Francis Davis Millet

Francis Davis Millet

Mr Francis Davis Millet, 65, was born on 3 November 1846 in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts.

Accompanying his surgeon father to the Civil War, Millet served as a drummer boy to a Massachusetts regiment and later served as a surgical assistant. A brilliant student at Harvard, he became a reporter, then city editor, of the Boston Courier. From a pastime of lithography and portraiture of friends, he decided to devote himself to art. Entering the Royal Academy of Fine Arts at Antwerp, Belgium, he won an unprecedented silver medal in his first year and a gold medal in the second. A constant traveller, Millet kept his newspaper contacts open, and during the Russian-Turkish War he represented with distinction several American and English newspapers. He was decorated by Russia and Rumania for bravery under fire and services to the wounded. Millet's literary talents led him to publish accounts of his travels and, besides writing short stories and essays, he translated Tolstoy's Sebastopol.

Millet's work as a decorative artist includes the murals of the Baltimore Customs House, Trinity Church of Boston, and the Capitol Buildings of Wisconsin and Minnesota. His paintings are found in the Metropolitan Museum, New York City, and the Tate Gallery, London (see illustration above). In addition, his administrative skills, won him acclaim as superintendent of decoration at the World's Colombian Exhibition in Chicago (1893), and as organizer of the American Federation of the Arts for the National Academy. At a memorial for Millet in 1913, Senator Elihu Root said:

"He must have been born with a sense of the beautiful and a love for it, for he devoted his life to it....He was one of the most unassuming and unselfish of men....He was a man of great strength and force, decision and executive capacity....He always pressed on to the accomplishment of his purposes, purposes in which self was always subordinate...."

In 1912 Millet resided in East Bridgewater, Massachusetts. He boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg as a first class passenger (ticket number 13509, £26 11s) He occupied cabin E-38. He accompanied his friend Major Archibald Butt.

While on board the Titanic Millet wrote to a friend, the letter, which was posted in Queenstown. In the letter he complains about his fellow passengers:

Queer lot of people on the ship. There are a number of obnoxious, ostentatious American women, the scourge of any place they infest and worse on shipboard than anywhere".

He also observed a number of passengers that had brought their pets with them:

"Many of them carry tiny dogs, and lead husbands around like pet lambs."

Millet died in the sinking, his body was recovered from the sea by the crew of the MacKay Bennett (#249):

NO. 249 - MALE - ESTIMATED AGE, 65 - HAIR, GREY 

CLOTHING - Light overcoat; black pants; grey jacket; evening dress

EFFECTS - Gold watch and chain; "F.D.M." on watch; glasses; two gold studs; silver tablet bottle; £2 10s in gold; 8s in silver; pocketbook

NAME - FRANK D. MILLET (?)

The body was forwarded to Boston and buried at East Bridgwater Central Cemetery.


Courtesy of Michael A. Findlay, USA

Mr Millet's story was told in a limited edition biography published privately by Joyce Sharpey-Schafer: "Soldier of Fortune: F.D. Millet," (The volume is now out-of-print.) And in Washington DC a memorial was erected to his memory and that of his friend Major Butt.

References and Sources

Hudson Observer, 17 April 1912, Millet, the Artist, is Reported among the many Drowned
Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55[279])
Brian Ticehurst (1996) Titanic''s Memorials World-wide: Where they are Located. ISBN 1 871733 05 7

Research Articles

Brian Hartig Titanica! (2013) Titanic's Bulgarian Links
The Story of the Bulgarians on Titanic; how they emigrated and the Bulgarian emigration environment existent around the turn of the 19th Century

Newspaper Articles

Unidentified Newspaper BODY OF ARTIST MILLET CREMATED
Unidentified Newspaper BRIDE WALKS BESIDE CASKET OF HUSBAND
Titanic Commutator Fate Deals a Hand
New York Times (3 March 1912) MAJOR BUTT'S SUIT A WONDER
Washington Times (16 March 1912) Francis D. Millet, Soldier, Painter, And Connoisseur
New York Times (17 March 1912) J. P. MORGAN IN ROME
New York Times (31 March 1912) ROME NOW CROWDED
New York Times (4 April 1912) MORGAN VISION OF ART
New York Times (7 April 1912) Americans in Rome
Brockton Daily Enterprise (15 April 1912) Brockton And Stoughton Men Aboard Titanic
Chicago American (16 April 1912) 300 OF TITANIC'S PASSENGERS WERE BOOKED AT PARIS
New York Times (16 April 1912) FRANK D. MILLET'S CAREER
Washington Times (16 April 1912) LIST OF WASHINGTONIANS ON FATED STEAMER GROWS
Washington Times (16 April 1912) President and Friends Of Major Butt Fear He Went Down With Ship
Washington Times (16 April 1912) PRESIDENT'S AIDE AMONG PASSENGERS ON CRIPPLED SHIP
Newark Evening News (16 April 1912) TEN FROM THIS STATE ON TITANIC
Hudson Observer (17 April 1912) MILLET, THE ARTIST, IS REPORTED AMONG THE MANY DROWNED
New York Times (17 April 1912) NEW VERSION OF BUTT'S TRIP
Newark Star (17 April 1912) Three of Ten Jersey Passengers Are Safe
Washington Times (18 April 1912) CAPITAL RESIDENTS IN NEW YORK FOR CARPATHIA'S COMING
By The Associated Press Worcester Telegram (18 April 1912) For New Bedford Library
CAPT. R. [sic] H. ROSTRON Washington Herald (19 April 1912) CAPT. ROSTRON TELLS OF RESCUE
Washington Times (19 April 1912) DEATH OF MAJOR BUTT MOURNED BY WASHINGTONIANS
Aberdeen Daily Journal (20 April 1912) Mr. F. D. Millet
New York Times (21 April 1912) PEACE MEN MOURN THEIR LOSS
Toronto Daily Star (25 April 1912) TITANIC SURVIVOR ARRIVES
Widow says husband at the rail with Butt and Millet at the end
New York Times (28 April 1912) MILLET MEMENTOS IN ROME
New York Times (2 May 1912) Funeral Service for Millet
New York Times (3 May 1912) MILLET'S BODY CREMATED
New York Times (31 May 1912) BUTT-MILLET MEMORIAL
New York Times (9 June 1912) FOR BUTT-MILLET MEMORIAL
New York Times (23 August 1912) For Butt-Millet Titanic Memorial
New York Times (5 December 1912) COL. GRACIE DIES, HAUNTED BY TITANIC
New York Times (15 December 1912) PAINTING FOR BUTT FUND
The Washington Post (16 January 1913) TITANIC CLAIMS $10,000,000
New York Times (19 June 1913) MONUMENT TO BUTT SOON
New York Times (24 October 1913) FOR BUTT-MILLET MEMORIAL (1)
Evening News (5 August 1986) Millet
Evening News (24 January 1988) Frank Millet

Images

Francis Davis Millet Gravestone
King's Notable New Yorkers Frank Davis Millet
Millet's little artist studio in East Bridgewater on Plymouth Rd.
Woman on Divan - painting by Francis Davis Millet
(1913) The Butt-Millet Memorial Fountain, 1913

Documents and Certificates

(1912) Marconigram : From: Winfield Thompson
(1912) Probate Reports

Letters and Diaries

John Lamoreau (1912) Letter from F.D. Millet and the New Bedford Library
(1912) Letter to his old friend Alfred Parsons

Graves and Memorials

Various Memorials (7)
Search archive online

Comment and discuss

  1. Randy Bryan Bigham said:

    Here are URLs for images of paintings and other works by Francis David Millet: painting, "The Window Seat" (1893)- painting, "Between Two Fires" (date ?)- photo, Frank Millet in 1893 photo, Panama Canal Completion Medal by Millet (1914)- photo, General Warren stained glass window at Memorial Hall, Harvard University, by Millet for Tiffany (date?)- photo, World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 prize boat named the "F.D. Millet" - painting, "F.D. Millet House and Garden" by Sargeant (date?)- Mark Twain painted by Frank Millet. Mark Twain... Read full post

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  2. Randy Bryan Bigham said:

    This is a wonderful portrait. I'd read Twain was painted by Millet but had never seen it. I should have known it would be in Hannibal!

  3. Randy Bryan Bigham said:

    National Portrait Gallery link to Francis Davis Millet bio & portrait as young man: [ATTACH... Read full post

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  4. avatar

    Shelley Dziedzic said:

    The Lipkin link is absolutely BRILLIANT in layout and content- drop everything this instant and GO there! I love his quote about ostentatious women with little dogs leading husbands around like pet lambs aboard Titanic. Also was charmed with his painting "Wandering Thoughts"- I can identify -being one of the pew-warmer set! Thanks for all those luscious links.

  5. Bob Godfrey said:

    Frank Millet excelled in two fields, first as a journalist and war correspondent, later as an artist. His preferred subject was people, usually in groups, and his preferred style was one of almost photographic precision rather than impressionism, as seen in this example. He was well known as an artist in his own time and remains so. I daresay that most people who admire his work have no idea how he died, and would admire it no less if he'd passed away peacefully in his own bed. Ask an average member of the public to name an artist who was lost on the Titanic and the only name they will... Read full post

  6. Guest (R17) said:

    wow he was good ! Can you get glossy books of his work - is he in that class of being known ?

  7. Bob Godfrey said:

    Well, he's not up there with the likes of Van Gogh and Rembrandt, and painting of this kind is much less fashionable these days when abstract and impressionist works are most in demand. Millet's paintings are on display in National collections like the Tate Gallery and the Metropolitan in New York, and you might find a pic or two in a glossy art history, but I doubt there are any books devoted solely to his work. If you want the real thing, you'd certainly need to pay at least a five-figure price. Well within the budget of a man of means like yourself, Miles, and don't forget that with... Read full post

  8. avatar

    Jon Hollis said:

    > [I did quite a story about Frank Millet for T.I Some years ago. He amongs't other thing basica;;y invented Air Brushing back during the Chicago Worlds Fair. He also worked with LeFarge for the Trinity Church in Boston. His murals are still around in some Post Offices and State Government Buildings. If anyone is ever in East Bridgewater Mass, the Library there has a huge painting of his and all kinds of research materials. I had the pleasure of interviewing some of his realtives who had some of his paintings in the house but were not signed. I also was lucky enough to get to Broadway in the... Read full post

  9. avatar

    Dave Gittins said:

    Millet was very skilful. He was especially good at depicting fabrics and loved to paint women wearing long, full skirts with many folds. However, I'm sorry to say that he was one of the chocolate box school of painters. He painted things that were popularly considered 'arty' and they are almost always drawn from times other than his own. His A Difficult Duet depicts musicians of Mozart's time and his well-known Between Two Fires is a 17th century scene. He's really a pretty minor figure. Quite a number of his paintings are online, so judge for yourselves.

  10. avatar

    Kyrila Scully said:

    Try contacting ArtPrintCollection.com. While they do not currently offer Frank Millet's paintings, if you ask them to find some, they will go out of their way to do it. I wouldn't mention his connection to Titanic, unless you want them to raise the price of the print. Kyrila

  11. Brian R Peterson said:

    To Miles, No, I was not smoking dope at the time and I do not like the inference you make - that was both crass and uncalled for. Brian

  12. avatar

    Jon Hollis said:

    Brian, at least Miles didn't call you an Accordian Player (ref. AC). I have found quite a bit of sidebar wise cracks on this forum some even from the "administrators" so your not alone.

  13. Brian R Peterson said:

    wise cracks aside, the comment made was downright rude.

  14. avatar

    Inger Sheil said:

    It's a good idea to avoid jokes like that when you're not familiar with your interlocutor - even when meant without any malice, the humour is not always appreciated. A good deal of banter goes on with the board, but sometimes offence - even unintentional - can be caused. I tend to agree with Dave G and Bob's assesment - there's certainly skill in his work and it is pleasant and decorative, but he's not in the forefront of innovative painters. His work reminds me quite a bit of Millais' later, post Pre-Raphaelite works...accomplished and commercially successful. If not exactly challenging... Read full post

  15. Randy Bryan Bigham said:

    David wrote: "He's really a pretty minor figure." Actually David that is not so. He was absolutely a very major figure in the arts. He was not as famous as a painter as he was as an administrator and organizer but he was exceptionally well-known and highly respected, both as a personality and as an artist. His influence can be seen in many aspects of the art world of his day, even beyond his own personal output. Millet is a figure whose life and work are waiting to be rediscovered by a sensitive biographer. As in the case of Archie Butt and others whose lives ended on Titanic, Millet... Read full post

  16. Brian R Peterson said:

    Hi Inger, I would really like to hear someone knowledgeable in these areas, I also have longer more more detailed stories of the events of the tunnels but they are irrelevant here, though I would love to share via email. Best Regards, Brian

  17. avatar

    Shelley Dziedzic said:

    Actually Millet, sad to say is vastly underrated, unknown today, and under- appreciated by nearly everyone. He was coming back early on Titanic with Butt because he had to attend a meeting in Washington involving the placement of French's Lincoln Memorial. He was consulted on many important decisions of national stature and served on numerous commissions and boards. There were few artists of the time better-connected than Millet, or more talented in the genre of easel paintings, -murals were his forte, and the Custom House harbor mural in Baltimore is considered a masterpiece of muralists... Read full post

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  18. avatar

    Michael H. Standart said:

    Looks to me like the man had a taste for the everyday sort of subjects. Not the "Beautiful People" but everyday Joes and Janes going about their business if the above two are any indication. I'm wondering if there's a website out there or a book with some of his work featured there.

  19. Randy Bryan Bigham said:

    As I said, apart from the impact his own work had on American art, Millet's influence (as a friend and an artist) is seen in the works of others. As a leader of England's Broadway art colony, which prospered in the late 19th century, Millet's eye for beauty in nature can be seen best in a masterpiece of his contemporary and companion, John Singer Sargent. This painting, "Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose" was executed in the lush gardens of Millet's beautiful homes, Farnham and Russell, in the years 1885-86. Here is a detail of this great work, showing two little girls lighting paper... Read full post

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Credits

George Behe, USA
Frederica Romeo Burgess
Lee Dixon
Vincent Riley
Hermann Söldner, Germany
Craig Stringer, UK
Geoff Whitfield, UK

Link and cite this biography

Encyclopedia Titanica (2017) Francis Davis Millet (ref: #207, last updated: 7th September 2017, accessed 24th July 2021 18:15:20 PM)
URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-victim/francis-davis-millet.html

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