(Daily Sketch 18 April 1912)
Augustus Henry Weikman, Sr. was born on 17 February 1860 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, son of Charles Weikman (or Whiteman, born circa 1821 in Wurtemberg) and his wife Charlotte (born circa 1825 in Hesse Darmstadt). On 15 June 1860, three-month-old Augustus lived with his parents and siblings Louisa, Mary, and William in the 4th ward of Philadelphia. His father worked as a carpenter. On 1 June 1870, August lived with his parents and siblings William, Amelia, George, and Louis in the 14th ward of Philadelphia. His father worked as a box maker while his mother was keeping house. The family owned only $100 in personal possessions. August and his brother William were attending school. The family surname was reported as Whiteman by the census takers on the 1860 and 1870 censuses.
On 9 June 1880, Augustus “Whikman” lived at 748 S. 2nd Street in Philadelphia with his brothers William (born circa 1856/1857) and George (born 1865), William’s wife Pauline, and that couples’ children Mamie and Lillie. Augustus was working as a sign painter, while his brother William was a barber.
Starting in 1882, Augustus shows up in the Philadelphia City Directory, listed as a barber. In that year he lived with his brother William at 208 Lombard Street. In 1883 he had moved out and was living at 1435 Passyunk avenue. In 1884, “Gustav” was listed at 428 S. 2nd Street, working as a barber. He lived at that address until 1888. His brother William F. Weikman was working as a barber while continuing to live at 208 Lombard.
Augustus was married circa 1884 to Mary Hendricks. She was born in June 1860 in Pennsylvania the daughter of English parents. Mary had two brothers, A.H. Hendricks and John Hendricks
The couple’s first child was a stillborn daughter delivered by midwife Catherine Weisenberger in March 1885 at their home at 739 Passyunk Road. This child was buried in Lafayette Cemetery.
Augustus is no longer listed in the Philadelphia City Directory after 1888. He apparently started working for the White Star line around 1892 as a barber, and may have been working earlier for another shipping line. By 1897 the Weikman family had moved to Palmyra, Burlington County, New Jersey. In July of that year, “Augustus Weikman arrived home from an ocean voyage on Wednesday afternoon.” In 1898 it was reported that:
PALMYRA. Oct. 29- Mrs. Augustus Weikman and family have been spending the week with her mother in Philadelphia.” On 18 February 1900 it was reported: Mr. Augustus Weikman arrived on Wednesday from his trip to Europe.”
On 6 June 1900, the couple and four children - Edward C., Frank S., Helen M., and Augustus H. - lived at 521 Leconey Avenue in Palmyra. They owned their home. Augustus was working as a barber. The two oldest boys were attending school. In 1905, Augustus and Mary and their four children - Charles, Frances, Helen, and Augustus - were listed as living in Burlington County.
On 15 April 1910, Augustus and Mary, along with their four children - Edward C., Frank S., Helen M., and A. Harry - lived at 531 Leconey Street in Palymra. They owned their home. Augustus was working as a barber on a steamship. Son Edward was a rug salesman and son Frank was a wool broker.
Augustus was listed at Ivy Bank, Dyer Road, Shirley in the household of Mrs. Daysh in the 1911 English census. Mrs. Daysh took in boarders and another man, William Thomas Hughes, would later be the Assistant 2nd Steward on the Titanic.
The Weikmans raised registered Pomeranian puppies sired by Nippers Wee Boy, offering them for sale for cheap in February 1912 from their home in Palmyra.
Augustus signed on to be the Titanic’s barber on 4 April 1912, his previous ship the Olympic. He gave his address as at Mrs. Daysh’s home at Ivy Bank, Dyer Road in Southampton. He thought he had made more than 700 trips (in some accounts he said 705, in others 750) back and forth across the Atlantic by the time he set sail. Weikman sent his wife a telegram telling her his good luck at being assigned to the Titanic. He was reportedly the only American crew member. He received a shilling a week and depended on tips from the first class passengers to make his living. The barber shop was located near the first class entrance foyer, had two adjustable chairs, a waiting area, and also sold souvenirs to passengers. His brother William was working as a barber aboard the S.S. Cedric.
When the ship struck the iceberg he was in his barbership reading and felt a slight jar, but it did not seem serious. “I went forward to the steerage on ‘G’ deck and saw one of the baggage-masters [William Bessant], and he told me that water was coming in in the baggage room on the deck below." Weikman hurried up a stairways toward the deck and passed Thomas Andrews who told him, “My God, it’s serious,” when he asked him whether the ship was in danger. Captain Smith also passed by but did not answer Weikman’s question. He then proceeded along E deck to his room on C deck and then up to the main deck where he saw some ice laying about.
Steward George Dodd was giving the order to man the lifeboats. Wiekman began to help, noting that he was putting in three or four women for every man. There was a shortage of women for the first boats. He did not board one of the boats “the lifeboats offered no opportunity for the savings of a humble barber.” He worked alongside Bruce Ismay, who was wearing his pyjamas and was barefoot. After launching several lifeboats “he came to the conclusion that it was not necessary to spoil his new uniform so he returned to his room and put on an old suit and supplied himself with a pair of gloves.” He returned on deck and as the last boat was being launched, saw Ismay and Mr. Carter climb in Collapsible C “there were no women in the vicinity of the boat.”
Augustus then began to help to get loose one of the two remaining collapsible lifeboats, almost certainly Collapsible A, the men attempting to pull up the sides. He claimed that John Jacob Astor and George Widener were standing nearby. Suddenly the bow dipped under. He and many other were “hurled into a jumble in the center of the boat. I was covered with ropes, timbers, and chains [probably chairs] and while endeavoring to extricate myself could hear the shrieks, yells and moans of the dying. Finally I got loose except for a rope fastened around my foot. This gave me considerable trouble, but I finally got free and began to swim away from the ship.” He got about 15 feet away and the second of two explosions occurred and he thought he was thrown about 100 feet away. Nearby in the frigid water was a cluster of about one dozen deck chairs tied together and he climbed aboard. He looked back at the Titanic and saw the stern portion of the ship standing on end and slowly sinking downwards.
After the ship went under, with no noticeable suction, he scanned the area and saw a lifeboat about 600 feet away. The chair raft was not large enough and left his legs and feet in the water. He realized the lifeboat offered a better chance for survival and paddled himself over to the boat, which he found contained very few people. Some of the men who clutched the side of the collapsible were already dead from exposure. He clambered aboard and stood in the water-filled boat. He thought that about 17 of the 28 people on the lifeboat were still alive when the Carpathia arrived, and that he was nearly “all in.”
He was taken aboard the Carpathia, only partly conscious, and awoke in the steerage dining room, surrounded by people who didn’t speak English. “And it was found that his feet had been frozen and he is still in danger of being maimed for life.” He was still wearing a vest and when he explored its pockets he found a one dollar bill. ‘That he determined to keep as a souvenir of the terrible experience he had endured.” He also had a gold pocket watch that had stopped at 1:50.
Weikman’s name was not on the initial lists of survivors and it was not until Wednesday, April 17, that the family received a telegram. It was reported after the disaster that:
One of the survivors of the Titanic disaster is Augustus H. Weikman, ship’s barber. He is a resident of Palmyra, near Mount Holly, N.J., and is one of the largest property owners of the town. Relatives and neighbors were condoling with Mrs. Weikman yesterday when a message was received from her husband by way of Halifax that he was safe. Weikman has been a barber for 20 years on the White Star line and when the Titanic was put on line he was given the post of ship’s barber by reason of his seniority of service.
Weikman was interviewed by the Trenton Evening Times upon his arrival in New York City. “Weikman showed the effects of the terrible experiences through which he had just passed, and at time his talk was almost incoherent. He was unable to leave the chair and was wheeled from the waiting room to the train that leaves the terminal at 1 o’clock.” He would later state that he thought the lifeboats that had been launched could have returned and picked up more passengers. Aboard the train heading to Camden, New Jersey, he told of his adventure to interested travelers. When he arrived at the train station, a push cart was used to take him home since he could not walk.
Weikman prepared an affidavit in May 1912 in which he claimed that “J. Bruce Ismay was justified in leaving the Titanic when he did because there were no more women in the vicinity ‘when he was ordered into the boat by the officer in charge.” He was honored a few days later by being made an honorary member of Washington Camp, No. 23 P.O.S. of A. He was walking with crutches when he attended the event. He gave another talk at the Camden Lodge of Elks in which he told of his experiences and blamed the accident on the wireless company.
In July 1912, he heard that Mrs. John Hays Hammond was raising money for a Titanic memorial and he wrote her a letter in which he told of his experiences. He sent along the dollar bill from his vest pocket.
Augustus was offered the position of “admiral’s barber” on the Olympic in August 1912 and expected to return to work after he had recovered from his injuries. He ended up sailing aboard the Lusitania instead. He registered as an American citizen in Southampton on 6 November 1914, using his Seaman’s Discharge Book as evidence of his citizenship. He resigned as barber, perhaps in early 1915, after German submarines started to target ships in the Atlantic Ocean. By 1917, Augustus was living at 109 Broad Street in Palymra. His son Augustus, Jr. was living with while working as a farmer.
On 15 January 1920, Augustus and Mary and their children Helen and Harry lived at 109 Broad Street in Palmyra. They owned their home. He worked as a merchant while daughter Helen was a milliner and son Harry was a laborer at a watch case company.
Augustus died on 7 November 1924 in Burlington County, Pennsylvania. Mary died in 1926. Brother George W. Weikman died in 1951.
Augustus, Mary, and George have a joint tombstone in the Morgan Cemetery in Palmyra.
In April 2012, the one silver dollar certificate, signed “This note was in my pocket when picked up out of the sea by ‘S.S. Carpathia’ from the wreck of ‘S.S. Titanic’ April 15th, 1912/A.H. Weikman, Palmyra, N.J.” sold at auction for $32,835. Another descendant owns his pocket watch.