Encyclopedia Titanica

Adolphe Saalfeld

Adolphe Saalfeld
Adolphe Saalfeld

Mr Adolphe Saalfeld was born in Oranienbaum, Anholt, Germany around 1865. He was the son of Jewish parents Heinemann Salomon and Rosalie Saalfeld and had at least one sibling, his brother Eric (b. 1869), a chemist.

Himself 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.

He was married in Marylebone, London in early 1888 to Gertrude Harris 1 a native of Exeter, Devon, but the couple would remain childless. The 1891 census shows them living at 65 Sutherland Avenue, Paddington, London and Adolphe was described as a clerk. By the time of the 1901 census he is described as a chemical merchant and living with his wife at Saoille, Lower Park Road, Manchester alongside his brother Eric and nephew Fred Hans Saville (b. 1896 in Charlottenburg, Berlin). The 1911 census shows Adolphe and his 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 over saw 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) and aboard he occupied cabin C-106. He was to 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 his nephew Paul Joseph Danby (b. 1886), also a chemist, had toured the ship together; Danby wrote a letter (in German) back to his wife Rose (née Goldstein) in Manchester which stated:

“Uncle has a very large cabin, nearly a living room with sofa and an electric ventilator. I will tell you all in detail later. 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. I like my cabin very much ? it's like a bed-sitting room and rather large. 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 and family report that he never slept properly again, often calling upon his chauffeur to drive him around the empty midnight streets before he drifted off.

Adolphe Saalfeld died at Courtlands, Kew Road, Kew, Surrey on 5 June 1926 aged 61. He was still chairman of the firm which would continue in business until 1954. When his estate was settled on 16 July 1926 his assets were worth £46,902, 19s, 6d and were administered to his widow Gertrude, his nephew Frederick Hans Saville (a druggist) and an optician named Max Wiseman. 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.

His nephew Paul Danby was later imprisoned in England throughout World War One for being an ethnic German and after the conflict he and his family fled to the Netherlands. Following the Nazi invasion of that country Danby, his wife and 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 survived the Holocaust and after the war one daughter, Margaret, lived in Amsterdam where she died in 1990, whilst the second, Ellen, moved to Canada where she died in 2016 aged 95. Margaret kept the letter sent by her father from the Titanic and it passed to her sister after her death; it was later privately auctioned.

Years later a recovery expedition 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.


Gertrude's exact background is unclear. The 1891-1911 census records state that she was born around 1862-1863 in Exeter but no records appear to show any individual with this name being born around that time. When she died in 1929 her age was given as 76, indicating that she had been born around 1853 but again no records match this. What may be surmised is that whatever age Gertrude was is that her marriage to Adolphe was perhaps her second union.

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
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

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References and Sources

The Mail on Sunday (UK), 8 April 2001, Eau de Titanic

Newspaper Articles

Daily Mirror (18 May 1912) Some of the Titanic's Drowned and Saved


Grave of Adolphe and Gertrude Saalfeld

Documents and Certificates

1891, 1901, 1911 Census (England)
General Register Office: Index of Births, Marriages and Deaths
(1912) Contract Ticket List, White Star Line (Southampton, Queenstown), National Archives, London; BT27/776,780


Adolphe Saalfeld post-disaster
List or Manifest of Alien Passengers for the United States Immigration Officer At Port of Arrival (Date: 18th-19th June 1912, Ship: Carpathia), National Archives, New York; NWCTB-85-T715-Vol. 4183.
(2000) Carpathia - The Most Famous Rescue Ship in the World, RMS Titanic, inc.
David Pybus (2001) Adolphe Saalfeld & The History of Perfume, RMS Titanic, inc.
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  1. Kritina Johnston

    Kritina Johnston said:

    This is an article about the collector Denis Cochrane. In this article, it mentions some of the things he's come across in his travels. It also mentions that he was the historical adviser to the expedition last year that found the perfume vials that belonged to Adolphe Saalfeld. The article also states that Mr. Saalfeld died in the wreck, and Cochrane talks about how it is a great opportunity to give Saalfeld his... Read full post

  2. Michael H. Standart

    Michael H. Standart said:

    I wish I could help, but the passanger information on this site indicates only that the man was a 1st class passanger who was in cabin C-106 and that he escaped in boat#3. It's possible that some of the passanger researchers here may have more, but it's just as possible that the man simply faded away into obscurity. Cordially, Michael H. Standart

  3. Pat Cook

    Pat Cook said:

    Hi Kritina, I, too, couldn't find much. However, he did survive as the letter quoted here will testify: Hope this is of some help, Best regards, Cook

  4. Ben Holme

    Ben Holme said:

    Kitrina and Michael, Adolphe Saalfield is one of about 40 passengers who seem to have vanished after 1912. He appears to have been the only Manchester resident on board, and he survived the sinking on boat #3. Aged 47 at the time of the sinking, Saalfield was a German-born perfumiere. I have seen a photo of him, and he appears to have been quite a dapper bloke with a grey imperial beard and moustache. Other researchers may have made some progress on him. Regards, Ben

  5. Ben Holme

    Ben Holme said:

    Hi Cook, Our posts crossed. Thanks for the link Ben

  6. Michael Findlay

    Michael Findlay said:

    Kritina and Ben, Mr. Saalfeld died in England in 1926. Credit needs to be given to both Denis Cochrane, RMS Titanic and Bob Bracken for tracking and confirming this information. Cochrane and RMS Titanic initially found him following their search following the retrieval of Mr. Saalfeld's bag. Denis actually wrote an article on Saalfeld's life and this has been distributed throughout the U.K. and here in the States. Hope this helps. Good work guys.... Mike Findlay

  7. Brian Meister

    Brian Meister said:

    Dear List, Asolphe Saalfeld passed away at Kew Gardens in Surrey on 5 June 1926. His was still chair- man of the Sparks, White, and Co. Ltd, chemists and distillers at the time of his death. He and his wife Gertrude were childless. His estate was settled on July 16, 1926 and his assets were reported to be 46,902 pounds sterling, with almost 36,000 being assessed as personal property. Despite confusing statements made by a niece to me personally in the mid 1990's, unraveling his story has been a challenge, indeed. Hope this... Read full post

  8. Ben Holme

    Ben Holme said:

    Mike and Brian, Thank you both very much for the info re. Saalfeld. Now, how long have I been spelling the poor gentleman's name incorrectly! Ben

  9. Kritina Johnston

    Kritina Johnston said:

    Thank you all! I'm sorry if I get interested in something/someone "obscure", but it was just the mention in that article about Saalfeld not surviving the wreck...well, it irritated me!

  10. Brian Meister

    Brian Meister said:

    Dear Kritina, I understand how you feel about this issue. I have worked very hard over the last 26 years of my research to be as accurate as possible concerning these people's lives. The details ARE inportant. Sometimes someone will latch on to a piece of the Titanic story without doing the background to support the facts. Other times the Press has been known to take statements from someone being interviewed, and when the story is written, the words that come out on paper is not even close to what was said. I have ex- perienced the latter a couple of... Read full post

  11. Gabrielle Cormier

    Gabrielle Cormier said:

    Hello Everyone, I am currently trying to search Adolphe Saalfeld's living relatives. From my understanding they are living in Canada. Is there anyone that would be able to help me? If anyone could provide me with contact or names it would be greatly appreciated. Sincerely Gabrielle

  12. Paul Lee

    Paul Lee said:

    The best person to contact would be David Pybus: he is (or was, in 2003) synthesising modern copies of Saalfeld's perfume samples. He was also hoping to produce a history of Saalfeld and was co-operating with his living relatives. Sadly, I don't have Pybus' email address anymore (went in a computer crash many years ago). I believe Ken Marschall was in touch with Pybus too - perhaps if Ken reads this, he can help? I found Pybus' email after he gave a talk at the Science Museum in the summer of 2003, whilst a Titanic artefact exhibition was taking place. I contacted the Museum and asked... Read full post

  13. Paul Lee

    Paul Lee said:

    Having done a bit of digging, I think David works for these people:

  14. Andrew J. Kahl

    Andrew J. Kahl said:

    Can you show the picture Mr. Ben Holme. Please and thankyou!

  15. Mark Baber

    Mark Baber said:

    Hello, Mr. Kahl-- Please note that the message you're responding to is almost eight years old and Ben Holme has not visited this board since last December, as shown by clicking on his name. Therefore, it may be a while before you receive a response, if ever.

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Gavin Bell, UK
Denis Cochrane, UK
Peter Engberg-Klarström, Sweden
Brian Meister, USA