Encyclopedia Titanica

Pauline Caroline Gibson

Titanic Survivor, mother of Dorothy Gibson early film star

Pauline Gibson

Pauline Caroline Gibson (née Boeson) was born in Hoboken, New Jersey on 30 June 1866.1

She was the daughter of James Peter Boesen (1832-1905), a clothing manufacturer, and Pauline Heinzel (1839-1921), immigrants from Denmark and Germany respectively. 

She had two older siblings William (1861-1941) and Gussie (b. 1864, later Mrs Alfred William Todd) and Pauline and her family appear on the 1880 census as residents of 198 Bloomfield, West Side, Hoboken.

Pauline was married in Hoboken on 22 November 1887 to Scottish-born stone worker John A. Brown (b. 1865); their only child, daughter Dorothy Winifred was born on 17 May 1889 and they made their home in Hoboken at 320 Willow Avenue. 

Sadly Pauline was widowed just months after the birth of her daughter when John Brown died aged 25 on 23 February 1890.

She was remarried on 8 February 1893 to John Leonard Gibson (b. 3 May 1865); Gibson was born in New York to Irish parents and worked as an advertising salesman and publisher. He, Pauline and Dorothy were shown on the 1900 census living at an address in East Orange and next door to Pauline's parents.

By the time of the 1910 census Pauline and Leonard were living at West 148th Street, Manhattan; also living there was Pauline's widowed mother and her married daughter Dorothy, then Mrs George Henry Battier Jr.

Dorothy and her husband George Battier had separated and divorced and she had begun an affair with Pierre Ernest Jules Brulator (b. 1870), owner of Éclair Film Studios of which she was one of the main stars. Having just completed work on the film The Easter Bonnet she and her mother Pauline went on vacation to Europe.

For their return to the USA Pauline and Dorothy Gibson boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg as first class passengers (ticket number 112378 which cost £59, 8s). Whilst aboard they were acquainted with William Sloper and Frederick Seward.

On the night of the sinking it appears that Pauline was alone in her cabin when the collision occurred. Her daughter Dorothy had been playing bridge with Sloper and Seward and was on her way back to their cabin when she felt "a long drawn, sickening crunch." After making some quick investigations Dorothy hastened back to her cabin to fetch her mother.

Pauline and Dorothy were among the first to climb into lifeboat 7, pleading with Seward and Sloper to follow them which they did.

Following their return to New York Dorothy Gibson appeared in the movie Saved From Titanic but her movie career soon ground to a halt. 

Undeterred by their experiences on Titanic Pauline and Dorothy made frequent trips back and forth across the Atlantic, spending time in France, Switzerland, Britain, Italy and Gibraltar; Pauline's address in a September 1927 crossing of the George Washington was given as 35 East 30th Street, Manhattan. Her 1921 passport describes her as standing at 5' 5" and with grey hair, blue eyes, a fair complexion

Spending much of their time in Europe Pauline and her daughter began to lose contact with friends and family back in the USA; her husband died on 20 September 1932 and Pauline did not return for his funeral; indeed it appears that she had not been back to the USA for at least four years by that point. Pauline favoured living in Florence, Italy whilst her daughter preferred Paris although the two remained very close. 

During their stay in Europe and during times of the Great Depression and intense political instability Pauline and her daughter became involved with subversive political elements in the circles they moved in; as war raged in Europe mother and daughter did not join the countless US citizens hastening back to their country for safety and apparently became deeper entrenched with fascist elements and Nazi sympathisers. Dorothy was arrested by the Gestapo in Italy as a resistance agitator and was imprisoned at San Vittore in Milan but escaped in 1944, winding up in Switzerland where she was implicated in espionage for the Nazis; she died two years later.

Pauline Gibson remained in Florence after the war but the pro-Nazi vitriol that she championed eventually saw her exiled from Italy and she then settled in Paris. She died in a Paris hotel on 20 March 1961 aged 94.

References and Sources

Exact birth year not certain; the 1880 census lists Pauline as a 14-year-old which would point to her having been born in 1865 and being 14 going on 15 when that census was taken. It could also be surmised that her age was rounded up a few months at the time of the census, meaning therefore that she was indeed born 30 June 1866. She was shown modestly downsizing her age on some later records and massively (by over a decade) in others. Photo of Pauline from her 1921 passport photograph.

Research Articles

Phillip Gowan and Brian Meister Titanica! (2002) The Saga of the Gibson Women

Newspaper Articles

William T. Sloper Ship to Shore William Sloper's Account of the Titanic Disaster
Billboard Magazine (27 April 1912) Henry B. Harris (2)
Moving Picture World (27 April 1912) Miss Dorothy Gibson


Monica Hall Titanic Review (2005) Finding Dorothy
Finding Dorothy by Randy Bryan Bigham, Reviewed by Monica hall


Dorothy Gibson Introduced
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Titanic Passenger Summary

Name: Mrs Pauline Caroline Gibson (née Boeson)
Age: 45 years 9 months and 15 days (Female)
Nationality: American
Marital Status: Married to Leonard Gibson
Embarked: Cherbourg on Wednesday 10th April 1912
Ticket No. 112378, £59 8s
Rescued (boat 7)  
Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912
Died: Monday 20th March 1961 aged 94 years

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