Mr William Ernest Carter

William Ernest Carter

Mr William Ernest Carter was born in Paris, France, on 19 June 1875.1

He was the son of Cornelia Miranda Redington (1846-1934) and William Thornton Carter (1827-1893).

He had two siblings: Helen Redington (b. 1870) and Alice (b. 1878). A third sister Alice Grace died only two months after her birth in 1876.

He was educated at private school and at the University of Pennsylvania. Mr Carter was a sportsman and an expert polo player. He was also a member of the Pennsylvania Society Sons of the Revolution, of the Radnor Hunt, Philadelphia Country and St. Anthony clubs .

William married Lucile Polk of Baltimore, daughter of William Stewart Polk and Louise Anderson Polk, on 29 January 1896 in Baltimore. At the beginning of their marriage the young couple settled at 1910 Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, but after their country place, “Gwedna”2, Bryn Mawr, became their main home and a place of magnificent receptions and dinners.

They had two children: Lucile Polk (b. 20 October 1897) and William Thornton 2nd (b. 14 September 1900).

Quickly William and Lucile Carter became part of the New York-Philadelphia fashionable and cosmopolitan set, which included the Astors, Vanderbilts, Wideners, Goelets and Drexels. Usually, they spent the summer in Newport, Rhode Island, where in 1901 they bought a cottage “Quatrefoil” in Narragansett Avenue.

The family travelled extensively in Europe, especially in England, where they sojourned for protracted periods. The ship lists furnish proof of their voyages in 1902, 1904-1906, 1907, 1908-1910. On 20 February 1906, at the first Royal levee of the season, Whitelaw Reid, United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom, presented William E. Carter to King Edward VII.

In May 1911 the Carter family sailed on the Lusitania for England once again. They participated in the Coronation celebration of Their Majesties King George V and Queen Mary and the London season. In winter William Carter rented Rotherby Manor, in Melton-Mowbray district, Leicestershire, to attend the hunting season.

In March 1912 the family decided to come back in America and made reservations on the Olympic, departing from Southampton on 3 April. At the last minute, they changed their plans and booked cabins on Titanic.

Mr Carter boarded the Titanic at Southampton as a first class passenger together with his wife Lucile Carter and their children Lucile and William. They held ticket no. 113760 (£120) and occupied cabins B-96 and 98. Also travelling were Mrs Carter's maid Augusta Serreplaà, Mr Carter's manservant Alexander Cairns and, travelling in second class, Carter's chauffeur Augustus Aldworth.

Lying in the forward hold of the Titanic, and listed on the cargo manifest, was Carter's 25 horsepower Renault automobile. It is listed as a case so perhaps the car was not fully assembled. Mr Carter was a car enthusiast, in 1907 he possessed a 45 horsepower Mercedes limousine and a large Mercedes touring car.  He also brought with him two dogs: the family Airedale terrier and Mrs Carter Pekinese spaniel, probably named Me Too.3  He would later claim $5000 for the car and $100 and $200 for the dogs.

On the night of 14 April the Carters joined an exclusive dinner party held in honour of Captain Smith in the à la carte restaurant. The host was George Widener and the party was attended by many notable first class passengers. Later, after the ladies had retired and Captain Smith had departed for the bridge, the men chatted and played cards in the smoking room.

After the collision, the Carters joined some of the other prominent first-class passengers as they waited for the boats to be prepared for lowering.

When William Carter had seen his family safely into lifeboat 4 he joined Harry Widener and advised him to try for a boat before they were all gone. But Harry replied that he would rather take a chance and stick with the ship.

Widener might well have taken Carter's advice, for he lost his life while Mr Carter was eventually able to escape. At around 2 a.m. he was standing near the officer's quarters. Collapsibles A and B remained lashed to the roof but boats C and D had been freed and were being loaded. At one point a group of men desperately tried to rush boat C. Purser Herbert McElroy fired his pistol and the culprits were removed. Loading with women and children progressed but eventually no more could be found and as the boat was released for lowering Carter and another man stepped in. The other passenger was Joseph Bruce Ismay.

William Carter arrived at the Carpathia ahead of his family and waited on the deck straining to see boat 4 which held his wife and two children. When it finally arrived William did not recognize his son under a big ladies hat and called out for him, according to some sources John Jacob Astor had placed the hat on the boy and explained that he was now a girl and should be allowed into the boat, other sources suggest, the more likely scenario that it was his mother in response to Chief Second Steward George Dodd's order that no more boys were to enter lifeboat 4.

On 5 June 1912, Mr Carter was seriously injured in a polo game. He sustained a fractured skull but recovered after several weeks.

In 1914 Mr and Mrs Carter were divorced. William Carter continued to go back and forth between Europe and the United States during the next years at least until the 1930s.

The 1919 and 1921 passport applications described Mr Carter as standing at 4' 10½" and with a medium mouth, high forehead, square chin, prominent nose, oval face and with brown-grey hair and grey eyes and a ruddy complexion.

After the divorce, the Bryn Mawr mansion was sold and Mr Carter lived at “Ivy Cottage” Rosemont, Pa, and then he moved to “Gwedna Farm”, Unionville, Pa.

Mr Carter died in Florida on 20 March 1940. He was buried in a huge mausoleum at West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. 

Courtesy of Michael A. Findlay, USA



William Carter 1919 passport

Articles and Stories

New York Times (1940) 
West Palm Beach Inquirer (1940) 
New York Times (1934) 
New York Times (1914) 
New York Times (1914) 
New York Times (1912) 
New York Times (1912) 
Evening Telegram (1912) 
The Greenwich News (1912) 
Washington Times (1912) 
Coventry Standard (1912) 
Newark Evening News (1912) 
Newark Evening News (1912) 
La Presse (1912) 
Washington Times (1912) 
Elizabeth Daily Journal (1912) 
Ship to Shore 


Phillip Gowan, USA
Matteo Marcato
Hermann Söldner, Germany
Craig Stringer, UK
Alan Tucker, UK
Geoff Whitfield, UK


  1. The 1919 and 1921 Passport Applications report his birth place as Philadelphia, whereas the book, written by his mother about Redington family, reports Paris, France. Cornelia M. Redington Carter, John Redington of Topsfield, Massachusetts, and some of his descendants, with notes on the Wales family, Boston, 1909, p. 29.
  2. The name is variously written “Gwenda” or, more frequently, “Gwedna”.
  3. The name of the Pekinese spaniel seems to be the same of a second dog bought in England in 1913, variously spelled “Me Too” or “He Too”.

References and Sources

Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55[279])
John P. Eaton & Charles A. Haas (1994) Titanic: Triumph & Tragedy, 2nd ed. Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1 85260 493 X
Walter Lord (1976) A Night to Remember. London, Penguin. ISBN 0 14 004757 3
Don Lynch & Ken Marschall (1992) Titanic: An Illustrated History. London, Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0 340 56271 4
Hopkinsville Kentuckian, August 19, 1913, p. 6, col. 2-3; 
New York Herald, May 11, 1911, p. 12, col. 3.
New York Tribune, July 8, 1912, p. 6, col. 7.
Redington Carter C. M. 1909, p. 25, 29.
The Duluth Evening Herald, February 20, 1906, p. 4, col. 4.
The Evening Star, January 29, 1896, p. 2, col. 5.
The Evening World, July 11, 1913, p. 3, col. 6. 
The Leicester Daily Mercury, November 6, 1911, p. 2, col. 5.
The New York Times, June 23, 1911.
The Philadelphia Inquirer, December 11, 1929, p. 14, col. 1.
The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 2, 1898, p. 8, col. 5.
The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 7, 1915, p. 9, col. 1.
The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 9, 1907, p. 11, col. 1.
The Sun, June 6, 1912, p. 1, col. 6.
The Virginia Enterprise, August 16, 1901, p. 6, col. 6.

Link and cite this biography

(2018) William Ernest Carter Encyclopedia Titanica (ref: #55, updated 7th June 2018 11:52:26 AM)

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