Encyclopedia Titanica

Henry Sleeper Harper

Mr Henry Sleeper Harper was born in New York City on 11 March 1864, the son of Joseph Wesley and Abigail P. Sleeper. His grandfather, Joseph Wesley Harper, founded a publishing firm in the 1810s. After Henry graduated from Columbia University in 1888, he worked for the family firm of Harper and Brothers, however, Harper, who was married to Myra Haxtun, was more interested in foreign travel than business.

About ten years before the Titanic he was aboard a ship that collided with an iceberg off the Grand Banks.

In April 1912 the wealthy couple were returning from a tour of Europe and Asia. While in Cairo, Egypt Mr Sleeper Harper had acquired a dragoman (interpreter/guide) named Hammad Hassab; the presence of the handsome but mysterious servant would provide a topic of conversation among the first class passengers on the voyage home. Also joining them was Harper's Pekinese dog, Sun Yat-Sen [1].

The Harpers boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg. Travelling in first class (ticket number PC 17572, £76 14s 7d), they occupied cabin D-33.

After the accident Harpers were roused and went up to the Boat Deck where they later sat in the gymnasium. They ventured out onto the starboard side and the Harpers, Hassan, and the dog were allowed to enter lifeboat 3. When asked later about the dog being brought onto a lifeboat he stated, "There seemed to be lots of room and nobody made any objection."

The occupants of boat 3 were rescued by the Carpathia at around 6:00 on the morning of April 15. Mr Harper was heard to remark on how small the rescue ship looked with its one smokestack compared to the ship he had just been on!

On the journey back to New York Henry ran into a friend, Louis Ogden, and asked him "Louis, how do you keep yourself looking so young?"

Meanwhile word had arrived that they were safe:

"Mrs E.H. Wells, wife of Professor Wells of the chair of Chemistry at Washington and Jefferson College (in Washington, Pa.) yesterday received word that her cousin, Henry Sleeper Harper and his wife, who were passengers on the Titanic, were safe aboard the Carpathia." - Pittsburgh Sun, April 18, 1912

Myra Haxtun Harper died on 27 November 1923, the couple had no children. Mr Harper later remarried to Anne W. Hopson and they had a son, Henry [2].

Harper returned to the family publishing business in 1928, serving on the board of directors. In his spare time he was a member of the University, Century, and Columbia Clubs. He had also been a member of the Delta Phi fraternity. The family had a summer home at Winter Harbor, Maine.

Henry Sleeper Harper died on 1 March 1944 at his home at 125 E. 38th Street in New York City after a two year illness. After Henry Sleeper Harper's death in 1944, Anne lived with her son in Alexandria and upon her death (on 6 January 1976) at the age of 91, she was interred in Woodlawn Cemetery in New York City along with Henry and Myra.


  1. Mr Harper's dog had contract ticket number 869 (£1 19s 7d).
  2. Henry jr. graduated from Cornell University in 1946 and later settled in Alexandria, Virginia, married and had three children (Anne, Scott, and Lee Harper) and is still living.

Titanic Passenger Summary

Name: Mr Henry Sleeper Harper
Age: 48 years 1 month and 4 days (Male)
Nationality: American
Occupation: Of Independent Means
Embarked: Cherbourg on Wednesday 10th April 1912
Ticket No. 17572, £76 14s 7d
Cabin No. D33
Rescued (boat 3)  
Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912
Died: Wednesday 1st March 1944 aged 79 years
Cause of Death:
Buried: Woodlawn Cemetery, New York City, New York, United States

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References and Sources

New York Times, 2 March 1944, Obituary
Borough of Manhattan Certificate of Death

Research Articles

Senan Molony Titanica! (2004) Sun Yat Sen – Will Eat Again
The height of buffoonery or the peak of good taste?
Titanica! (2017) Shipwrecked again!
Titanic passengers and crew that experienced shipwrecks either before or after the Titanic disaster.
Yasmeen Saad Titanica! (2018) The mysterious story of Hammad Hassab
The only Egyptian Titanic survivor

Newspaper Articles

Logan Marshall (ed.) Sinking of the Titanic and Great Sea Disasters HENRY S. HARPER
New York Times (16 April 1912) Henry Sleeper Harper
New York Times (2 March 1944) HENRY S. HARPER, 79, OF PUBLISHING FIRM


Anne S. Harper, second wife of Henry Sleeper Harper
Henry Harper, child of Henry Sleeper and Anne S. Harper
Henry Sleeper Harper

Documents and Certificates

(1912) Contract Ticket List, White Star Line (Southampton, Queenstown), National Archives, London; BT27/776,780
(1944) Henry Sleeper Harper (Death Certificate)


Logan Marshall (1912) Sinking of the Titanic


Walter Lord (1955) A Night to Remember
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Comment and discuss

  1. Mike Poirier

    Mike Poirier said:

    Henry Sleeper Harper mentioned being in a previous shipwreck where the steamship ran over an reef and sank. Was he possbily refering to the Norge that ran over Rockall Reef and sank in 1904 or was there a similar disaster?

  2. Marshall Garvey

    Marshall Garvey said:

    Does anyone know if there are any pictures of Henry Sleeper Harper accessible? Seeing as that he was a huge name in the publishing industry at the time I'd imagine there have to be a few. Thanks, Marshall

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