On May 13, 1865, Walter Chamberlain Porter was born to Mr. & Mrs. Samuel Porter in the old Porter home on Benefit St. Worcester, Massachusetts. He attended Worcester Public Schools and after went to work for his father, at the Samuel Porter Last Manufacturing Company, 25 Union St., Worcester, MA, learning the last making business. (A shoe last is the 'mold' to which every individually designed shoe is built around. Commonly in 1912, they were made of iron or wood. The Porter's manufactured wood shoe lasts. Today shoe lasts are commonly made from plastics.)
While a young man of 21 years of age, Mr. Porter secured a leave of absence from his work and cruised from Boston through the West Indies to South American waters aboard a large sloop-rigged pleasure yacht with friends. At that time, he narrowly escaped from being shipwrecked during a hurricane. As Mr. Porter told the story to his friends and members of his family, the boat was partially dismasted and was tossed about on a wild sea for several days.
Mr. Porter's widow, Mrs. Mabel Porter said she had understood, from her husband's version of the trip, while the yacht was not altogether wrecked, the party had the narrowest kind of escape.? It was a pleasure boat of good size for those days, " said Mrs. Porter " I think the boat's size saved it from the storm." Upon his return he went back to work for his father and remained in the business until 1891, when he retired to the country and opened a grocery store in Holden, MA. (Holden is located on the outskirts of Worcester).
His early training however, asserted itself strongly and he returned again to work for his father, this time as a sales manager of the firm. Mr. Porter became a partner in 1897. On August 1,1903, Mr. Porter and Walter E. Bigelow, a lifelong friend, bought out the business. Mr. Porter took charge of the sales department and Mr. Bigelow assumed charge of the manufacturing end of the business. Each year saw the business of the company increase and the sales territory steadily spreading throughout North America and Europe.
European orders came unsolicited for more than three years, and it was the direct result of such business that led Mr. Porter to find time to make a business tour of that country to further strengthen the business relations which had been established. It was his first foreign business trip, made to acquaint a growing number of European customers with a member of the firm and get ideas to further increase its foreign business market. He sailed from Boston, aboard the Megantic, another White Star liner, on February 20, 1912 with his two travelling companions: George Quincy Clifford, president of the George E. Belcher Last Co., of Stoughton ,MA and John Edward Maguire of the Dunbar Pattern Co., Brockton, MA.
While abroad the three businessmen had visited trade centres of England, Germany, France, Austria and other European countries. Mr. Porter's last letter home was an optimistic one but carried with it a tinge of homesickness. He wrote that while he was in excellent health and his pleasure trips had been incidental nature, he very much wanted to return home to Massachusetts.
"The coal strike is serious," Mr. Porter wrote to business partner and friend, Walter E. Bigelow on March 31, 1912, "but the officers of the White Star line assure us that the Titanic will sail April 10 on schedule time. I have had a fine trip, enjoyed every minute of it, and have found business prospects quite bright, but how do I wish it was today instead of the 10th of April that I was going to sail for home."
Walter C. Porter, George Q. Clifford and John E. McGuire boarded the Titanic as first class passengers. Clifford and Porter held ticket no. 110465, ( £ 52) Porter occupied cabin C-110, Maguire was in the next-door cabin, C-108 and Clifford was in A-14. All three men perished in the tragedy. Mr. Porter's body was discovered after the sinking by the MacKay Bennett (#207). Both Mr.Maguire's and Mr.Clifford's bodies were not recovered.
NO. 207. - MALE. - ESTIMATED AGE, 40. LIGHT MUSTACHE AND - HAIR.
CLOTHING - Green overcoat; dark suit; blue cardigan; blue silk pajamas.
EFFECTS - Gold ring on right hand; gold with diamond on left; glasses in case; 2 fountain pens; silver match box; diamond pin; knife; keys; diamond ring; glasses; memo with pocket book; tie clip; 2s. 6d.; letter case; gold wedding ring.
FIRST CLASS PASSENGER.
NAME - WALTER C. PORTER.
Mr. Waldo E. Sessions, of George Sessions Sons Co., Worcester, MA., undertakers , was sent to take charge of Mr. Porter's body in Halifax from the Curling rink. Mr. Sessions had a letter of introduction to the medical examiner of Halifax , Dr. Finn, from Dr. David Lovell, who was Dr. Finn's roommate at Columbia college. "The White star line people are giving the people there every possible courtesy and the officials and all the people of Halifax are extremely courteous. The hotels are all crowded and the city is packed with people," said Mr. Sessions, "I was surprised to find Mr. Porter's body in such a fine state of preservation. Everybody is trying to assist in the identification of bodies and in getting them to parts of the country where they belong. All the ordinary red tape accompanying the transportation of bodies through the country is being waived to railroads and state officials. Usually there are strict laws to be complied with and hermetically sealed caskets are demanded by the law in the transportation of bodies on trains. All of this is being waived by the officials and it helps greatly."
Mr. Porter's body was released on April 30, 1912 and was returned to Worcester, by train, for burial in Hope Cemetery, on Webster St., next to his parents and late first wife, Louise. Mr. Porter was twice married. His first wife was Louise Philips, daughter of Oscar E. Philips of the Heywood Boot & Shoe Co, Worcester, MA. She died in 1905. Eighteen months later Mr. Porter was married to Mrs. Mabel L. Sanford, widow of Charles L. Sanford, who survived him. He left two children, Miss. Helen I. Porter, a teacher at West Haverstraw, N.Y., and O. Stanley Porter, a student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute; two stepchildren, F. Lyndon Sanford and Miss Nellie R. Sanford, Worcester; and a sister, Mrs. Albert J. Gifford, of 9 King St. Worcester.
At the time of his death in 1912, Walter C. Porter resided at 10 Lenox St. in Worcester and was a member of the Commonwealth Club, the Lakeside Boat Club, the Worcester Automobile Club and the Worcester Commercial Travelers Association. He was at one time a member of Worcester's Light Infantry.
The diamond in the stickpin recovered with his body is worn today in an engagement ring by the wife of O'Stanley Porter's son Jack's son Walter. Around 1997, when the movie Titanic came out, the T.V. show "EXTRA" did a segment on the stone calling it "the real Titanic diamond".
The Samuel Porter Last Manufacturing Company, formerly located at 25 Union St. Worcester, MA, is now Maxwell Silverman's Toolhouse Restaurant and Club Maxines. This restaurant is very elegant and interesting as it is designed with many large, old tools (laythe's etc...) painted over although none have been traced directly to the Porter's old company.
Deborah Mansfield, USA
Hermann Söldner, Germany
Craig Stringer, UK
Geoff Whitfield, UK
References and SourcesBoston Daily Globe (Evening edition), 16 April 1912,p.5
Record of Bodies and Effects: Passengers and Crew, S.S. Titanic (Public Archives of Nova Scotia) (#207)
Worcester Telegram & Gazette Various Articles April-May 1912
Worcester Magazine, May 1912 Contract Ticket List , White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55)