Encyclopedia Titanica

Jakob Birnbaum

Jakob Birnbaum
Jakob Birnbaum

Jakob Birnbaum was born on 24 August 1887 in Krakow, Austria (today's Poland) the second of 9 children to Joachim Birnbaum and Theophilia (Cypres) Birnbaum.

His parents were Jeruchim (Joachim; b. 15 August 1856 at Krakow, d. 26 April 1931 in Antwerp, Belgium) and Theophila (Chaja Tuba; nee Cypres, b. 27 September 1863 at Krakow, Austria, d. 25 December 1946 in New York) Birnbaum, who had married 25 December 1883, apparently at Krakow). Jakob's place of birth was Krakow, Austria, which, at the time, was called Krakau.

His known siblings were: Hirsch (Henri) Birnbaum, 1886-1977, Lobel, b. 1886, Adela (1888-1984), Michael (1890-1984), Berta (b. 1892), Samuel Jozef (Sylvain; 1894-1967), Leopold Peretz (1895-1990), Agusta (1897-1943), Bala (1897-1970), and Alexander (b. 1 October 1903, d. May 1986 in San Francisco).

He was the head of the diamond firm of Jacob Birnbaum & Co. of San Francisco. His European address was 11, Rue Membling, Antwerp, according to the White Star Line.

In 1910, he lived as a boarder in the household of Ernest and Sophie Dreyfuss at 47 West 117th Street in Manhattan, New York City, and was registered as a diamonds dealer who had come to the USA in 1909.

In 1912, Mr Birnbaum had been to Antwerp for business and should have been back to the US before April, 1912, but was persuaded by his family to stay for the Jewish holiday Passover.

Jakob had booked passage with another company, but due to the coal strike in England, his passage was transferred to the Titanic which he boarded at Cherbourg (ticket number 13905, £26).

According to his descendants, Jakob's family pleaded with him not to take a ship on its maiden voyage, but Jakob reassured his family that the ship was billed as "unsinkable."

Birnbaum died in the sinking, his body was recovered by the MacKay Bennett (#148).


CLOTHING - Light grey overcoat; blue pajamas.

EFFECTS - Gold glasses; gold ring marked "J. B."; 2 pairs tweezers; 2 bunches keys; 1 gold watch chain; scissors; papers; nail file; 2 memo books; pocket knife; diamond solitaire tie pin; purse.


SAN FRANCISCO, April 22. - Public Administrator Hines applied for letters of administration this morning on the estate of Jakob Birnbaum, head of the firm of Birnbaum & Co., who lost his life in the wreck of the steamship Titanic on April 15. It is believed that diamonds to the amount of $100,000, which he was bringing to this country, were lost. Birnbaum & Co. are located at 704 Market street in this city and the manager received a cable from Birnbaum to the effect that he was taking passage on the Titanic. His name was not among the list of survivors and it is believed that he has been lost. The estate consists of diamonds in the vaults in the local office and securities in the safe deposit box at the Union Trust Company.'' (Oakland Tribune, 22 April 1912, p. 

The body was forwarded on 6 May 1912 to Mr Joachim Binbaum, c/o Red Star Line, Pier 60, New York City and repatriated to Belgium on the Vaderland 1 May 1912. He was returned to the Netherlands to receive eternal burial rights (a Jewish requirement).

He was buried at the Jewish Cemetery in Putte, Holland, across the Belgian border. Atop his grave, is a ship - a symbolic reminder of the Titanic disaster. The inscription on his tombstone reads:

Here lies a well-educated young man.
May his memory rest in peace.
He was the son of Jerucham Birnbaum of Krakow, aged 25 years.
He was drowned in the Titanic shipwreck on the 28th day of Nissan.
His body was rejected by the sea 12 days later amd was brought home to be buried on the eve of Shavouot in the year 5,672.
God, whose laws and judgments are full of pity.
Young and wise man drowned in the deep of the sea found his tomb among those who inhabit the earth of the Messiah.
In heaven his name shall resuscitate.

May he share eternal life. (2)

A gold watch was found on Jakob's body. The family had it repaired and engraved "Tytanic [sic] April 1912 Jakob Birnbaum."


1. In the original records his first and last name are mistakenly reversed. His first is sometimes spelt "Jacob".
2. The expression well-educated meant that he had been instructed in the Jewish faith. Krakow is the city in Poland in which the family originated; Nissan corresponds with the month of April. Shavouot is a Jewish religious holiday in May. 5,672 in Hebrew corresponds with the year 1912.

References and Sources

Edward P. De Groot (1996) Titanic Uitgeverij De Alk B.V.

Newspaper Articles

San Francisco Examiner (19 April 1912) Hope is Lost for Jacob Birnbaum

Documents and Certificates

Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912, National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55[279]).
Search archive online

Comment and discuss

  1. Scott Lichtman

    Scott Lichtman

    An ancestor of mine, , was a first class passenger on the Titanic who did not survive the accident. My family has been telling me he was onboard for some time, but this is the only web site I have found that lists him as a passenger - perhaps he bought a ticket at the last minute. While I'm attempting to get more information from my family, knowledge as this point is very scarce and I'm hoping to find anyone else who might on the off-chance have related information. This would include other... Read full post

  2. sara

    While surfing through your wonderful web site, I came across a first-class passenger named Jakob Birnbaum. Because he has the same last name as me, I am intrigued as to who he is and what his story is. I was wondering where I could look for more information on this passenger. I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you. I'd also just like to add that this is the best Titanic website I have found. It doesn't completely focus on the new movie, which I greatly appreciate. Don't get me wrong, I thought it was definitely a great movie, but I'm more interested in the real stories of real... Read full post

  3. Mike Herbold

    I'm trying to learn more about San Francisco resident and diamond merchant, Jakob Birnbaum. What was his San Francisco address? What was the name and address of his store or business? Who settled his affairs in San Francisco? Would also like to contact ET contributor and relative, Scott Lichtman. Mike Herbold

  4. Mike Poirier

    There was a decent article about Birnbaum in Titanic International's Voyage 27.

  5. Mike Herbold

    Thanks, Michael. I've got that issue, but it doesn't list a San Francisco address. I received the SF business address offline but am still looking for a San Francisco home address. Mike

  6. Jan C. Nielsen

    Here's an obituary and photograph on Jakob Birnbaum, a San Francisco resident at the time of the disaster, and I believe in his biography (on this ET site) he is described as an orthodox Jew. There is also a thread on this site about "."

  7. Jan C. Nielsen

    Here's a photograph of the obituary for Jakob Birnbaum, which appeared in the San Francisco Examiner on April 19, 1912: content.communities.msn.com Birnbaum was a diamond broker. Interestingly, I read on this site that a person's body was recovered by the Mackay-Bennett with diamonds sewn into his coat. I'm wondering who that was. Apparently, it was not Birnbaum.

  8. Michael Findlay

    Hi Jan, Thanks for the Birnbaum link. The diamonds that you mentioned were found upon the body of Austin van Billiard, a third-class passenger enroute to North Wales, Pennsylvania. Van Billiard, a diamond prospector, died with his two sons in the sinking. I hope this helps. Mike Findlay

  9. Rolf Vonk

    Rolf Vonk

    Hi there, Jan, this is the first time I see a picture of Jakob Birnbaum. Interesting, as he had Belgian and Dutch connections. Thank you very much! Rolf

  10. Ben Holme

    Hi Jan, Many thanks for the link. I'm delighted to finally to see a picture of Jakob Birnbaum. I'm being truly spoiled this week. Photographs and additional infromation regarding many of the passengers are being sent to me from some exceedingly generous descendants. Senan Molony's book "The Irish Aboard Titanic" came through the post yesterday. I have been engrossed in reading it into the wee hours! It has certainly been revelations aplenty on the Titanic front this week for me. Keep then coming! Best Regards, Ben

Reply Watch Thread

Titanic Passenger Summary

Name: Mr Jakob Birnbaum
Age: 24 years 7 months and 22 days (Male)
Nationality: Polish
Religion: Jewish
Marital Status: Single
Occupation: Diamond Dealer
Embarked: Cherbourg on Wednesday 10th April 1912
Ticket No. 13905, £26
Died in the Titanic disaster (15th April 1912)
Body recovered by: Mackay-Bennett (No. 148)
Buried: Jewish Cemetery, Putte, Netherlands

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