Encyclopedia Titanica

Adolphe Saalfeld

Chemist and Perfumer

Adolphe Saalfeld
Adolphe Saalfeld

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.

Paul Danby
Paul Danby

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 with his wife and dog
Adolphe Saalfeld with his wife and their dog in his London Garden
(Astra Burka Archives)

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.

Saalfeld's Grave at Golders Green Jewish Cemetery
(Courtesy of Ben Holme)

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.


  1. A date of 4 Apr 1865 has been suggested, but a source for this information is lacking.
  2. It appears that the Bank went bankrupt in 1931 and one of the directors Margarete Saalfeld was arrested for fraud. Another of the directors was Hedwig Saalfeld (née Meyer), Max's widow.
  3. Saalfeld's wife was born in Exeter in 1853 as Gertrude Lazarus. She was previously married to Hillel Lippmann Harris in 1872 although in the marriage certificate she is listed as a spinster.  In the marriage certificate, and in the 1891 census Adolphe is name as "Adolf Saalfeld".  The certificate also indicates that Saalfeld's father had died prior to the date of their marriage.
  4. Paul Danby, Saalfeld's companion for a tour of the Titanic at Southampton, was born Paul Josef Dambitsch in 1896 in Charlottenburg, Berlin. He had been apprenticed to Saalfeld in 1907 and was listed in the 1911 census as a Wholesale Chemist's clerk.   Fred Hans Saville (1896-1964, named in the 1901 census as Saalfeld's nephew) and his sister Rose were the children of Adolphe's sister Marianne Saalfeld (1860-1898) and her husband Adolf Goldstein (1856-1902); Fred and Rose lost both parents at an early age and were then adopted by Adolphe Saalfeld and appear to have taken the name of Saalfeld's Victoria Park Mansion "Saville" as their surname.  Rose was married in 1910 to Saalfeld's employee Paul Danby [Dambitsch]. Danby was imprisoned on the Isle of Man throughout World War One for being an ethnic German and after the conflict he and his family fled to the Netherlands where he ran a successful wine and chemical company.  Following the Nazi invasion of that country Danby, his wife and his elderly mother Clara were rounded up by the Nazis and imprisoned in the Sobibór death camp in Poland where they met their deaths in 1943. His two daughters Margaret (1911-1990) who hid underground and Ellen (1922-2016) who had been interned at two different camps survived the Holocaust. After the war the elder daughter, Margaret, lived in Amsterdam, she had kept the letter sent by her father from the Titanic and it passed to her sister after her death; it was later privately auctioned.  Ellen Danby later married Czech artist Jan Burka (1924-2009) and they had two children, Astra and Petra. Ellen, a former Dutch skating champion, settled in Canada and became a successful international figure skating coach.

References and Sources

Manchester Courier, 17 April 1912
Civil & Military Gazette (Lahore), 30 July 1931, German Bank Scandal
The Mail on Sunday (UK), 8 April 2001, Eau de Titanic
USC Shoah Foundation Testimony of Ellen Burka
Marriage Certificate of Adolf Saalfeld [sic] and Gertrude Harris

Newspaper Articles

Titanic Survivor in his London Garden
Daily Mirror (18 May 1912) Some of the Titanic's Drowned and Saved
Search archive online
Adolphe Saalfeld at the Wheel of his car in 1907 Adolphe Saalfeld Marriage Certificate Account by Adolphe Saalfeld Adolphe Saalfeld 1921 Census Rose and Paul Danby

Comment and discuss

  1. Ben Holme

    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

  2. Tobias Leimer

    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... Read full post

  3. Arun Vajpey

    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... Read full post

Showing 3 posts of 18 total. View all.

Reply Watch Thread

Titanic Passenger Summary

Name: Mr Adolphe Saalfeld
Born: circa.1865 in Anholt, Germany
Age: 47 years (Male)
Nationality: German
Religion: Jewish
Marital Status: Married to Gertrude Harris (née Lazarus)
Last Residence: in Manchester, England
Occupation: Businessman
Embarked: Southampton on Wednesday 10th April 1912
Ticket No. 19988, £30 10s
Cabin No. C106
Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912
Buried: Golders Green Jewish Cemetery, London, England

Page Options

Watch this page

Improve this Biography

If you have any corrections or something to add please  get in touch