Samuel Whitehead was born in Bury, Lancashire, England on 8 August 1885; hailing from a Methodist family, he was baptised at the Wesleyan Church on Union Street, Buryon 21 September 1885. He was the son of Samuel Forster Whitehead, a ropemaker from Manchester, and Elizabeth Nairn who was originally from Scotland.
The eldest surviving child belonging to his parents, Samuel and his family moved to Burnley, Lancashire when he was still young, appearing there on both the 1891 and 1901 census records.
The earliest available record of Samuel working at sea was in November 1906 when he was a waiter aboard Ivernia, then staying his address as 3 Priory Mount, Everton. Other ships he worked aboard included: Carmania, Saxonia and Franconia. In December 1911 he declared his intent of becoming a US citizen but, for reasons unknown, this did not occur.
In April 1912 Whitehead was serving as a waiter aboard the eastward-bound voyage of the Carpathia when that ship rescued the survivors of the Titanic.
Samuel Whitehead continued to work at sea but little else is known of his later life. He died in Liverpool in 1944.