Mr Leo Peter Van den Steen, 28, was born on 6th July, 1883. His family were local bakers in Heldergem, and lived near the De Pelsmaeker and Lievens families. In 1912, the bakery business was failing. Because of increasing poverty in Belgium many people were baking their own bread rather than buying it.
There were six children in the Van den Steen family. Two sons, Leo and Henri, both single, decided to emigrate to America to open a bakery there. The brothers travelled with friends Alphonse De Pelsmaeker and René Lievens. When the brothers reached Southampton to board the Titanic, they mailed a postcard to their family. Soon after, Henri Van den Steen was refused permission to board by the White Star Line doctor because he appeared to suffering from trachoma. The sudden change of plans forced the Van den Steen brothers to part on the pier. Henri told his brother to take his baggage as he would follow on a later ship.
Leo boarded the Titanic alone (ticket number 345783, £9 10s), and died along with his friends when the ship went down. His body, if recovered, was never identified.
Henri Van den Steen had just arrived back home in Belgium when news of the Titanic disaster reached the village. Shattered by the loss of his brother, he decided not to carry out his original plans to open a bakery in the U.S. Instead, he relocated to France and set up a bakery near Paris. He married a French woman but had no children. He often thought of the same fate he might have shared had he accompanied his brother aboard the Titanic.
Michael A. Findlay, USA
Georges Picavet, Belgium
Kassandra Picavet, Belgium
References and SourcesMichael Findlay Revised Passenger List in Judith Geller Titanic: Women and Children First. Haynes. ISBN 1 85260 594 4
Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55)
Herman De Wulf and Michael A. Findlay (1998) The Belgians and the Titanic. Voyage. #27