The Straus incident


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Bill DeSena

Guest
It seems like an anecdote has come down to us that Isidor Struas and his wife retired to await their fate to their cabin. I loved the sentimentality of the tale.

I have always taken this as a true event, but after learning that Isidor's body was recovered by the Mackay-Bennett I have my doubts? It seems as though the only bodies still afloat when the coroner ship arrived were those wearing lifebelts. If that's true then by deduction Isidor Straus must have been wearing one and presumably Rosalie wasn't since her body wasn't recovered. It seems if they went to cabin C-55-57 after the sinking neither body would have floated up to the surface. Its a pretty long way from c deck to the assume a body floated out of a cabin up through the wreck and to the surface. Also, doesn't their cabin number place them in the bow section and not near the break?

Anyone have any other ideas?

Thanks
Bill
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Hi Bill, in checking the deck plans that I have, I found that cabins C55-57 are on the starboard side of the ship just aft of the Grand Staircase...which is to say, in the part of the ship which remained intact when the ship broke up. Had anybody been in those cabins when she went down, I think they would have stayed there.

Bottom line, you're probably right.
Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
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Bill DeSena

Guest
Thanks Michael for the word of support. I looked at the model site pretty closely today of the scale model based on the wreck video/photo records at WHOI and must admit I'm not so certain now. The damage to C Deck is pretty massive in both sections, more than I imagined, it may have been possible they went to the cabin and the bodies were ejected in the sinking. I was looking for a deck plan for C Deck showing the cabin numbers and breakup location to get a better idea and didn't find one yet. It sounds like you have this info, if as you say the cabin is more forward of the break in the bow then it does seem unlikey they retruned to it for the sinking. Also, if they were ejected by the sinking, then Isador's body may have been badly mangled in the process which means items like the lifebelt would have been ripped off him too and then no body floating to recover. Is there any autopsy records of the extent of trama in the bodies recovered? If so that might answer this question too. I think the Titanic has gotten hold of me I can't seem to stay away from the subject and now with this line of inquiry I seem to be getting in deeper (pardon the pun).

Regards
Bill
 
Dec 6, 2000
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According to information in the Halifax Morning Chronicle for May 2nd, 1912, only about 10 bodies were recovered damaged, the rest were 'calm and peaceful'. Which ones is not recorded that I know of.

However - I would think that if Isador was wearing a lifebelt, so would his wife. I can't even imagine him putting one on, without insisting his wife did so at the same time.

And, if the Struass' did go back to their cabin, there would be no reason to continue to wear the uncomfortable things! They'd take 'em off.

I'm fairly sure than many bodies wearing lifebelts were NOT recovered, for one reason or other. I'm also reasonably sure that Isador and Ida Strauss did not return to their cabin.
 

Pat Cook

Member
Apr 27, 2000
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This may be of some help. It's from Chapter 2 of Col. Archibald Gracie's "The Truth About the Titanic" At first, according to Gracie, the men tried to get Mrs. Straus into the boat but she would not go without her husband. Then the men all agreed that an old gentleman like Isador should be allowed into the boat. Gracie writes:

"'No', he said, 'I do not wish any distinction in my favor which is not granted to the others.' As near as I can recall them these were the words which they addressed to me. They expressed themselves as fully prepared to die, and calmly sat down in steamer chairs on the glass-enclosed Deck A, prepared to meet their fate."

Best regards,
Cook
 
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Florence Mason Carr

Guest
Just because Mrs. Straus' body wasn't recovered doesn't mean she wasn't wearing a lifebelt. There's no way to determine why some bodies were found & others not. That could never be known for sure. But it makes since that more people than the couple hundred found by the recovery ships were wearing lifebelts. Probably most everyone had them on. One credible assumption is that currents carried other bodies away into the iceflows. The story of the Strauses returning to their cabin to die as portrayed in the recent film is romantic but hardly supportable. And I must say reading the morbid conjectures of others as to what may have happened to the couple was very unpleasant. Also, I thought Mrs. Straus' name was Ida, not Rosalie.
 

Chris Dohany

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Jan 8, 2001
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:::Also, I thought Mrs. Straus' name was Ida, not Rosalie. :::

Mrs. Straus' given name was Rosalie Ida, she of course went by Ida.
I have wondered whether some bodies simply slipped out of their lifebelts and sank. I figure this could have happened to Mrs. Straus, among others. Bodies being swept away by the current is another grim probability.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Bill, Welcome to the club! The Titanic does indeed grab a hold of you if youet her in. The bug bit me a long time ago.

Re the location of the cabin the Strauss couple was in, it was on the starboard side, deck C, just aft of the Grand Staircase, and abeam the location of the second funnel. The break happened between the third and forth funnel. However, as you have noticed, there is considerable structural damage just aft of the second funnels location where the decks literally caved in on each other. I can't speak to how meny bodies were or could have been ejected from the forward section. With all the damage, it doesn't seem likely if anyone was too deep inside and too far forward of the break, but one never knows depending on what was torn away and when. The other possibilities have been covered by the others during the night.

The source of my info are the deck plans in Titanic~An illustrated History by Don Lynch and Ken Marshall. If you don't have it, it would be a good one to get for your library.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
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Bill DeSena

Guest
Hi all and thanks for the thoughtful insight into this question by all of you.

Colonel Gracie is probably as reliable a source as any to be found and if he says they retired to A Deck then that's probably where they went. Yes, I agree that in my experience in the navy not everyone properly secures their lifebelt and this might be the case here with Mrs. Straus. This could explain it slipping off her during the sinking and the body being lost, also as it was mentioned not all bodies floating were recovered.

After taking a closer look at the model pictures of the wreck I see that the Straus's cabin is certainly located on what is probably the least damaged portion of the bow thus I don't think if they did wait in their cabin the sinking would have torn them from it,...but who really knows?

The Mackay-Bennett was able to identify Isidor by the contents of his pockets and other effects, this indicates to me that his body was probably intact when found and not torn apart by violent ejection through the ships decks and debris on sinking. Sorry if I'm to morbid/graphic about this but I was a policeman and in college studied gross anatomy with a view to crime scene forensics so you can see why I find this evidence interesting in determining whether the anecdote of the last moments in their cabin is true or not.

Regards

Bill
 
Aug 5, 2005
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One must consider that the massive destruction to the area of the Titanic that housed the Straus' suite of staterooms probably incurred most of its damage AFTER it hit the bottom. There is no doubt that some damage could have occurred during the break, but for the most part I believe that any major structural damage would only have occurred after the Titanic plowed into the seafloor and the column of water trailing it flattened, bent, and ripped parts of the vessel asunder. If the Straus's were in their stateroom (which I highly doubt), then, if my hypothesis is true, they would have only been "ejected" once the ship hit the bottom. As we all know the pressure at the bottom is extreme, and from what I have read about pressure at that depth, it is impossible for anything to float. Even the "roving eye" cameras used to explore the inside of the ship needs to be lined with some sort of special "foam" as to ensure some degree of buoyancy. This information would mean, that if the Straus' were ejected from their stateroom at the moment the Titanic buckled, then they should be laying on the seafloor relatively close to the wreck. As we all know this was not the case because Isidor Straus' was eventually picked up. I find it ironic, and quite sad that this famous couple who tried so hard to stay together at the end were ultimately separated in death-- at least in the physical form anyway.
 
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William Conrad

Guest
Most Film makers and Titanic buffs have always tended to view these events from a more romanticised, melodramatic point of view. It's very tempting to visualise Capt.Smith or the Strauss couple, slipping below the waves in a noble fashion. But I doubt it happened quite like that.

Now, before you all lynch me for saying so, I believe that Isidor and Ida Strauss decided to stay together, but not necessary die! I expect they wore their life jackets and wandered around the decks like everyone else.

If they survived the sinking ship, then they probably died from exposure in the Atlantic. Before dawn the bodies had been widely dispersed by the ocean currents making finding them hard. The Mackay-Bennett finally located and recovered Isidor's body, but Ida's body probably drifted on undetected until her lungs filled with water and the cork life jacket lost it's buoyancy. At this stage, I expect she sank to the bottom of the sea and was disposed of by the ocean micro-organisms over time...
 
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Robert Himmelsbach

Guest
I have often wondered why so few women's bodies were recovered compared to men's; certainly in the time between the sinking and the recovery operation commencing, victims who were not wearing lifebelts would have sunk.
Has anyone considered the part that may have been played by women's garments of the period? As an historical costumer, I've always speculated that female victims sank faster because the stays, long skirts, petticoats and other impedimenta may have decreased boyancy.
Certainly an older woman, like Mrs. Strauss, who may have worn "older" styles (1890's vs. 19teens) would have had even more weight to her clothing especially if she was still in her evening dress wear and further weighed down with a heavy coat.
Thus, men wearing "lighter" clothing may have stayed afloat longer; the number of stokers, stewards and other ships personnel recovered may also bear this out, as those found often didn't have overcoats, topcoats, etc.

Rob Himmelsbach, Philadelphia
 
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HYORFREO

Guest
I DID ONCE READ(CORRECT ME IF IM WRONG)THAT MRS STRAUS SWAM AND MADE IT TO COLLAPSIBLE BOAT A
(ALONG WITH ROSA ABBOTT AND OTHERS )BUT DIED OF EXPOSURE LATER THAT NIGHT . HAS ANY ONE ELSE HEARD THIS??????????
 
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Eturner

Guest
Iv'e been wondering for some time why the Carphatia picked up just one body(is the identity known???)when she returned to the disaster site after rescuing the survivors, when hundreds were seen floating in the water hours after the Titanic sank I understand about the currents etc and no doubt some would of sank , but what about the others????
ED
 

Dan Cherry

Active Member
Mar 3, 2000
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For 'HY',
I believe the woman you are thinking of is Mrs.
Edvard Lindell. Her husband was in Collapsible A
and Mrs. Lindell attempted to hold on, but died of
exposure and drifted away. Mr. Lindell died soon
after and likely his body was put overboard to
lighten the craft, which was damaged when it was
dropped from the roof of the officer's quarters.

For Eturner,
The Carpathia was on a rescue mission for the
living. The ship was not capable of recovering the
several hundred bodies floating in the water. Its
priority was to tend to the survivors and get them
to solid ground as quickly as possible, not spend
more time out in the ocean picking up victims. The
stored goods (food, linens, etc.) were already
stretched thin with a doubled complement, and it
was necessary to turn and head to New York.
Rostron did pick up the only body they saw, with
the Californian and other approaching ships on
hand to survey the scene. Neither the Carpathia
nor the Californian saw the mass of bodies which
by daylight were dispersing in the currents. The
Mackay-Bennett was dispatched soon thereafter for
the express purpose of recovering the Titanic
victims.

Hope this helps!

Dan
 
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Karen Angstadt

Guest
I would think that the survivors would have been extremely more traumatized by the site of dead bodies being pulled onto the ship also. I know I would have been. Karen
 
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Bill DeSena

Guest
Mr Himmelsbach makes an interesting point regarding ladies clothing sinking through saturation faster than men. I think that might also account for the disproportion of female recoveries by the Mackay Bennett.

The idea that different currents dispersed the bodies so widely that some were located in a large grouping by the Mackay Bennett while others were presumably picked up by different currents and drifted farther away from the scene of the sinking I don't agree with. As we know the waters were extremely calm on the night of the sinking which added to the difficulty in seeing the iceberg due to no breaking waves around its base forming white caps in the surface. I,m by far no expert in ocean current dynamics and leave this study to those more qualified, it's just my opinion that when the Mackay Bennett arrived it found the majority of bodies still floating fairly close together and if diverging currents played a role in the dispersal I don't think this would have been the case. I do think that the Mackay Bennett didn't recover all the bodies that were in the vacinity due to a number of factors, time, distance, visual observation etc.. Mr's Straus may have been overlooked in the search due to either of the aforementioned reasons or as Mr. Himmelsbach mentions the saturation of her clothes may have caused the body to float deeper than others until finally sinking and not being as easy to see as the others by the recovery team. Having been both a costume designer at an early point in life myself I can support his conclusion on this point. I also was a police officer and pulled more than a few "floaters" out of the salt waters of my jurisdiction up to several weeks after drowning and deposit by their killers. Even in thier advanced state of composition and the effects of marine life, the bodies do float back to the surface as the gases from decomposition fill the addominal area and make them bouyant again, hence it is possible that a body with a saturated lifebelt and heavy clothes might sink and then still return to the surface as the effects of decomposition take place. Sorry for the grisly forensics!

Regards
Bill
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Bill, in regards to currents, ocean currents do not make any discernable disturbances on the surface, and while they move slowly,(about 3 to 5 mph) they are nevertheless backed up by the sheer mass of the entire ocean. Icebergs, for example, are carried south by oceanic currents until they finally reach the Gulf Stream where they melt very quickly in the warm waters. It is entirely possible for the masses of bodies to be moved several hundred miles in a few days if they are caught in the mainstream of any large oceanic currents. The wonder of it was that any were found at all.Even on the first search within less then a week of the sinking, it took the Mackay Bennett over a week to find and recover 306 bodies. As time wore on and the currents did their work, those recovered by other ships were far fewer in nunmber. The last body recovered was that of saloon steward James McGrady on 8 June of that year by the S.S. Algerine. It had left St. Johns on 15 May. McGrady's body was the only one they recovered.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
May 12, 2005
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MEANDERING (AND PERHAPS TO SOME TRIVIAL) OBSERVATIONS ON 1912 FASHIONS AND WHAT EFFECT (IF ANY) THESE MAY HAVE HAD ON TITANIC WOMENS' ESCAPE AND SURVIVAL

Re: Himmelsbach's comments as to the heaviness of women's clothing which may have prevented women on Titanic from swimming to safety:

This is largely true - but not because of full skirts & petticoats which were decidely not the fashion at the time. The 1910-14 era saw the streamlined ideal in women's clothes at its zenith - pencil slim, ankle-length skirts (necessitating only a slim, slip-like petticoat),high waistlines, etc. Corsets and underclothes were also paring down but would still be considered positively voluminous by standards today.

But narrow skirts would certainly have posed their own problem - hence the popular term "hobble skirt." These were so tight, women could hardly walk without mincing (or hopping as the humor magazine "Punch" jested) - much less swim for their life. The press in fact was full of stories in these years of women falling off trolley cars or splitting their hems while climbing steps & careening to the ground, or other such accidents due to the high fashion fad of tight skirts.

On Titanic, since most of the women left behind after the last boats had left were 2nd or steerage class, who would probably have not been into the maddest Paris trends, one might safely eliminate the hobble skirt as their dress of choice that night. Still, corsets (even the lightly - boned types which were becoming the norm) would have been very absorbant & would therefore have impeded movement in the water. And moderately straight or slightly flared skirts would also have slowed down or completely impaired progress unless, like Lady Margaret Mackworth in the Lusitania disaster, the women had the presence of mind to unhook their skirts.

Women's coats would have been full-length as well which would have added tremendously to their weight once waterborn. A fur or fur-lined coat would probably have become so waterlogged a woman would not have been able to move at all.

As a conservative example of what many women, irrespective of class, may have worn that night, let us examine Mrs. Straus' probable choice of wardrobe. She has been brought up by others as the centerpiece to this discussion so it is fitting to select her as our focus. More likely than not Mrs. Straus had on a woolen suit or dress with a skirt cut on practical, flared lines (no "hobble" would have been indulged in by an elderly lady).

Underneath, though it may seem indelicate to envison, she would have worn a flannel or linen straight-cut petticoat over knee length drawers, often called cami-knickers or petti-bockers. She would have been in a corset, heavily boned & rather tightly laced, due to her girth; younger or slimmer women would have had corsets w/ only light "stays," & moderate lacing.

Straus would have worn high top shoes, either buttoned or laced, over wool or lisle stockings. (Younger women may have opted for high-vamped pumps over silk stockings as these were lately fashionable.) Lastly she surely had on a thick coat or fur wrap, a hat and/or scarf or a head covering of some form. As one can imagine this garb would have presented the wearer with a hopeless predicament once in the water.

We don't know to what extent the chic & much lampooned "hobble skirt" was adopted by younger first class women on Titanic April 14 but we can assume it was worn by many. (The outcry over the "hobble" was not unlike that over the "mini" in the 60s). But we do know, for instance, that fashion columnist Edith Rosenbaum, later Russell, wore a "hobble" and that it caused her difficulty in getting into a lifeboat. She even reported losing one of her buckled slippers in the scramble, which she wasted valuable time trying in vain to recover.

Most of us have also seen the photo taken on the rescue ship of a hobble-skirted Mrs. George Harder sitting w/ her husband & another lady. Mrs. Harder's skirt is so tight it appears to have ridden up a bit on her legs, revealing her high button boots right up to her calves.

In light of the fact that the tight skirt was known to have caused a number of accidents on land, we might reasonably speculate that similar occurences on board Titanic were also due to the fad for the "hobble" - for instance Mrs. Harris' plummeting down stairs (& breaking her arm) earlier on the 14th, Mrs. Candee's tripping as she boarded a lifeboat, and Mrs. White's twisting her ankle sometime during the voyage.

And poor Edith Evans, who was somehow unable to get into the last lifeboat though she seems o have had time to do so; did a hobble skirt encumber her?

We may never know what true victims the Tyrant Fashion claimed the night the Titanic went down.
 
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Huffaker

Guest
Re clothes: My wife still talks about the difficulty of moving around in the corset she wore for the Titanic film. I recall reading an article how some of the woman on the Carpathia were physically ill from not having their corsets - it turns out there bodies were used to being supported by all that whalebone, strings and whatever else went into them and the ladies bodies were not used to this "new freedom". In any event I don't see how anyone could actually swim in one of those things. The "body extras" certainly did not.
 

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