Albina Bassani 1 was born in Arsiè, Belluno, Italy2 sometime between 1876 and 1880 but most likely 1880 on either 12 or 24 May.3
She was the daughter of Antonio Bassani (1851-1920), a pianoforte maker, and Pierina Fusianto4 (1852-1916) and had several known siblings: Pietro (1874-c.1930s), Enrica (1877-1964), Angela (b.1882?), Battista (1882-1973), Effra (1889-1973), Bianca (1891-1975) and Erminegildo (1894-1978).5
As a young woman Albina was married in Rome to Mr Gaspare Bertoccini6－of whom next to nothing is known－and the couple had two children. Around 1906 Albina became a young widow, after which she reverted to using her maiden name.
Working hard to provide for her children, in mid-1911 Albina became employed by the wealthy Philadelphian widow Emma Ward Bucknell, who was on a visit to Rome to her daughter, the Countess Pecorini. She returned to the USA with Mrs Bucknell, leaving her children behind, perhaps with their paternal family. Albina—accompanying Mrs Bucknell—arrived in New York on 28 June 1911 aboard the Kronprinz Wilhelm, describing herself as a 35-year-old widow. She stood at 5’ 3” and had dark hair and eyes and a fair complexion.
Albina’s own family had been living in Fall River, Massachusetts since 1901, when her mother first migrated there, to be followed over the years by her father and siblings, making their home at 241 London Street.
In late 1911 Mrs Bassani again travelled with Mrs Bucknell to Rome to visit Countess Pecorini. Their return to the USA was aboard Titanic which they boarded at Cherbourg on 10 April 1912 as first-class passengers (ticket number 11813 which cost £76, 5s, 10d). Whilst aboard she occupied cabin D16, adjacent to Mrs Bucknell's cabin.
On the night of 14 April, Albina had prepared Mrs Bucknell for bed, seeing that she was comfortable before retiring to her own cabin around 10.30 pm. She quickly fell asleep but was suddenly awakened by a jarring sensation, followed by “a scraping sound which came from the bottom of the boat and continued for several minutes.”
Intuitively Mrs Bassani got herself out of bed and threw on a dressing gown and went to Mrs Bucknell’s cabin who, she found, had also been stirred awake and was conversing with an officer as to the trouble; the officer told both women that the ship had struck an iceberg but that there was no danger. Mrs Bassani became fearful but was assured by her employer that all was well and she returned to her cabin and prepared more thoroughly before reuniting with Mrs Bucknell and venturing to the boat deck. Mrs Bassani reported that the deck was almost deserted, save for an officer who hurried toward them and told them to go back to their cabins and put on lifebelts; the women complied but found that they needed the help of a steward to get their lifebelts down from their rack, such was their nervousness.
Trussed in their lifebelts, Albina and Mrs Bucknell climbed the stairwell to A-deck where again an officer approached them and told them that a lifeboat was ready for them on the boat deck and they should hurry. This time it was Mrs Bucknell who was overcome with fear, moving slower than Albina cared for and becoming nauseous, choking with fear and asking for water. Once Albina had procured a glass of water for her mistress, the pair managed to get to the boat deck.
Arriving again at the boat deck, Mrs Bassani was astounded at the faces of those waiting around for the lifeboats, noting how many seemed more terrified of getting in a small boat as opposed to staying on a mortally wounded ship. After a handful of women had entered a lifeboat (8?), which Albina described as the first lifeboat lowered, Mrs Bucknell was helped in and Albina followed. The lifeboat was lowered away without incident and Mrs Bassani stated that there was more than enough room for more people.
Once in the water Albina described the efforts of the less-than-competent crewmen to row towards a light off in the distance, a vessel which seemed to be “sailing away from us.” Women in the boat lent their assistance to the crewmen to row, but to no avail.
With her lifeboat about a mile away from the ship, Mrs Bassani stated that the lights of the Titanic were extinguished, save for a “large green light” at the stern which continued burning, bobbing up and down several times before disappearing altogether, which made it clear to her that the ship had foundered. She stated as the night wore on they never encountered any other lifeboats and that the last hour in the lifeboat－which was picked up by Carpathia around 8 am－was a deeply unpleasant experience, as the sea became choppier and already frayed nerves began to unwind.
Mrs Bassani was in praise of the crew and passengers of Carpathia, who rallied around the survivors and tried to make their journey to New York as comfortable as possible.
After landing in New York, Albina and Mrs Bucknell journeyed on to their home in Philadelphia; Mrs Bucknell departed for Atlanta to visit her son, spending several weeks there, and upon her return, Albina tendered her resignation and travelled to her family in Fall River, Massachusetts. She filed a sizeable claim for loss of property ($2890) and also claimed that the Oceanic Steamship Navigation Company owed her compensation. The property claim consisted of:
Dresses and other wearing materials and apparels for which primarily consists of stylish, tailor-made gowns for which your deponent paid a sum equal to currency in the United States of and that the same is reasonable value thereof. ($400)
Bedding and linen and other apparatus for bedding purposes, and that the same is the reasonable value thereof. ($300)
Hats, bonnets and head gear, and that the same is the reasonable value thereof. ($100)
Shoes, slippers and other foot gear, and that the same is the reasonable value thereof. ($50)
Tools and implements which your claimant uses in her daily vocation of a lady in waiting for ladies by whom she is employed at divers times, and that the same is the reasonable value thereof. ($250)
Jewels for personal adornment, and that the same is the reasonable value thereof ($1500)
Toilet articles, and that the same is the reasonable value thereof. ($40)
It is not clear if this claim was ever settled to Mrs Bassani’s satisfaction; The Evening Herald (25 June 1912) states that she had been awarded $100 from the Red Cross and she was by then working as a maid for Major Harris of Fort Greble. The article states that—although unwilling to cross the ocean ever again－she hoped to be reunited in the USA with her two children, of whom the eldest, a ten-year-old, was recovering in Rome following surgery. There is no evidence that her two children ever came to the USA and their eventual whereabouts remain unknown.7
GETS 100 FROM RED CROSS.
Titanic Survivor Will Spend Money to Bring Children Here.
Miss Albina Bassani, one of the survivors of the Titanic disaster, has received a substantial check from the Red Cross emergency relief of New York city, which will partly compensate for apparel, money and other personal effects which were lost during her efforts to assist Mrs. Bucknell, a wealthy Philadelphia woman, to whom she was maid. Miss Bassani is now employed in the family of Maj. Harris of Fort Greble. She was married When a young girl to Gaspar Berticanno in Rome. About six years ago the husband died, leaving his widow with two small children. The oldest who is now 10 years of age, is in a hospital in Rome convalescing from a recent operation. After her husband's death, Mrs. Berticanno retained her maiden name. She does not wish to cross the ocean again, but hopes to send to Italy for her two children with the money which was paid to her through the kind assistance of the Associated Charities. — The Evening Herald, Fall River (Massachusetts), 25 June 1912
Albina was married a second time in Fall River on 15 October 1915 to Augusto Papetti (b. 27 December 1877), a widowed shoemaker, and the couple had one daughter, Bruna Isabell (b. 28 February 1920). They made their home in Lynn, Massachusetts, living at School Street for a number of years, from where Augusto worked for the Gold Seal Shoe Company in Boston. In 1932 Albina became a member of the Massachusetts branch of Sons of Italy in America.
By 1950 Albina and her husband were estranged, living thousands of miles apart; Augusto had relocated to Los Angeles whilst Albina lived alone in Brockton, Massachusetts. Augusto died in Los Angeles on 8 February 1954 and was buried in Rose Hills Memorial Park.
Albina was apparently also estranged from her daughter Bruna in later years, who also made her home in California. Bruna later worked as a secretary and was married twice; her first marriage to Frank Lanni ended in divorce and her second union was in 1948 to John Marshall Machin (1923-2003). She made her home in California and raised a family before her death in Ventura in 2011.
Albina Papetti (née Bassani) died in Nahant, Massachusetts on 23 July 1960 and was later buried in Melrose Cemetery, Brockton.
In Emma Eliza Bucknell's biography, her maid's name is "Berzani" not Bazzini... check it out, it would be nice to correct her name. Apart from the biography, no I don't have proof.
Historia incrivel,alias quando assisto o filme sinto grande emocao indescritivel,e como se estivesse no navio
As Mrs Bassani's granddaughter I can say that her name is spelled correctly - Albina Bassani - as I learned from my mother, Bruna Papetti. In fact, it was misspelled in the original Titanic exhibit that toured some years ago and we, my family, had her name spelling corrected.
Att. Mrs Melissa Mandel: Albina Bassani is undoubtedly spelled correctly. However, we don't have a document that confirms her birth in Rome. Also we have no documented information about her family. Have you any connection with Antonio Bassani's family i.e. his wife Pierina Fusinato or their children Enrica, Battista, Effra, Pietro, Bianca, Ermenegildo that supposedly were her siblings?