Encyclopedia Titanica

Virginia Ethel Emanuel

6 year old Titanic survivor

Miss Virginia Ethel Emanuel (Martin) was born on 6 October 1905 in Manhattan, New York1

She was the daughter of John Alfred Deszo Martin2 (1882-1914) and Stella Weil3 (1885-1959). Her father4 was Jewish and hailed from Budapest, Hungary whilst her mother had been born in Cincinnati, Ohio of German-French and German-Jewish heritage. They were married in Manhattan on 29 December 1903 but had separated by June 1907.

In 1909 Stella (going by the name Estelle Martin) was cited in a divorce case between Walter Emanuel (1879-1929)5 and his wife Florence.  Walter and Estelle married in New Jersey the following year.

Walter Emanuel was vaguely described on the 1910 census as living off his own means and he, Virginia, and her mother were recorded living at 115th Street West, Manhattan. Virginia's biological father John, meanwhile, was back living with his parents at West 150th Street and working as a clothing salesman.  It seems that Estelle and Walter Emanuel's marriage was brief.

Virginia's mother was an actress and aspiring singer, going most frequently by the name Elise Martin.  She travelled to London in early 1912, arriving aboard the Olympic on 31 January disembarking at Plymouth. Elise travelled in first-class whilst Virginia travelled in second class, chaperoned by her American nursemaid Elizabeth Dowdell. With Elise reportedly being handed a six-month contract for shows in London, Virginia was soon sent back to New York again accompanied by Miss Dowdell.

Elise Martin in 1912
Ethel's mother "Elise Martin" while performing in London in the revue "The Guide to Paris" at the Alhambra Theatre.
Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News — Saturday 20 July 1912
Elise Martin
"Elise Martin" in 1914
Photo by Bassano Ltd (National Portrait Gallery, NPG x83223)

Virginia Emanuel and Elizabeth Dowdell boarded the Titanic at Southampton on 10 April 1912, this time travelling as third-class passengers (ticket number 364516 which cost £12, 9s, 6d). Whilst aboard they shared a cabin with English woman Amy Stanley.

Miss Dowdell recounted:

"I had put Ethel [sic] to bed, and was preparing to retire myself when the crash came. I went into the passageway and asked a steward what was wrong. He assured me that everything was all right. I went back, to go to bed, but scarcely had I closed the door, when someone came running along the passage, ordering all hands to dress and put on life belts. 

Amy Stanley recalled, they had some trouble getting Virginia dressed:

I went back to Lizzie who was annoyed at the noise. I told her, but I had a difficult task to convince her. We had some port wine and started dressing, but we had hard work to dress the child. She was used to dressing herself and was rather a stubborn child. The more we hurried her the longer she took. 

Miss Dowdell continues:

"I took my time in getting ready, not thinking the situation was serious. I firmly believed the Titanic was unsinkable. When we tried to get to the deck the stairways were so crowded that we could not get to the deck above. Men and women were climbing over each other here, and it was impossible for them to move. They appeared to me to be steerage passengers, and their cries and curses were terrible to hear. 

"Finally some of the men passengers realized that it would be impossible to get up by the stairways, and they hoisted the women and children to seamen on the gallery above. They clasped their hands together, to enable the women to step upon them and reach out to those who would grasp them. 

"An Englishman stepped to my side and picked up my charge. He held her up as high as possible, but she was too small to grasp the hands overhead. Finally he stood alongside one of the poles and lifted her to his shoulders. Still she could not get up.

"Step on my face, kiddie," he said. 

"She did, and was lifted up. Then I placed my foot on his two hands and climbed above. The child had her shoes on, too, and his face was frightfully scratched. Still, he smiled bravely when he assisted me. 

"'Good bye, Miss, and good luck,'" he said. 

[...]

"We were rowing about for hours before being picked up. The men became so tired that we women had to change places with them and row. 

"I was even surprised at my own calmness. I guess it was the responsibility I had in caring for Ethel. I worried only about her, for I have been with her a good while and we are attached to each other." — Hudson Observer, 20 April 1912

Coming off Carpathia in New York Virginia and Miss Dowdell were met by her maternal grandparents Samuel and Celia Weil and accompanied them to their home at 605 West 113th Street, Manhattan. 

Virginia received $100 and a change of clothes from the Red Cross:

No. 135. (American). Girl, 6 years old, deserted by step-father[sic], was saved by her nurse, on trip to her grandparents in New York. Needed new supply of clothing. ($100). — American Red cross Emergency and Relief Booklet

After the Titanic disaster, an insurance claim (number B158) for property worth $547.75 was filed by her grandfather, Samuel Weil.

Her mother returned to New York in August 1912.  The reunion seems only to have been brief as in December 1912 Virginia was reported as living with an aunt Mrs Mayer (probably Florence Emanuel) who was at the time staying in Rockaway Beach, Long Island.  Virginia was attending public school 44 which was situated on the corner of Academy Avenue (Beach 94th St.) and Beach Boulevard.

Little is known of Virginia's whereabouts for the next few years.  Her mother though seems to have spent much of her time performing in England, before later moving to Paris [see footnotes]. 

Mr. and Mrs. Weir [sic] of New York, their daughter Miss Elise Martin and their granddaughter Virginia Martin, have arrived in Paris from Brussels. They are staying at the Hotel Palais d'Orsay.— Chicago Tribune, 30 March 1921

Virginia Ethel Martin (Emanuel)
Virginia Ethel Emanuel Martin with a young cousin on holiday in Massachusetts in around 1920.​​​

On 1 May 1924, Virginia travelled first class aboard the President Roosevelt to New York, at the time being described as a student, her previous address being 5 Rex Place, Park Lane, West London.  She appears on a list for the same ship departing Southampton alone for New York on 31 May 1924, but her name is crossed out.

Perhaps she delayed her departure because she is next shown arriving alone in New York on 19 June 1924 aboard the President Harding. This time she has no occupation given; her mother—living at the same Rex Place address—was given as her next of kin, but described as her sister!  Virginia was described as being 5ft with dark hair and dark eyes, and her birthplace was given as Rangoon, India [sic].  Her destination address is that of her grandmother Mrs Weir [sic], who is listed as her mother!

Later that year, on 9 September 1924, Virginia and her mother arrived together in Southampton aboard the Berengaria, again as first-class passengers, and again giving their address as 5 Rex Place; Elise down-sized her age considerably, describing herself as a student aged 22 (she was in fact 39).  The following year, on 5 August 1925, Virginia was listed as a passenger on the Accrington leaving Hamburg for Grimsby in the North of England together with her grandparents Samuel and Celia Weil.  In this record, her birthdate is given as 6 October 1907, and her birthplace is again stated as Rangoon.

Over the next years, Virginia's mother Elise moves ever higher into the echelons of Paris 'Society' as a hostess and socialite appearing at numerous parties and other social events, occasionally with her daughter who seems to have sometimes gone by the name "Bobbie Martin".

In April 1928, described as an English writer, Elise was reported as having been robbed of jewellery worth up to 150,000 francs.

Robbed by a hotel rat
Mrs Elise Martin, a woman of letters, of English nationality, has occupied an apartment located in a hotel on rue des Acacias for a year. Returning home the day before yesterday, around seven o'clock, Mrs. Martin noted the disappearance of several jewels.
The rich foreigner immediately notified M. Voinot, commissioner of police.
Mrs Martin told the magistrate that the day before yesterday morning, in a locked drawer of the chest of drawers in her bedroom, she had put away a box in which she had placed a platinum ring decorated with small diamonds and an emerald, worth to her only a hundred thousand francs, as well as a platinum brooch and diamonds worth fifty thousand francs. — Le Gaulois, 26 April 1928

By 1927 Virginia was in a relationship with Lucien Rosengart (1881-1976) a wealthy French engineer, 24 years her senior, who had a highly lucrative automobile production company.  He had licensed the designs for the diminutive British Austin Seven motor car and tried with somewhat less success to market the vehicle in the USA. An innovator, he claimed to have invented the front-wheel-drive car and table football!

Bobbie Martin
"Bobbie" Martin at a party at Cap d'Antibes with (at far left) Lucien Rosengart.  — L'Éclaireur du dimanche, 4 September 1927

"...what shall we say of Bobbie Martin, so fine and so mischievous who we have been assured, dreams only of theatre"

In 1928 photographs of Elise and her daughter in the same Rosengart car were printed in L'Auto and Excelsior.

Elise Martin in Rosengart Car
DEAUVILLE Mlle Elise Martin (Rosengart) a remporté un Grànd Prix — Miss Elise Martin (Rosengart) won a Grand Prix — L'Auto-vélo (Paris), 5 September 1928
Virginia Martin in Rosengart Car
Mlle Virginia Martin, qui vient de remporter, sur la nouvelle 5 CV L. Rosengart, le grand prix d'honneur avec félicitations du jury au concours d'élégance de Deauville. - Miss Virginia Martin, who has just won, in the new 5 CV L. Rosengart, the grand prize of honor with congratulations from the jury at the Deauville Concours d'Élégance. — Excelsior (Paris), 6 Sept 1928

A few weeks later Elise and Virginia (named in the article as "Mlle Virginia Bobbie Martin") were spotted at a high-society party, among the other guests listed were M. et Mme. C.i S. Rosengart-Faurel. this was probably pharmaceutical manufacturer Sylvain Rosengart (1878-1953, older brother of Lucien) and his wife Yvonne Famel (1891-1982).

It is not currently known if or when Lucien and Virginia officially married (one source says 1930), but they had a son together, Jean-Louis Rosengart (1932-2005).  In their son's birth certificate she is described as Rosengart's wife and her birthplace is again given as Rangoon.  On 8 July 1934 Virginia (a jew) and her son were baptised at Meulan. It is thought that Lucien Rosengart himself also converted to Catholicism and was baptised later in life.  

In a 1940 article, Elise claimed to be a sister-in-law of Lucien Rosengart, in fact, she was by then his late mother-in-law.6

When Virginia's former nursemaid Elizabeth Dowdell, now Mrs Fierer, attended the New York City premiere of the film A Night to Remember in February 1959, she reportedly stated that she was still in contact with the young girl she cared for on the Titanic and subsequently, saved, saying:

"I still correspond with the young girl I rescued from the Titanic, though she is now Mrs. Vera Hanson and lives in London."

Hanson was clearly an imposter.7  Virginia Ethel Emanuel had in fact died on 6 August 1936 at 10 avenue d'Iéna in Paris, aged only 30; her funeral was held at the church of St-Pierre de Chaillot and she was buried at Cimetière du Père-Lachaise in Paris on 8 August 1936 (2e division, 15/3e section, Avenue Principale).  The substantial mausoleum now appears to be derelict.

Rosengart Mausoleum
Rosengart Mausoleum at the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise
(Pierre-Yves Beaudouin / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Notes

  1. Several records give Virginia's birthplace as Rangoon, Burma, her birth was registered in New York City.
  2. John Alfred Deszo Marten (also spelled Martin) (b. 13 December 1882) was the son of Simon W. Marten (b. 1856 in Hungary) and his wife Estelle "Betty" Lachs (b. 1866 in Germany); he had come to Manhattan in 1897 where his father had lived intermittently since the early 1870s. Following his divorce from Virginia’s mother he lived with his parents, appearing with them on the 1910 census before he resettled in El Paso, Texas. On 29 January 1914 he remarried to Maude Lawson but died less than two months later on 10 March 1914.
  3. Stella Weil was born in Cincinatti, Ohio on 25 July 1885, the daughter of Solomon "Samuel" Jay Weil (1860-1934) and Celia, née Phillips (1862-1930). She had two brothers, Franklin Frederick Weil (1889–1969) and Gordon Jay Weil (1892–1947). 
    She had been living in Manhattan as early as 1900. She was an actress and aspiring singer later using various stage names including Estelle and Elise.
    After her marriage to Walter Emanual ended she remarried (in 1913 and using the name Elise Stella Martin) to eccentric Philadephia patent lawyer Harold Osgood Binney (born 1867). Binney, who had also been married before, was father to the well-known early film actresses Constance Binney (1896-1989) and Frederika 'Faire' Binney (1900-1957, who would later marry WW2 bomber ace Group Captain Leonard Cheshire).  Harold Binney was frequently in trouble with the police for reckless driving and even served time in prison.  After barely a year of marriage he died from a (presumably) accidental overdose of headache powders.  His unusual will, drafted in his cell, called for his body to be left to science if useful, or otherwise cremated and scattered among flowers. He was cremated.  A clause stressing his avowed agnosticism was excised at the request of his widow and executors.
    In about 1916 (or perhaps as early as 1914) Virginia's mother began a relationship with a British man named Donald Manners Davies. Davies was born in Simla, India on 26 May 1883 [curiously, Elise would in the 1920s often give Simla, India as her own birthplace].  He began his military career in the Royal Navy, rising to become a lieutenant commander. However his service record reveals that he was court-martialled and dismissed from the service in 1912. His misdemeanours seem to have included sleeping on duty, lying to officers and running-up an excessive wine bill. Upon leaving the Navy he obtained a masters' certificate to enable him to serve with the merchant marine.  When hostilities commenced in September 1914 he was allowed to enlist in the British Army. He was listed as a lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery and finally Captain in the 3rd battalion Wiltshire regiment of the British Army.  Davies died on 10 May 1917 as a result of an overdose of cyanide.  The beneficiary of his £602 6s estate was "Elise Martin Binney" who is listed in the probate report as a spinster.
    Tragic deaths of officers
    Poison suicide: killed at Victoria
    The tragic deaths of two officers were investigated by the Westminster coroner.
    It was found that Donald Manners Davies (33), formerly a captain in the R.F.A., committed suicide while of unsound mind by taking cyanide of potassium at Charing Cross Chambers, Duke Street.
    The widow [sic] said that they were married in 1914 [sic]. Formerly a lieutenant-commander in the Navy he retired on a pension, but obtaining a commission in the Wilts regiment on the outbreak of war was [promoted] to captain.
    He was soon invalided from France with shell shock, but recovering joined the R.F.A. and returned to France. Last April he was wounded in the head, and a recurrence of shellshock necessitated his leaving the army. He suffered from insomnia. - Belfast Telegraph, Saturday 12 May 1917
    Elise then remarried in London on 10 October 1919 to Paul Bolton Brewster, an American-born journalist. She gave her address as 46a Park Lane, London, with no profession.  She gave her age as 23 (she was 34) and her status as widow.  She filed for divorce from Brewster on 9 September 1921 citing his adultery with several unknown women and his violence and cruelty toward her including several physical assaults.  Virginia was mentioned in the divorce papers as "Ethel Martin of Brussels". 
    Her final husband was Vittorio Felisa whom she married in London on 12 December 1931.  In their marriage certificate Vittorio (30) says he is of independent means and his father a wine merchant named Amadeo Felisa.  Elise meanwhile states she is 30 (she was 46) and a spinster.  She gives the name Samuel Martin as her father and claims he was a Captain in the Welsh Regiment [Welch Regiment?] and is deceased.  The marriage was witnessed by "Riccardo Martin" and "E.J. Rawbone". The former may possibly be the opera singer Hugh Whitefield Martin who went by the name Riccardo Martin and the latter may be Edward James Rawbone, a deputy superintendent registrar, and therefore probably previously unknown to the couple and roped in for convenience.  He would, in 1936, be found decaptitated on a railway line in an apparent suicide.
    In 1939 when she returned to America aboard the Manhattan she gave Victor Felisa as her next of kin but described him as a friend and herself as single.  She later claimed to have suffered an accident on arrival that led to a prolonged hospital admission.
    By 1940 she was living in Los Angeles having seemingly separated from Vittorio Felisa6, and having transplanted her socialite lifestyle from Paris to California.  In America she seems to have taken to calling herself the Marquise Elise Della Felisa, but so far no aristocratic connections have been found whatsoever.
    In June of that year she was widely reported to have disrupted the marriage of a family friend in quite bizarre circumstances.  Having hosted a party at which the engagement was announced—the expected nuptuals being planned for the following month—it appears the couple tried to press ahead in haste. On discovering the plan the Marquise intervened to prevent the marriage proceeding by snatching the marriage licence before it could be signed, demanding that the couple wait until the bride's mother could attend.
    Later that year she was reported at a party at the "Beverly Hills Derby" [probably the "Brown Derby" Restaurant] with actresses Carmel Myers and Simone Simon; and is referred to in the book Confessions of a Scoundrel (1954) by Guido Orlando as having hosted a cocktail party attended by stars including Cary Grant and Carole Landis.
    Elise may also have continued acting; in December 1940 it was reported in the Los Angeles Daily News that a "French actress" and "former member of Theatre d'Odeon" Mlle. Felisa of Paris, had been recently signed by Kurt Robitschek to play in a stage production of "Triangle." The Los Angeles Times also reported her—described as a "French comedienne"— as appearing in Mark Linder's "Brainstorm" at the Trouper Theater.
    In August 1953 it was reported in The Cash Box music magazine that she had founded a record label "Della Records", with the intention to release "This is New York" and "Perquito" by Tony Iavello (Antone Peter Iavello, 1913-1955) and his 32 piece orchestra and chorus.  Presumably the venture was unsuccessful since the records were ultimately released by Maze records.
    Stella (Elise, Estella) Weil (Martin, Emanuel, Binney, Davies, Brewster, della Felisa) died of an apparent heart attack at the home of [probably] her niece Dixie Janssens (née Weil) in Van Nuys, California on 4 November 1959.
    In February 1960 furnishings from her 'estate' were auctioned in a sale that reportedly continued for three days.
  4. He stated he was an artist on his 1901 passport application in which he was described as standing at 5' 6¾" with dark brown hair, brown eyes and fair complexion and he had a square chin, oval face and straight nose. In his 1903 marriage certificate, he stated he was an electrical engineer.  In 1908 articles relating to his estrangement from Estelle and her being sued over some unpaid dressmaking bills, he was described a "real estate dealer".
  5. Walter Emanuel (aka George Walter Emanuel) was born in New York on 10 July 1879.  He was married to Florence [?] on 1 March 1906 (or 1 Dec 1906?).  Estelle Martin was named in the divorce suit alleging his adultery with her at several hotels.  After his separation or divorce from Estelle Martin he remarried, in 1913 to Edna Plass, they would have a daughter Ruth.  Walter Emanuel died in New York on 16 May 1929 and was buried at Mount Hope Cemetery, Long Island.
  6. In the 1930s up to at least 1943, there was a Rosengart car dealership named FELISA based at 152 Champs-Élysées, not far from the home of Elise and her then husband Vittorio Felisa.  In 1943 an advert appeared in L'Auto submitted by a V. Felisa looking to purchase cars. He was then living or doing business in Bonneuil-sur-Marne, a suburb of Paris.  He also ran a dealership in Clichy, Paris.
  7. See Unlisted Passengers and Crew - Vera Hanson

Titanic Passenger Summary

Name: Miss Virginia Ethel Emanuel (Martin)
Age: 6 years 6 months and 9 days (Female)
Nationality: American
Religion: Jewish
Embarked: Southampton on Wednesday 10th April 1912
Ticket No. 364516, £12 9s 6d
Rescued (boat 13)  
Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912
Died: Thursday 6th August 1936 in Paris, France aged 30 years
Buried: Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, Paris, France on Saturday 8th August 1936

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Research Articles

Titanica! (2018) Titanic: The Disappeared
Which Titanic survivors have never been found?

Newspaper Articles

New York Times (3 May 1908) Can't Pay for Her Gowns
Brooklyn Daily Eagle (3 May 1908) How Her Income Goes
New York Times (28 March 1909) Open Trial for Emanuel Divorce Suit
Jersey Journal (19 April 1912) Mother and Child Saved at Very Last
Hudson Dispatch (19 April 1912) TITANIC SURVIVORS TELL DRAMATIC STORY OF SEA'S GREATEST DISASTER IN HISTORY
Hudson Dispatch (20 April 1912) HARROWING TALE OF SCENES ON TITANIC BY MISS DOWDELL
Jersey Journal (20 April 1912) Hudson County Survivors Tell of Sea Tragedy
Union Hill Governess Gives Graphic Recital of Scenes After Giant Ship Hit Iceberg and Went Down
Hudson Observer (20 April 1912) Union Hill Woman Says Band Didn't Play on Titanic
Dundee Courier (4 June 1912) Lieutenant Court-Martialled
The Wave (7 December 1912) Titanic survivor here with aunt
Paterson Evening News (7 March 1913) N.Y. Lawyer and London Belle Quietly Wed Here
New York Tribune (3 April 1915) Man's Non-Belief Erased From Will
L'Éclaireur du dimanche (4 September 1927) Les Belles vacances de M. Rosengart [Un groupe joyeux]
L'Éclaireur du dimanche (4 September 1927) Les Belles vacances de M. Rosengart [Un jazz-band improvisé]
Comoedia (4 September 1927) Quelques invites de M. Rosengart a Juan-les Pins
L'Auto-vélo (5 September 1928) Mlle Elise Martin (Rosengart) a remporté un Grànd Prix
L'Excelsior  (6 September 1928) Au Concours d'Élégance de Deauville
Excelsior (Paris) (6 September 1928) Virginia Ethel Emanuel at Deauville in 1928
L'Automobile sur la Côte d'azur (10 September 1934) Premier Prix ex Oequo
Le Matin (8 August 1936) Death Notice (Virginia Martin [Rosengart])
Le Petit Parisien (12 August 1936) Le monde et la Ville — Remerciements [Mme Lucien Rosengart]
Los Angeles Evening Citizen News (29 May 1940) Marquise Seeks Hollywood Glamour 
Los Angeles Times (6 June 1940) Mrs. Colt and Campbell Heir in Soup as Marquise Halts Marriage Plans
Snatches marriage application from couple
L'Auto-vélo (12 June 1943) Felisa Advertisement
L. R. Swainson The Sydney Morning Herald (7 December 1957) Mystery of Miss Dowdell 
Van Nuys News (5 November 1959) King of Spain's Niece Dies Here
Los Angeles Times (7 February 1960) Estate Auction

Documents and Certificates

(1885) Cincinnati Birth and Death Records, 1865-1912, University of Cincinnati - (Stella Weil)
(1898) Naval Service Record of Donald Manners Davies, National Archives, Kew (ADM 196/48/120, ADM 196/143/190)
(1903) Marriage Certificate of John A. D. Marten and Estelle Weil
(1905) State of New York Certificate and Record of Birth - (Virginia Ethel Martin)
(1910) New Jersey, U.S., Marriage Index, 1901-2016 - (Walter Emanuel and Estelle Weil)
(1914) Texas Deaths, 1890-1976  - (John Marten)
(1931) Marriage Certificate of Vittorio Felisa and Elise Martin
(1932) Birth Certificate of Jean-Louis Rosengart
(1934) New York City Certificate of Death (Solomon J. Weil)
(1934) Baptism Certificate of Jean-Louis Rosengart and Virginia Martin, Diocese of Verseilles, Parish of Meulan
(1936) Death Certificate of Virginia Rosengart

Miscellaneous

United States Passport Applications, 1795-1925
1900, 1910 US Federal Census
California Death Index, 1940-1997
New York, New York City Births, 1846-1909
Rosengart Museum
UK Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960
Madeleine Arnold Tetard (2009) Les Chantiers Navals de Meulan Les Mureaux and Lucian Rosengart
Karina E L Fox (2013) Virginia Emanuel…A Titanic Mystery
Michel Delpech Geneanet (2021) Arbre généalogique Lucien Rosengart - Virginia Martin

Graves and Memorials

Pierre-Yves Beaudouin Rosengart Mausoleum (Cimetière du Père-Lachaise), Wikimedia Commons
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  1. Encyclopedia Titanica

    Encyclopedia Titanica said:

    This is Virginia Martin's son Jean-Louis Rosengart (1932-2005). Unfortunately, just a very small photo He suffered from severe mental illness for much of his life and was hospitalised more or less permanently from 1954-1992 when at the age of 60 he was moved to a home in St Malo. According to a brief biography of him although the Rosengart family paid for his care and endowed the hospital where he stayed it is said the family would deny there being any descendants, perhaps due to the stigma around mental illness at the time. Another view of the... Read full post

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Acknowledgements

Gavin Bell, UK
Michel Delpech
Peter Engberg-Klarström, Sweden
Michael A. Findlay, USA
Caroline Freedman
Hans Muesseler
Brian J. Ticehurst, UK