Encyclopedia Titanica

Joseph Charles Chapman

Mr Joseph Charles Chapman was born in Southampton, Hampshire, England on 10 December 1879. 

He was the son of Frederick Chapman (b. 1847), a tobacco cutter, and Emma Ann Carpenter (b. 1850), Southampton natives who were married in Holy Trinity Church in their native city on 15 September 1872.

Joseph had five siblings: Alice Olive (1873-1874), George Frederick (b. 1874), Ada Elizabeth (b. 1877), William Thomas (b. 1878) and Mabel Alice (b. 1881).

With the family not identifiable on the 1881 census, Joseph first appears on the 1891 census living at 19 Upper Portland Terrace, All Saints, Southampton, his mother having passed away by this point.

They had moved several doors down to 65 Upper Portland Terrace by the time of the 1901 census and his father was then working as a dock labourer and Joseph as a draper's porter, a profession he would continue for some time.

Joseph was married on 30 October 1904 to Ethel Smith (b. 10 June 1883 in All Saints, Southampton). By 1912 the couple would have two daughters, Sybil (b. 29 November 1906) and Vera (b. 3 August 1908).

On the 1911 census he and his family are shown living at 3 Manchester Street, All Saints, Southampton and he is described as a draper's van man and his wife as a costumier. Joseph went to sea shortly after.

When he signed-on to the Titanic on 4 April 1912 Chapman gave his address as 31 Bellevue Road, Southampton. His previous ship had been the Olympic and as a boots steward he could expect monthly wages of £3, 15s.

Chapman is believed to have been rescued in lifeboat 9; he was not required to give evidence to either the American or British inquiries into the disaster but did receive expenses of £12, 2s, 6d with regards to his detention at the latter.

He returned to Southampton and continued to work at sea and he and his wife welcomed another child on 5 April 1917, their son Lewis. 

Joseph Chapman c.1921
Joseph Chapman c.1921

In May 1923 he declared his intention of becoming a US citizen, stating that he had entered the USA aboard Aquitania on 18 May and was residing at the Terminal Hotel at West 23rd Street, New York. He was described as standing at 5’ 5” and weighed 141lbs; he had a fair complexion and brown hair and brown eyes. Later that same year he was shown working as a steward aboard Leviathan and was still listed in her crew manifests as late as 1929, albeit for a brief period in 1927 when he was aboard Majestic.

Joseph Chapman's signature
Joseph Chapman's signature

He became a US citizen in July 1933; however, by 1 February 1935 Chapman was a bedroom steward aboard the Washington, his address being declared as 17 Albert Road, Southampton and his citizenship status as British. During 1936 and 1937 he was bedroom steward aboard Berengaria

Joseph Chapman in 1929 Joseph Chapman in 1929
Two photographs of Chapman from his 1929 US seaman protection certificate

Joseph Chapman thumbprint
His left thumbprint.

Chapman was last shown serving aboard the Queen Mary from the latter half of 1938 and his last recorded arrival in the US was in March 1939.

Joseph Chapman last lived at 72 Wilton Avenue, Southampton and died on 24 June 1939. He is buried in Southampton’s Hollybrook Cemetery (section D2, plot 72). 

His widow Ethel never remarried and by 1939 was recorded as living at 30 Bellevue Road in Southampton. She passed away in 1953.

Daughter Sybil moved to London and was married in 1932 to a much older man, Robert M. Crosby (b. 25 September 1883) who worked in advertising and other stage work for a theatrical company. It is not clear if they ever had children and what became of Sybil is currently unknown.  His daughter Vera was married in 1932 to Clement Ansell Brown (b. 10 January 1905), a fitter’s mate, and their son Montague was born the following year. The family settled in Fulham, London in the 1930s before eventually returning to Southampton which is where Vera died on 9 September 1982. Son Lewis later worked as a mechanic; in 1941 he married ladies’ hairdresser Hilda Muriel Alexander (b. 4 December 1918) but they had no children. Lewis died in Southampton on 3 April 2011 aged just a few days shy of his 94th birthday. 

Documents and Certificates

Agreement and Account of Crew, National Archives, London; BT100/259
Central Register of Merchant Seamen (including CR10 Identity Cards), Southampton City Archives / National Archives, (BT348, BT349, BT350)
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Titanic Crew Summary

Name: Mr Joseph Charles Chapman
Age: 32 years 4 months and 5 days (Male)
Nationality: English
Marital Status: Married to Ethel Smith
Last Residence: at 31 Belleview Road Southampton, Hampshire, England
Last Ship: Olympic
Embarked: Southampton on Thursday 4th April 1912
Rescued (boat 9)  
Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912
Died: Saturday 24th June 1939 aged 59 years
Buried: Hollybrook Cemetery, Southampton, Hampshire, England

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