The Smith Letters Mystic Connecticut


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Aug 29, 2000
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The Blunt-White Library is located in the historic seaport museum in the town of Mystic. In 1977 I heard of a repository of letters written by Capt. Smith to Frank Hancock,(his nephew) while on board as Captain of the Olympic, Adriatic, Baltic, Mrs. Smith's mourning letter (black lined) to Frank, and Christian Mallock's letter to Frank. Letters are such personal things-to only see an old photo of Captain Smith tells little of the man. His penmanship is lovely- Spencerian copperplate I believe. I felt an overwhelming sense of urgency as I read the letter to Frank telling of taking out Titanic next month-to run for a phone to call the Captain-to let him know what catastrophe would lie ahead. The window of the reading room looks out on the Mystic River, full of boats and an old sailed whaler-I lost track of the hour and decade and felt thrown back to February 14th, 1912-the date of the letter. I wrote out the transcription of the letters and I will reproduce them here for those not having a copy of Voyage 1,the periodical of Titanic International. I hope this is the right format to do this.I start with the most exciting letter dated 14th February, 1912
On Board the Olympic- My dear Frank, Yours of the 24th December and the one introducing Miss Brookfield came to hand and I owe you an apology for not answering promptly but I seemed to be kept in a perfect whirl and the days passed so quickly. When I thought of your letter it was somewhere where it was not convenient to write and then it would slip from my memory,so there you are, it was not want of appreciation I assure you. I am pleased to hear you are hopeful of success in your undertakings. Sinclair is in Florida at present but when I meet him again I will just mention you and sound him.You have no doubt heard we are appealing the case (regarding Olympic-Hawke collision) .I have not much hope as it is hard to upset a verdict in England;however it will let them see we are not going to take it lying down.
The Mallocks crossed with me last trip. We had a poor trip as far as weather was concerned but enjoyed one or two chats at the table. I did all I could for Miss Brookfield's comfort. I had her placed at my table but found she was in the Second Class,so could not have the pleasure of her company,however she was well looked after and I think was comfortable on the trip.
We had disagreeable weather and I had no opportunity of seeing her. we have not had pictures taken for years,you shall have one of the first. I leave this ship after another voyage and bring out Titanic on April 10 from Southampton. Give my regards to the Gordons and Churchills if you see any of them. With Kindest and best wishes, Your Affectionate Uncle Edw.J.Smith
I will continue with Mrs. Smith's in another message. He seems a very courtly and sensitive gentleman. Also of note is the marked class difference between first and second class in the case of Miss Brookfield's not being able to sit at table with the Captain. A reminder that the original letters are owned by the Blunt White Library and the originals can only be copied by the same and reprinted with permission. Titanic International was given permission to reprint the text and I obtained permission to reprint the content from my handwritten transcription/Shelley Dziedzic
 
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Grey paper, wide black border, upper left hand corner Telephone 1400, upper right hand corner Woodhead, Winn Road, Southampton
Dear Frank, I'm sorry to be so long in answering your letter and picture of your family which I am pleased to have. What a lovely outlook from your home. By the "Olympic" I have sent you a Menu of "The Dinner" ,Dec.28th, 1911. My dear one said only in March, 1912 he wanted you to have a copy, which of course I could not send not having your address. I am more than proud of that picture, I have a large one of "the dinner" -it's a great one to hand down to his Gillie and her children please God, and he seemed to think you also might be proud to possess a menu. His own was bound in white Morocco, edged with silver bands. I suppose you have a nice picture of him, the last one taken on "Olympic" in his white uniform;if not I could let you have a copy taken from it. It's a glorious picture, so spirited and fearless, no one with an expression like that would do other than he did. I am proud to bear his name. I wish you could know-read all the magnificent tributes paid to him. I never knew any one man create such esteem and love as he had the power of doing, and no son of England died a more noble death;he and Captain Gates may stand together and away up higher than the highest. The way has been and is hard. No sooner is one thing over, than another looms ahead. I have had to face all the too-horrible actions on the part of the Congress working on the "Titanic" claims. They intend to make out faulty navigation. By lies only can they succeed and has been proven by the experience of the "Olympic" case, lies DO succed, in the hands of the evil one.
Melville went away to boarding school last May 7th so I am alone. She is happy and has the same bright-happy disposition as her Father. I hope to spend June 14th and 15th with her, being mid-term. I want to go from this house soon as I can but what a wrench to leave the sacred room of his, where one last said goodbye. I cannot write you a decent letter as I would like. It is too trying even yet, so please excuse. I wish I had a picture of myself to send to you. My dear Ted was always asking me to have one done, as Melville now is. Did you know of the memorials they have put up in Hanley? -a brass tablet and two pictures in the old school.There is also to be something in New York, in the Seaman's Church Institute, and from what I hear there is something on foot in England. I believe the Duke of Sutherland is the chairman, and some very prominent men on the committee including Lord Pirrie, Bishop of (illegible) and Willisden. Did you ever hear of dear Ted saving the child? It is quite true and so like him.I should much like to hear from you again. Receive my Kindest message for yourself and family to whom I (illegible)-enjoy good health. Very Sincere Love, S. Eleanor Smith June 6

A tender tribute indeed from a loving and loyal wife- I never thought of the Captain as "Ted". It makes him seem more of a family man.
*The original of this letter is owned and printed with permission of the Blunt-White Library, Mystic Seaport, Mystic Connecticut
 
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R.M.S. Baltic 20th July, 1905
Dear Frank, I was sorry to learn from your letter that you were not likely to be North as I have been looking forward to seeing you and having a chat! However, as prosperity is the cause we must not complain. I was glad to hear from Myers that you were doing well and had the makings of a good position. You did not say how your Mother and family were but I suppose no news is good news. Miss Browne sat with me and we had a congenial party and I think she enjoyed the trip, we had not the pleasure of hearing her play as all her Music was in the hold. Thank you, my Wife and only one are quite well;have just had an extra week at home and getting a little better acquainted with my daughter. The management are keeping this ship going constantly to make all they can while she is popular. If you ever have a journey north, try and arrange it so as to be there while we are in port. Give my regards to General Gordon, Churchill and Myers when you see them. If you see George Walker you might mention me to him-he was very kind to me when I was in "Lizzie Fennell" though he may have forgotten me after so many years.With kind regards to all in your circle,believe me Your Affectionate Uncle Edw.J.Smith

*The original letter is owned by the Blunt White Library, Mystic Seaport, Mystic Connecticut. Content published with permission. Text copied as it appears in the original with punctuation and capitalization as shown.

A tender portrait of a doting father and husband, and a thoughtful host. No wonder he was so admired and sought after by White Star and passengers making a crossing. I especially am touched by "my Wife and only one"./shelley
 
Mar 20, 2000
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Shelley,

Thank you and the Blunt-White Library so much for sharing these incredibly moving letters. I am so happy to know they are preserved.

Letters are an open window into people as they truly are and these emotional ones drive that home well. Mrs. Smith's letter is laden with her grief but you see through it the pride in and love she had for "Ted," which is the first time I've heard this affectionate private name for our dignified Capt. Smith.

For all his bad luck in the end and the unwise decisions which sealed his fate, Capt. Smith reveals himself in the letter you transcribed as a grand old gentlemen and a loving family man. God rest him.

Randy
 
Sep 12, 2000
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Thanks so much Shelley for sharing those letters with us. Perhaps when I plan my trip to New England I can stop by the Blunt White Library in Mystic. Smith seems so sensitive in his letters.
Maureen.
 
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On board R.M.S. Adriatic 28th April 1910
My dear Frank,
It was a great pleasure to get your nice chatty letter. It is pleasant to get a cheery letter now and again, most of these I get from my folks are very blue. The last I had from Lill gave me very poor accounts of John but you have probably heard from her since then. I am glad to hear of your success and sincerely hope it may continue and that you may eventually get so placed as to enable you to have more leisure. I envy your family, they are no doubt a care, but certainly a great blessing. We have been very unfortunate, having only one girl, she is great company for her Mother in her lonely life. I see by the heading on your paper you have an office in New York; is there no chance your coming up on business sometime? It would be great luck if you could do so when I am in port, I should enjoy a good long crack. I see by our list that Mrs. Mallock is crossing with us on Wednesday so I shall get the latest news of you. It is gratifying to know one has made friends. Our position is a trying one at times, it takes all sorts of people to make a world and it seems to me people show the worst side of their natures on shipboard.
It was my intention to get to Savannah during our long stays in New York, but you know the saying "the best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley" so it was with me having two ships laid up the management took the opportunity of letting all the R.N.R. officers get in their drill so in three voyages I have had several changes in the staff, among them two chiefs, and while they were both able men they had never sailed with me before and I did not feel like being so far away;I am disappointed but it can not be helped.During the last three months I have only had Monday and Tuesday at home, not very satisfactory! We are now on our regular sailings and should arrive Thursdays. It was good of Mallock to offer to put his car at our disposal. It would have been a great treat to me to go over the old stamping grounds, though I have no doubt I would find things much changed. We expect our new ship"Olympic" out about July of next year.She will be faster and should arrive early on Wednesday so if they keep to the present sailing arrangements I shall get to see you, if I don't see you before in New York. Please give my kindest regards to your Wife. She probably remembers meeting me years ago, and with all good wishes to you, believe me. ever yours affectionately, Edw. J. Smith

*The original letter is owned by Blunt White Library, Mystic Seaport, Mystic CT text printed with permission/

Intriguing to see a side of the Captain who yearned for more children and appreciated the lonely life a sea captain's wife must lead./shelley
 
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Final letter
S.S. Lapland upper right hand corner 23/4/12

My dear Mr. Hancock
I do not doubt that you came under the same reaction of deep grief and depression which met me as I went North. No one speaking or thinking of anything but the ghastly tragedy-and nothing else in the papers. The horrible(underlined) papers-packed full of details which had no relation to truth and were manufactured by ignorant reporters for an ignorant public.
It made me sick and angry when I thought of the dear brave man. Never before has the criminal irresponsibility of the American Press been so evident. I wish you could hear our Captain here on the subject. A Norweigan- with no brief for the" White Star Line" . He is indignant(underlined) at the mischievious and cruel insinuations that appeared before one word of real information was received; and says absolutely distinctly, as do all other honest seamen, that our (underlined) Captain was sailing his ship as every(underlined) other man would have done on a clear still night, and was fifteen miles South of the ordinary April route. He also says this Senatorial investigation and criticism of Mr Bruce Ismay is "ridiculous and uncalled for and impertinent", another result of ignorance.-The suicidal "canard" one never believed for a second, and yet it was quoted by decent people until my blood boiled. I have had a long talk with Capt. Smith's own steward who was saved and is here.He swam off at the last and was picked up. A decent young man whom I have known well for years. His account is what we and I am sure most English people know all along-I hope I am not incoherent in my just wrath. But you will understand why I write this to you (underlined). It is more than possible that those rumours and misstatements have hurt you and I meant to tell you myself (though I don't doubt that it is now superfluous) that everyone with any knowledge whatever knows that Capt. Smith before and after the accident did everything a brave seaman would and did it as a matter of course.
We are having a quite sunny voyage-but a sad one. Write me a line to Winchelsea ,Yes? And give my news on this subject, such as it is, to Colonel Brookfield who will care-I know.
Believe me Always
Sincerely Your Friend
Christian Mallock

*The original of this letter is owned by Blunt White Library, Mystic Seaport, Mystic CT and text is printed with permission.

There are many points which may be researched in these letters, places, names of people, memorials, connections. What happened to Smith's nephew Frank Hancock, etc. Perhaps we can ferret out new information and keep this thread going awhile. I feel much is revealed about the Smiths here. I hope you may find it useful. Thank goodness email did not exist in 1912- look what could have been deleted! This morning my father passed away after a long battle with cancer-he was a man of the sea too and served in the US Navy for 29 years-and he too had one little girl and a wife who led a lonely life. This seemed like a good night to share these letters with you./Shelley
 
Mar 20, 2000
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My dear Shelley,

Please allow me to express my condolences. I view the great work you've accomplished here on the ET board as a tribute not only to Smith but to your Father. You have done them both proud. You must have been very reflective indeed as you transcribed these letters tonight.

If there is anything I can do please do not hesitate to contact me. My personal e-mail address is [email protected].

I will have you in my thoughts and prayers.

May God bless you and your family.

In Sympathy,

Randy
 

Inger Sheil

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Feb 9, 1999
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Shelley -

I'm very sorry to hear about your loss - those letters must speak to you profoundly at this time.

I'd like to write about the Smith letters at some point - they were fascinating - but right now I'd just like you to know my thoughts are with you and the others who loved your Father.

Inger
 

Pat Cook

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Apr 26, 2000
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Dear Shelly,

You have my deepest sympathies at this time of your loss. I know words can't begin to express the pain and grief at this time but know that many of us are thinking of you. God be with you and the rest of those who knew and loved your father.

Sincerely,
Pat Cook
 
Sep 20, 2000
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Dear Shelley,

Thank you so very much for sharing this legacy with us, and in your hour of grief. My heart goes out to you. May you have the comfort, at least, of many fond memories of him which seem aptly paralleled by the loving sentiments expressed of Captain Smith in these fine letters.

My condolences to you and yours.

Sincerely,
John M. Feeney
 
Aug 29, 2000
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Sweet indeed is the kindness of strangers. Thank you all for your warm condolences. In the long hours of a difficult night alone it was a comfort to know of so many faceless and gentle folk wishing another faceless stranger comfort. I know the greatest appeal of Titanic over the decades has not been in her steel and rivets and great beauty as a ship, nor in her short and tragic lifespan, but always in the human element The intricacies and vulnerabilities of the fragile mortal frame and the interaction in times of great emotion of strangers thrown together in peril tell the universal story we all understand. Heroism, cowardice, tenderness, strength of character, self-sacrifice and compassion-the greatest, I believe in the end -compassion. /Shelley
 
S

Scott Blair

Guest
Shelley,

I was touched by these letters , more so that you
were able to send them at this particular time.

I have lost both my parents-my mother to cancer-
and know how much the thoughts of others can help
at this time.

I agree with your thoughts on keeping this thread
going.I understand Frank Hancock had a fairly
large family.There could be descendants
who have the menu referred to in the letters.I
understand that this refers to a dinner held in
the Captain's honour in December 1911
at the Waldorf Astoria in New York .
J.P.Morgan was there.

I'll try to dig out further information as soon as I can.

With my thoughts at this time,

Scott Blair
 
Sep 12, 2000
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Dear Shelley,

I have found that daughters are often just a reflection of their fathers. And the woman here that I have come to know and love is so totally awesome that your father must have been one terrific man if I can only see but a tenth of him in you! The one thing that I understand in all of this is that I know that he must have been so proud of you, Shelley. My sympathies go out to you. Maureen.
 
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Thank you Michael- today's posts have been a blessing. Actually, typing those letters to send last night was a great therapy and I could appreciate them in a whole new light. To truly understand the pain of others, it is necessary to experience it oneself.
 
Mar 10, 1998
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Shelley, although I've not had the pleasure of meeting you, Brian Meister and others have spoken of you in the warmest terms. Please accept my deepest sympathy in your loss.

Phil Gowan
 
Aug 29, 2000
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Thanks for your concern, Phil -a stranger is only a friend I haven't met yet!Yes, Brian and I had great adventures in Halifax, crossing the Bay of Fundi on the Scotia Prince-pursuing the trail of survivors and their families, visiting cemeteries, planning conventions-meeting remarkable people. I sure hope it isn't over yet because I can still get around in third gear and there's a lot more to find out!/shelley
 
Dec 12, 1999
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Shell,

My deepest sympathies to you. TIS had a trustee meeting this weekend, and I made the announcement to all of our old friends. Everyone shares in my expressions of sympathy.

I'm planning to come for a visit to New England this month. We can get together for an overdue long chat. I miss those!

Hugs,

Mike
 
Aug 29, 2000
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YES please come for a long stay- we can visit old haunts and see young Mr. Poirier -our protegee! Thanks for the kind word of sympathy- a gentle word was just what I needed today. The basket just arrived from the florist- just beautiful. Thanks you guys!/shell
 
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