Mr Adolphe Saalfeld was born in Oranienbaum, Anholt, Germany around 1865.1 He was the son of Jewish parents Heinemann Salomon Saalfeld and his wife Rosalie. He is thought to have had three brothers: Max (born 1864) who went into banking at his father's firm of H.S. Saalfeld & Woche2, Eric (born 1869) and Richard (born 1870), he also had a sister named Marianne.
Trained as a chemist, Adolphe came to Britain around the mid-1880s and became a naturalised citizen in July 1896, his address at the time being given as Clarence Lodge, Victoria Park, Manchester.
On 22 February 1888 he was married at the West London Synagogue to Gertrude Harris (née Lazarus)3 a native of Exeter, Devon; Saalfeld was described as a merchant, and he and his bride both gave 65 Sutherland Avenue, Paddington, London as their address; the couple would remain childless. The 1891 census shows them still living at 65 Sutherland Avenue and Adolphe is described as a clerk. By the time of the 1901 census, his occupation was given as a chemical merchant and he was living with his wife at "Saville House" (now Ward Hall), Lower Park Road, Manchester alongside his brother Eric and a nephew Fred Hans Saville4. By the time of the 1911 census, Adolphe and his were wife living at Victoria Park in south Manchester.
A self-made businessman, Adolphe was chairman of the chemists and distillers Sparks-White & Co. Ltd and as senior chairman, he oversaw the marketing of his line of concentrated perfume fragrances and fine oils for distribution and sales.
Saalfeld boarded the Titanic at Southampton as a first-class passenger (ticket number 19988 which cost £30, 10), he occupied cabin C-106. He was travelling with samples of his perfume products with the intention of opening up a new outlet of floral fragrances in America. Before boarding he and a colleague Paul Joseph Danby (b. 1886), also a chemist3, toured the ship together; Danby wrote a letter (in German) back to his wife Rose (née Goldstein) in Manchester which stated:
My very much loved Goll, We are the first who write a letter from the ship, it is wonderfully appointed. Uncle has a very large cabin nearly a living room with sofa and an electric ventilator. I will tell you all in detail later. Kiss the little Goll, I embrace you and kiss you dearly. Your very loving Paul. Love from Uncle
Saalfeld also wrote to his own wife:
... I just had an hour's roaming about on this wonderful boat with Paul [Danby]. I like my cabin very much ? it's like a bed-sitting room and rather large. I am the first man to write a letter on [this] boat. They are still busy to finish the last things on board...
According to a later statement, Saalfeld claimed that he had been in the smoking room at the time of the collision and sighted the iceberg following which he went to his cabin. In his haste he left his perfume samples in his cabin - he recounted:
I saw a few men and women go into a boat and I followed and when lowered, pushed off and rowed some distance, fearing...Titanic sinking... As we drifted away gradually, saw Titanic sink lower and lower and finally her lights went out, and others in my boat said they saw her disappear. Our boat was nearly two miles away but pitiful cries could be plainly heard. No one in our boat knew how many lifeboats were on Titanic but...there was ample time for saving every soul on board had there been sufficient boats... The Captain and Officers of the Carpathia did all that was possible to make us comfortable and to those that were sick or injured, they gave their tenderest care. The icebergs were huge and the weather extremely rough on the voyage to New York.
Saalfeld returned to his wife in England. As a male survivor of the Titanic disaster, he found himself ostracised by society; family reported that he never slept properly again, often calling upon his chauffeur 'Patch' to drive him around the empty midnight streets before he drifted off.
Adolphe Saalfeld died at Courtlands, 246 Kew Road, Kew, Surrey on 5 June 1926 aged 61. He was still chairman of the firm that would continue in business until 1954. When his estate was settled on 16 July 1926 his assets were worth £46,902, 19s, 6d (around £2m today) and were administered to his widow Gertrude, his nephew Frederick Hans Saville4 (a druggist) and optician Max Wiseman (the father of Fred's wife Doris K. Weissmann). He was buried in Golders Green Jewish Cemetery in Barnet, London.
His widow Gertrude was never remarried and later moved to Kensington, London where she died on 27 April 1929 aged 76.
One of the recovery expeditions to the wreck of the Titanic recovered a small leather pouch containing Saalfeld's perfumes, still intact; even after many years at the bottom of the ocean, the scents retained their fragrance.
Hi Andrew, Since posting that message, I've seen two images of Saalfeld. One from the Daily Mirror (which presumably reflected his appearance at the time of the sinking), and one from around the 1920s. Damned if I can remember where I came across the latter image, but I'll try my best to locate them both for you! All the best, Ben
Hello all, I've been looking through ancestry.com and stumbled upon the exact birth date of Adolphe Saalfeld which is the 4th of April, 1865. Thomas Krom, Grace, and I have a theory regarding the lifeboat of Adolphe Saalfeld; The boat which makes most sense is lifeboat number 5 as he saw the first boat getting lowered and followed a few women and men into the next possible boat (He could've described the Beckwith/Behr/etc friend party who boarded lifeboat 5 after Ismay told them to). People in his boat (according to him) saw the Titanic disappear which would've...
From the limited information available, it is very difficult to conjecture which lifeboat Saalfeld got into. He comments that he saw boats (plural) lowered before he followed some men and women into a lifeboat. Since lifeboat #5 was the second boat to be launched, it goes against Saalfeld's statement since there was only one other lifeboat (#7) lowered before #5. But his later statement about being "two miles away" when the Titanic's lights disappeared indicate that he was on an...