Encyclopedia Titanica

George Achilles Harder

George Achilles Harder
George Achilles Harder

Mr George Achilles Harder was born on 22 October 1886 in Brooklyn, New York. He was the son of Victor Achilles Harder (1847-1914) and Minnie Mehl (1853-1934).

His father, a manufacturer of plumbing materials, was born in New York to French parents. He had first been married in 1867 to Amelia Musse (b. 1848), also of French ancestry, and they had two surviving children: Victor Achilles (1869-1941) and Emelia Julia (1872-1924, later Mrs Sylvester James McNamara). Victor became a young widower when Amelia died on 15 January 1876. He was remarried to French-born Minnie Mehl (b. 1853 in Alsace) around 1884 and with her had two children: George Achilles (b. 1886) and Hortense (1890-1980, later Mrs Sidney Smith Whelan).

George was shown on the 1905 census living with his parents in Brooklyn and was described as a college student. He graduated from the Pratt Institute and in 1909 joined the Essex Foundry, of which his father was President, later part of Central Foundry of which he was chairman until 1938. The 1910 census shows him living on 8th Avenue, Brooklyn and by now he is described as a realtor.

George Harder George was married to Dorothy Annan (b. 1890) in New York on 8 January 1912. Following a three-month-long honeymoon in Europe, the couple boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg as first class passengers. They occupied cabin E-50 (ticket number 11765, which cost £55, 8s, 10d).

Mr Harder later described the events of the sinking, speaking of the collision itself:

It was not so heavy as to even wake up a great many passengers, and I might say right there that many of them never knew of the collision, and I believe sank while asleep. Some women have said that they were not even called by the stewards. Others, and these constitute the great majority, were told that there was no danger, not to hurry and not to be even the least bit perturbed. I went on deck, however, as I did not like the scraping sound that followed the thud, and when I reached there, they told me I had better get my life belt and I returned with my wife, both of us with belts on.

When I went to our berth and told people that I had been told to put on our life belts they laughed at me and said it was a joke. There was no more actual realization of conditions or danger than if we had hit a small rowboat. The steamer was actually progressing at the time. Once on deck I found that one boat had already put off and then my wife and I go into the second with about thirty others, including Karl Behr...

Mr. Ismay helped us get into the boat and he acted splendidly. In our boat was a big box and a keg of water. Unlike the other boats, we had no lights at all, and we pulled away from the boat some distance, later taking turns at the oars. I was on the starboard side, the boat having listed that way. I am told the lowering of boats on the other side was a much more difficult proposition...

Mr Harder went on to describe the scene following the launch of his lifeboat:

... We pulled away from the immediate vicinity of the Titanic as she was starting to list considerably and her bow was slowly tilting – but all the time the lights were burning brightly and the band was playing the “Star Spangled Banner”. I did not hear any pistol shots, and although we were gradually pulling away from the boat I think we should have heard them... Five minutes before she dropped out of sight the lights went out. Then the bow dug deeper into the water until she was inundated right to midships, when she suddenly dove straight down, and thus made less suction that would have occurred had she sunk in the ordinary way. Just before she sank an awful screaming, ghastly and piercing, rent the air, and it was caused by a handful of steerage passengers, women, who had huddled into the aft end of the boat, just as an ostrich digs his head into the sand...

The couple were rescued in lifeboat 5. According to George's grandson, Mr and Mrs Harder saved three things from the Titanic (apparently taken from the cabin and still owned by the family today): Mrs Harder's fur coat, a bottle of brandy, and a button hook for Mrs Harder's shoes.

Following their rescue the couple were the subjects of a well known photo taken on the Carpathia by Miss Bernice Palmer. The photograph shows them in discussion with Sallie Beckwith.


Whilst returning to New York on the Carpathia, Harder and some other survivors (Frederic K. Seward, Karl Behr, Margaret Brown, Mauritz Björnström-Steffansson, Frederic Spedden and Isaac Frauenthal) formed a committee to honour the bravery of Captain Rostron and his crew. They would present the Captain with an inscribed silver cup and medals to each of the 320 crew members. Mr Harder was one of the Titanic survivors who testified before the US Senate Investigative Committee.

The Harders were frequently asked to lecture about the Titanic disaster but they refused. Like so many other men who escaped, George Harder found the stigma of surviving the Titanic disaster difficult to live down. He and Dorothy made their home in Manhattan and went on two have two daughters: Dorothy (1913-1973, later Mrs Barclay Kountze Douglas) and Jean (1915-1991, later Mrs Clendenin James Ryan).

In 1916 he and his wife visited Asia, including China and Japan, returning home from Hong Kong aboard the Empress of Asia in December 1916. At that time their address was 43, 5th Avenue, Manhattan. His passport, obtained that year, described him as standing at 5' 11", with brown hair, grey eyes, of fair complexion, with a small nose and an oval face. In May 1925 George made a voyage aboard Olympic.

George's father, Victor Harder died in New York in 9 August 1914, and his mother, Minnie Harder died on 1 December 1934. In the following years his wife Dorothy suffered from kidney ailments and she died young in 1926.

On 28 February 1928 George was remarried to Elizabeth Peebles Rhodes (b. 14 January 1901) who hailed from Pennsylvania. From this second union he gained two sons: George Achilles (1930-1989) and James D. Rhodes (1931-2009).

Still slighted for many years from the adverse reaction to male Titanic survivors, George only opened up about his experiences in his last few years, then only to his daughters. The last years of his life were spent living at 531 East Seventy-second Street in New York City. He died there on 26 May 1959 aged 72 and was buried at the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, just a few hundred feet from the grave of Wyckoff Van der Hoef, a fellow Titanic passenger who perished in the sinking.

His widow Elizabeth later died in 1980 aged 79. His last surviving child, James died in 2009 in Massachusetts.

© Michael A. Findlay, USA

References and Sources

Senate Hearings, 8 May 1912, Testimony
New York Times, 30 May 1959, Obituary
Register of Death State of New York
New York Herald, 17 April 1912
Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55[279])
United States Senate (62nd Congress), Subcommittee Hearings of the Committee on Commerce, Titanic Disaster, Washington 1912
Don Lynch & Ken Marschall (1992) Titanic: An Illustrated History. London, Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0 340 56271 4

Research Articles

Senan Molony Titanica! (2008) 12.45am - A Time to Go!
What time did the first lifeboat depart the Titanic?

Newspaper Articles

Brooklyn Daily Times (16 April 1912) Brooklynites are Lost as Titanic Sinks
Several Are Believed to Have Sunk With Ship
Newark Evening News (16 April 1912) TEN FROM THIS STATE ON TITANIC
Worcester Evening Gazette (19 April 1912) Astor Put Boy By Wife's Side
Brooklyn Daily Eagle (19 April 1912) HARDER BLAMES VESSEL'S SPEED
Dundee Evening Telegraph (30 April 1912) The Only Titanic Honeymoon Couple Saved
Mr and Mrs George A. Harder
New York Times (3 December 1926) Mrs. Dorothy A. Harder
New York Times (30 May 1959) GEORGE A. HARDER OBITUARY

Documents and Certificates

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Comment and discuss

  1. leonard schwartz

    hi can anyone give me some info about the harders? mrs h was a beauitful women. lenny

  2. Brian Ahern

    If anyone's interested in reading about George Harder's brother-in-law, click this link and scroll to page 353. Sylvester James McNamara was a prominent Brooklyn gynecologist and husband of Emilie Harder. Also, I hadn't noticed before that Dorothy's uncle was Brooklyn lawyer William N. Dykman. Cullen & Dykman remains a prestigious firm to this day.

  3. Martin Williams

    Brian, you never cease to amaze me! I'm constantly delighted by the information you supply on the lesser-known first-class passengers and their family connections. Keep 'em coming!

  4. Brian Ahern

    aw, shucks But I have to confess, it was nothing more than reading the news articles under George and Dorothy's ET bios and googling the names I found there. I figured there couldn't be so many Sylvester James McNamaras! Reading up on the Harders is especially interesting for me because they lived in a place in which my own family lived in 1912. But, like so many, they fled Brooklyn for Manhattan and, by the time Dorothy died, were living on Park Avenue. I once dug up the wedding announcement of the Harders' daughter, Dorothy Annan Harder. It carried a... Read full post

  5. leonard schwartz

    hi guys yep she was a looker.to bad she lived back them.she could have survived with a kidney transplant.thanks 4 responding. coonsanders

  6. Brian Ahern

    I don't know much about kidneys or uremia, but I like to think modern medicine could have kept her from getting to the point where she even needed a transplant.

  7. leonard schwartz

    hi well thats what she had and what she needed. coonsanders

  8. Brian Ahern

    An interesting blurb taken from this site: DOCTOR ARRESTED FOR REFUSING TO PAY TWO FARES There was a lively row in the Coney Island police station yesterday afternoon, when Dr. Sylvester J. MC NAMARA, nephew of Police Captain MC NAMARA, was brought in under arrest on a charge of refusing to pay his second fare to Coney Island. The doctor, a man who had defended his refusal, a B.R.T. special policeman, and one of his friends, all... Read full post

  9. Michael Cundiff

    A New York actor, on Friday, January 9th, 2009, in Harwich, MA. Son of George Achilles Harder, a Titanic survivor, and Elizabeth Peebles Rhodes. Source: NY Times; 1/19/2009, p18, Op Subject Terms: OBITUARIES Michael Cundiff NV, USA

  10. KayJCO

    I have just finished reading his testimony during the American hearing. I was sickened and disgusted to hear him describe those screaming in the water as hysterical people from steerage. In fact, he didn't describe them as "people from steerage" but simply as "steerage." He proceeded to describe those clinging to the stern as steerage who were like ostriches with their head in the sand. All of this he witnesses from his lifeboat. The same lifeboat that he felt shouldn't have been taken back to save lives because they were already crammed in and there wasn't room. It sickens me that the... Read full post

  11. Dave Gittins

    Where did you get the bit about acting like ostriches? I can't see it in the transcript. Are you reading the transcript, or somebody's distortion of it?

  12. robert warren

    I just read the transcript of testimony. There is no mention of ostriches. As far as his response to noises of people in the water, he basically said the noise was so intense that you couldn't hear any specific cries for help.He even mentioned that they were on rafts. Its apparent that Harder never paid attention to how many boats the Titanic had or he wouldn't assumed people were on rafts.From his testimony it's also apparent that more passengers in the lifeboat did not want to go back either.Does that make all of them digusting too? Its hard to tell if you're not in that situation how any... Read full post

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Titanic Passenger Summary

Name: Mr George Achilles Harder
Age: 25 years 5 months and 24 days (Male)
Nationality: American
Marital Status: Married to Dorothy Annan
Occupation: Businessman
Embarked: Cherbourg on Wednesday 10th April 1912
Ticket No. 11765, £55 8s 10d
Cabin No. E50
Rescued (boat 5)  
Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912
Cause of Death:
Buried: Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York, United States

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