William Sloper


Mike Herbold

This is mostly intended for Charles and Daniel:
(For some reason, I can't converse on-line right now, other than on E.T.)

In "The Life and Times of Andrew Jackson Sloper", on pages 411-412, there is reference to a passenger from San Francisco by the name of Smith who survived the Titanic disaster, and who was a room-mate of Sloper's on the Carpathia.

Naturally, with my interest in anything California-related, this reference caught my attention. But in spite of the work reference(assistant cashier in a SF bank), description (tall, handsome, blond young man), and specific information (death by suicide with a gun to the head about a year after the disaster) he doesn't seem to match up with any known passenger.

Any idea who Sloper is referring to?
Hi Mike,
Where did you find a copy of the Sloper biography? I live in Hartford,Connecticut and have had no luck in finding a copy. In fact, I lived in New Britain for three years and no one recalls the Sloper-Titanic connection. Can you elaborate on the Sloper story? I only recall reading that he was met by this father in New York and returned to New Britain. No mention of a traveling companion.

Hi, Dave and Mike,

I hope you don't mind my dropping in here but I was just rereading the Sloper account myself - a very good friend of mine, Fiona Beckwith, sent me the 'Titanic' chapter of his book, "The Life and Times of Andrew Jackson Sloper", published in 1949 (Sorry, I don't have the publisher's name).

Also, unless I missed it, one of the reasons, if not the MAIN reason, the young 'Smith' killed himself is he was one of those unfortunates that had been accused of posing as a woman to leave the ship. Sloper, as you know, at the hands of a vindictive reporter, was reported in his newspaper to have donned such a disguise to avail himself of salvation. In his book, Sloper's plaintiff account of the stigma that must've attached itself to almost ALL male survivors of that catastrophe is amplified to the utmost by 'Smith's' suicide. Apparently, it had attached itself to Carter (named Dalton in the Sloper version) who escaped with Ismay in collapsible C. (At one time, according to his grandson, this story ALSO was told on Cosmo Duff-Gordon, much to his grandson's amazement, since Cosmo was over 6 feet tall and would've made one suspicious lady).

Sadly, as far as identification, Sloper takes a bit of liberties with names and descriptions (in deference to surviving families) and, consequently, 'Smith', while probably his Carpathia room mate, may NOT have been tall, handsome or blond.

Anyway, I thought I would 'flesh' out the story here for those who do not have access to the Sloper account in case someone may have more to this story.

Best regards,
From what you said about Sloper taking liberties, is it possible then that he could have even been talking about Washington Dodge? Dodge was neither tall or blond, but he did get involved in banking and did kill himself in 1919.

(I also only have a photocopy of the chapter on the Titanic only, but would love to find a copy of the original book.)
Hi, Mike,

Actually, I thought about rereading Dodge's Commonwealth speech to see if he made any references. However, I don't believe Sloper's 'Smith' was Dodge himself.

First, I haven't found any references either to him or from him regarding being accused of escaping dressed as a woman ('in a nightgown' as Sloper writes). Second, we have Steward Ray's U S testimony that he literally bundled Dodge into lifeboat #13. Third, Washington Dodge, by his own account, after arriving upon the Carpathia was met by Wallace Bradford who gave over his cabin for Dodge and his family, so Dodge wouldn't have 'bunked' with Sloper. Fourth, Sloper mentions (if we are to believe this part) that 'Smith' shot himself a year after the Titanic sank and Dodge committed suicide in 1919.

Hope this helps but fear it doesn't.

Warmest regards,
The trouble is, we don't know which part of Sloper's writings is the fact and which is fiction. There was no other male San Francisco survivor; there was no other passenger that later committed suicide who anywhere near fits the bill; so Sloper could just as easily have changed the city and the occupation.

It seems like what we are left with is an excellent personal account of the tragedy with all the peripheral facts changed to disguise other people. So as a historical reference, Sloper might as well have written a historical novel.

Incidentally, the photocopy I have of "The Life and Times of Andrew Jackson Sloper 1849-1933" is actually a copy of the Titanic chapter that was reprinted in the annual Titanic issue of "Ship to Shore". It was given to me by an E.T. regular (name withheld to prevent a rash of requests for copies). But rather than look for the book, maybe the "Ship to Shore" edition would be easier to find. I don't know the year that it appeared, though -- it just says "we reprint it exactly as printed in 1949."
Hi, Mike,

All too true, regarding what is fact and what it fiction regarding Sloper's account. Exactly WHERE do we begin to try to connect and identify. "Smith" could very well be Dodge - same number of letters in the last name as Sloper substituted "Dalton" for "Carter". And, as you pointed out, Dodge was from Frisco and later took his own life. But WAS Dodge ever accused of dressing as a woman? He may well have been, if we are to take a clue from Sloper himself. After he was accused in print of this act, he wanted to sue for slander but was talked out of it because of the expense - consequently, no action was taken by him toward the newspaper and reporter. My point here is, there is no record of this event - his planning to sue (as far as I know) - other than Sloper's own account. So, too, may Dodge's being accused of disguising himself as a woman - one of those horrendous lies passed around behind closed doors but never in print; nothing published which will corroborate your theory. I will keep looking into it a bit but if I don't find anything, I'll let you know and then 'get out of Dodge'.

Warmest regards,
Don't lose too much sleep over it. I was initially excited because it looked like there was a California passenger that I had missed, forgetting that Sloper said himself that he disguised people's names on purpose.

In re-reading Washington Dodge's address to the Commonwealth Club, his extra care in explaining how he, a male, survived is evident. Even only one month after the disaster, he seems thin-skinned and defensive about it. Here's a telling line from his speech: "As there seems to be in the minds of a few of the people in this community, a question as to why any of the eighty men saved from the first-class passengers should have been, when later events disclosed the fact that there were women remaining on board...."

Probably every male that survived, with the possible exception of Gracie, Lightoller, Bride and a few other "wet survivors," was accused at one time or another of dressing like a woman.

Best Regards,

P.S. BTW, as Herb Caen used to say, "Don't call it Frisco." It's San Franciso. You can call Los Angeles LA, but the only way to talk about it's northern rival is to say San Francisco, or "The City."
Hello Mike, Dave & Cook,

Believe it or not I've puzzled over the identity of 'Smith' quite often, but like you could not find an appropriate match from surviving first class male survivors. The Dodge surmise is interesting, as I was interpreting Sloper's story a bit too literally: 'young' man, first class passenger, probably single, in banking, committed suicide.

I was encouraged in my hunt for Smith based on the ease with which I was able to identify 'Mr Dalton' (William Carter). Sadly misplaced confidence in the case of 'Smith'...

Thanks for the information on where else Sloper's Titanic chapter has been published. As for copies of the chapter, I have been known to send a copy to anyone who has asked.

It's a reasonably rare book as it was privately published. I don't know how big the print run was and if anyone out there does, I'm interested! A copy I found earlier this year cost a bomb as it was signed by Sloper. Unfortunately my wallet wasn't up to it, so all I can do is hope that the signed book went to a good and appreciative home. Sigh.

The Life and Times of Andrew Jackson Sloper 1849 - 1933
by WT Sloper
1949, privately published in the US


Fiona Nitschke (-Beckwith)
Oops! Forgot to add thanks for the 'heads up' on this one to George Behe. Thanks George! Jungian Synchronicity comes into play again?...
Keep in mind Sloper wrote this many, many years after the fact so individual facts were confused. ( the bright deck lights, etc... )But Dodge is the only one who comes close to the description. Remember he said Willie Dalton was in the collapsible with 12 people. Which was another error. SO in describing Smith and the reasons he shot himself over the years I believe became clouded. But I am sure he never wanted to hurt whatever family members Dodge had left so he vaguely disguised his description. But since I have the original article in my possesion that is whom I think it is and why.
This is directed at Mike H. and others involved in this discussion.

I too was puzzled by the "Smith" reference in Sloper's account. As for Dalton, Sloper does not seem to make any "intentional" misleading (other than the name) to disguise Carter. There are certainly mistakes, but surely 3 1/2 decades after the disaster, is the cause of this. He even implies the correct date (year) of death for Carter.

As for Smith, quite personally, after some thought, I have come to the conclusion, that Sloper was indeed implying Dodge himself. There wasn't much unique detail about Carter, thus severe misleading was not required. However, Dodge has a more unique story, thus I believe Sloper changed his true identity to the best of his ability - succeeding quite well. There is no other first class male, from San Francisco or not, that does fit that description. Appearance and date of death significantly changed, still hint at Dodge. Also incase any description would effect any of the Dodge family, Sloper may have felt the need to disguise the unique character of the situation, in a person that seemed totally opposite to Dodge himself.

1949 may have been 37 years since the disaster, but there were plenty of survivors left and if not them, then there were enough surviving relatives to be affected by anything offending or revealing about their relations on the Titanic.

Thus in short, I do believe that “Smith” was Dodge.