Mrs Bertha Chambers

Bertha Chambers

Mrs Norman Campbell Chambers (Bertha Griggs) was born in Friendship, Allegany, New York on 10 October 1879.1

She was the daughter of Ira D. Griggs (1855-1923) and Dr Elma Call (1860-1922). Her father, a printer, hailed from Michigan and her mother, a physician, was from New York and Bertha was their only surviving child.

She first appears on the 1880 census as an infant living with her parents in Lyndon, Cattaraugus, New York. Her parents were later separated and her father seemingly remarried and resettled in Chautauqua, New York with a widow, Mary E. Arnold (1857-1935). He died in Chautauqua in 1923.

Bertha and her mother appeared on the 1892 census living in Ithaca, New York, appearing in that city on future records, her mother claiming to be a widow throughout.

She was married 12 March 1906 in Ithaca, New York to Norman Campbell Chambers (b. 1884), a mechanical engineer originally from Olean, New York. The couple remained childless and divided their time between travelling extensively and living in Manhattan and Ithaca, the latter being where Bertha's mother remained. Her mother eventually died on 24 February 1922.

Bertha and her husband boarded the Titanic at Southampton on 10 April 1912 as first class passengers, occupying cabin E8 (ticket number 113806 which cost £53, 2s).

On the night of the sinking the couple were in bed at the time of the collision. Bertha asked her husband to go and investigate which he did, ascending to starboard A-deck but finding nothing amiss. He returned to the cabin and both he and Bertha went out to investigate again, noting that the ship was starting to list over to starboard. They returned to their stateroom to finish dressing and at the end of the passage to saw the mail clerks, wet to their knees. After some jovial exchange with the mail clerks three officers came down and reported that the ship was not taking any more water. Norman and Bertha returned to their stateroom and their steward came by and told them they could go back to bed. He finished dressing and Bertha again went out, soon returning after being informed by another passenger that the call had been given out for people to put on lifebelts and assemble on the boat deck. Her husband went out and found their steward, who verified the order.

On their way up to the boatdeck a steward passed steamer rugs to the couple; they waited on the forward starboard boatdeck and Bertha soon entered lifeboat 5, calling for her husband to join her, which he did. The couple survived the sinking and returned to New York aboard Carpathia.

Bertha's 1914 passport application describes her as standing at 5' 9", of fair complexion with brown eyes, reddish-brown hair, an oval face and a high forehead. She gave her address at the time as 109 East Lewis Street, Ithaca. She and Norman lived in Petrograd (modern-day St Petersburg), Russia for extended periods between December 1914 and April 1917 whilst he worked for the Niles-Bement-Pond machine tools company. By 1919, when she reapplied for a passport, Bertha was a resident of 111 Broadway, New York.

Bertha and Norman continued to travel frequently and were shown on passenger lists for: Siboney, Rotterdam, Albert Ballin, Mondel, President Harding and Excambion. Locations they visited, aside from Russia, included: Argentina, Paraguay, Cuba, Portugal, England, Sweden, Uruguay and Brazil.

The 1920 census shows the Chambers couple twice: once at 109 East Seneca Street, Ithica, the home of her mother, and on West 70th Street, Manhattan. By 1925 the Chambers were resident of 40 Rector Street, New York. From the late 1920s until at least the early 1940s they resided at East 44th Street.

Chambers Stork Club

Norman and Bertha at The Stork Club in the 1950s
(Courtesy of Phillip Gowan, USA)

Bertha died on 18 October 1959 aged 80 and was buried in Kensico Cemetery in Valhala, Westchester, New York. Her simple headstone reads:

BELOVED WIFE
BERTHA GRIGGS CHAMBERS
1882-1959

Notes

  1. She would give various ages throughout life, ranging from 1880-1884. Her inclusion on the 1880 census (taken June 1880) as an eight-month-old confirms her year of birth as 1879.
 

Pictures

Bertha Chambers in 1919
(1919) 
BERTHA CHAMBERS IN 1919
Bertha Chambers
BERTHA CHAMBERS
Bertha Griggs Chambers
BERTHA GRIGGS CHAMBERS
Bertha Griggs Chambers
BERTHA GRIGGS CHAMBERS
 

Articles and Stories

 

Comment and discuss

  1. John Pulos said:

    I am reviewing information that I have concerning Norman Chambers and Bertha Griggs Chambers. He wrote, "we started for the upper deck and coming out on the port side of the A-deck, went aft where I found the deck steward, who opened his office and gave us our steamer rugs." The Chambers then went in search of a life boat. Can I assume that "steamer rugs" were deck blankets??? that may have been used when sitting on the cold deck. Were they assigned? Chambers also spoke of his time in the lifeboat, "the passengers were so tightly packed in a standing position that the little quartermaster... Read full post

  2. avatar

    Mike Poirier said:

    I think Martha Stephenson also related a similar incident and called them steamer rugs. So I would definitely say steamer rugs are deck blankets. Karl Behr wrote about the attractive middel adged man in his boat who offered him the use of his gun when he and his wife were done with it. I had a feeling he was talking about Chambers.

  3. Ben Holme said:

    Hi John, I believe that second part of Chambers' account involving the "little quartemaster" refered to the incident where quaretrmaster Alfred Olivier struggled past the passengers in desperation to secure the boat's "plug" in place. Could be wrong I believe Chambers was the man who offered the gun to Behr and George Harder was the generous man with the flask of brandy Warm regards Ben

  4. John Pulos said:

    Thank you. It WAS Chambers that offered the gun to Behr. Both Behr and Chambers had attended the same prep school at the time. They did not know this until after they read their first hand accounts in the October issue of their alumni magazine. Small world. John Pulos

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Credits

Gavin Bell, UK
Phillip Gowan, USA
David Huffaker
Brian Meister, USA
Craig Stringer, UK
Homer Thiel, USA
Geoff Whitfield, UK

References and Sources

National Archives : Passport Applications
Search archive British and Irish newspapers online

Link and cite this biography

Encyclopedia Titanica (2018) Bertha Chambers (ref: #66, last updated: 3rd November 2018, accessed 2nd August 2020 13:30:06 PM)
URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-survivor/bertha-chambers.html