Mr 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.



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

Articles and Stories

Titanica! (2018) 
Titanica! (2017) 
Titanica! (2004) 
New York Times (1944) 
New York Times (1912) 
Sinking of the Titanic and Great Sea Disasters 

Comment and discuss

  1. avatar

    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 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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Phillip Gowan, USA
Mary Anne Lewis, USA
David Mattison, Canada
Hermann Söldner, Germany
Craig Stringer, UK
Homer Thiel, USA
Jodi Venhoff, USA
Geoff Whitfield, UK

References and Sources

New York Times March 2, 1944, Obituary
Borough of Manhattan Certificate of Death
Logan Marshall ed. (1912) Sinking of the Titanic, Extract
Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55[279])
Walter Lord (1976) A Night to Remember. London, Penguin. ISBN 0 14 004757 3
Search archive British and Irish newspapers online

Link and cite this biography

Encyclopedia Titanica (2016) Henry Sleeper Harper (ref: #146, last updated: 21st December 2016, accessed 3rd July 2020 18:15:16 PM)