Encyclopedia Titanica

Frank John William Goldsmith

Frankie Goldsmith

Master Frank John William Goldsmith was born in Strood, Kent, England on 19 December 1902.

He was the son of Kent natives Frank John Goldsmith (b. 1879) and Emily Alice Brown (b. 1880) who had married the year prior to his birth. He had a younger brother, Albert John (b. 1905).

Frank and his family appear on the 1911 census living at 22 Hone Street, Strood. Before the close of the year Frankie lost his younger brother Albert to diphtheria aged just 6.

His maternal grandparents and several aunts and uncles had emigrated and settled in Detroit, Michigan around 1910 and it was decided that the Goldsmiths would also settle there. The family boarded the Titanic at Southampton on 10 April 1912 as third class passengers (ticket number 363291 which cost £20, 10s, 6d). Also travelling with them from Strood was an acquaintance, Thomas Theobald and another from Surrey, Alfred Rush.

On board the ship Frank made friends with similarly-aged boys and spent the days running wild around the ship; he recalled them popping their heads into a stokehold and saw the firemen busy at work, singing and banging their shovels in time with the music.

On the night of the sinking the family were in their cabin; Frankie slept through the impact and it was his father who wakened him  The family then made for the upper decks with Thomas Theobald and Alfred Rush and managed, along  with several of their other shipboard acquaintances to find their way to the forward end of the starboard boat deck where four collapsible boats were being prepared for launch. Frank bade farewell to his wife and son and saw them off in collapsible C. Young Alfred Rush was also offered a place but he declined, preferring to remain with the men; young Frankie recalled how Thomas Theobald, sensing the hopelessness of the situation, gave his wedding ring to Emily so that she might send it on to his wife back in England.

Frankie and his mother survived; his father was among the lost. Aboard Carpathia he became acquainted with several of the surviving crew, including fireman John "Sam" Collins who helped lift his spirits. He and his mother arrived in New York and were cared for by the Salvation Army before being shuttled off to Detroit where his family were waiting.

Frankie's mother was remarried in 1914 to another Strood man, becoming Mrs Harry Illman and she would later die in 1955. Growing up in Detroit Frankie's house was situated close to a baseball stadium; he later recalled that every time a home run was scored the roar of the crowd reminded him of the sound made by the hundreds of people struggling in the water. This haunted him so much that he never brought his own children to a baseball game.

Schooling in Detroit, by age 17 Frank was working as a stock chaser in an automobile factory but later worked for a dairy company as a salesman for many years. He coached the girls' basketball team for the Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church and here he met his wife, Victoria Agnes Lawrence (b. 28 October 1905), a native of Michigan, but the two did not get along at first. They were married in 1926 and had three sons: James Richard (1927-2009), Charles B. (b. 1934) and Frank John (b. 1936).

Frank and his family appear on the 1940 census living at 13224 Wark Avenue, Detroit and he was described as a salesman in a creamery company. He later left that profession sometime after the 1940s and moved to Mansfield, Ohio where he ran a photographic supplies store and wrote several manuals on aerial photography. He retired in 1973 and moved to Florida in 1979 and lived at 8874 Big Blue Lane in Orlando up until his death.

Frank would often become quiet over the period of April each year, perhaps dwelling on his memories of the disaster. In 1966 he was asked by the chairman of his Rotary Club to recount his experiences, initially an uneasy experience for him. Soon he was flooded with invites for interviews, granting many and only charging for gas money if he had to travel, being shocked once when he was offered $150 for an appearance. He later became involved with the Titanic Historical Society and attended several conventions in the 1970s, getting the chance to meet other Titanic survivors.

Frank had his first stroke of many in 1970 and also developed painful arthritis. He was due to attend the Philadelphia convention of the Titanic Historical Society in April 1982, having received an invite and looking forward to the event. He succumbed to another stroke on 27 January 1982, having stayed up late that night to watch the news.

As per his own wishes Frank was cremated. Following an orchestration of events between many people, his remains were scattered from a Coast Guard reconnaissance plane on Thursday 15 April 1982 over the spot where Titanic was estimated to have foundered.

Frank's widow Victoria died on 30 September 1993 and she is buried in Strickland Cemetery in Hayesville, Ashland, Ohio.

References and Sources

Unidentified Newspaper, Obituary
State of Florida Certificate of Death
Sentinel Star News
, 29 January 1982; Survivor of Titanic dies in Orlando at 79.
International Herald Tribune, April 17-18 1982; A Titanic Survivor Joins Lost Dad

Newspaper Articles

New York Times (21 April 1912) WOMEN WORK HARD FOR RESCUED FOLK
Detroit Free Press (24 April 1912) Perils End in Meeting
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (24 April 1912) Young woman survivor of the Titanic arrives at Albion
[May Howard's account]
Edward C. Burks New York Times (9 October 1973) Titanic Survivors Recall the Night to Remember

Documents and Certificates

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Titanic Passenger Summary

Name: Master Frank John William Goldsmith
Age: 9 years 3 months and 27 days (Male)
Nationality: English
Last Residence: in Strood, Kent, England
Embarked: Southampton on Wednesday 10th April 1912
Ticket No. 363291, £20 10s 6d
Rescued (boat C)  
Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912
Died: Wednesday 27th January 1982 aged 79 years
Ashes scattered at Sea

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