various newspaper accounts of the sinking of the Central America in 1853 (by the way, a very interesting piece of research). It tells about a woman who rescued a canary in the folds of her dress, & carried it safely to the rescue vessel. The account about Mrs. Nye saving a canary from the Titanic seemed a veritable echo of the Central America story.

"Urban Legends take to the High Seas!"
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Tomorrow I will post what I consider the glaring error from Shipwreck - I want to check my sources again to make sure I have it right.

By the way, Thomas & Witts had at least one of their books, "Voyage of the Damned" made into a film. Perhaps also "The Day the World Ended". So you may not be too far off at all about having an eye on the screenplay market. By the way, I do enjoy their books very much, but I can't help but wonder about the overall accuracy sometimes.

More tomorrow.

Mike
 
M

Michael Friedman

Guest
Hi, James

Actually, the factual error in Shipwreck is a personal detail they offer about the early life of George W. Rogers, a detail which is almost surely untrue.

It really adds nothing to our understanding of what happened on the Morro Castle, but it really did make me question the thoroughness of the authors' research, I'm sorry to say.

I'd be happy to e-mail you the details.

Regards,

Mike
 
Michael: Thanks- I can most easily be reached at jakwesternswing@yahoo.com. I look forward to hearing from you. There was MUCH in that book which made me question the research, but I didn't want to say it until YOU did, figuring that you might be a big fan of it.
 
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