Encyclopedia Titanica

A Tragic Friendship

How documents recovered from the wreck of the Titanic reveal a friendship which ended in disaster.


    Hide Ads

Recovered artifacts tell of a round-the-world journey of two young men.

Henry Sutehall, Jr. had looked forward to the trip from Southampton, England to New York City on Titanic's maiden voyage. The Atlantic crossing marked the final leg of a journey around the world that had begun on January 1, 1910, two years and four months earlier. Though the trip had been long and he yearned to return home, Henry had waited specifically to travel aboard Titanic. He had sent post cards home, bragging about his intended passage on the newest super ship in the world.
   The wait for the April 10, 1912 sail date was not distasteful to Henry. He had many family members living throughout England with whom he had visited during his stay. Henry had been born in England on July 23, 1886, the first son of Henry Sutehall, Sr., born in 1864, and Sarah Stanton Sutehall, born in 1866. His father and mother had married on August 2, 1885 and had built a family consisting of Henry and two siblings before leaving England for the United States in 1895. Both his sister, Clara, born in 1889, and his brother, William, born a year later in 1890, were born in England. Following immigration to America, the Sutehalls settled in the Buffalo, New York are and two more children were born: Ella, in 1897, and Edwin, in 1902.

   Henry's father was a plasterer by trade and worked on some of Buffalos' finest new constructions. Ironically, one of those buildings was the cathedral on Delaware Street in Buffalo, which was designed by the famous architect Edward Kent, also from the Buffalo area. Mr. Kent also would become a passenger aboard the ill-fated Titanic and, after assisting the efforts to evacuate women and children from the sinking ship, met his own untimely demise upon her sinking.
   Henry's mother operated the family's corner store at 2852 Delaware Avenue at the intersection of Mang Street in Kenmore, a suburb of Buffalo. The store featured cigars, tobacco, school supplies, confectioneries and Wheat's ice cream.

   Henry's trade was that of a "trimmer", installing and repairing upholstery in carriages and early automobiles. It was at his workplace, E. E. Denniston's in Buffalo, that he met a young man named Howard Irwin, who rapidly became his best friend. Henry, called Harry by his friends and family, and Howard together embarked their world tour and traveled throughout the United States during 1910. When they were fortunate, they found work at their trade as trimmers. Other times, they worked at any job they could find, even picking peaches in California.
   In mid 1911, they left the United States for Australia. Finding employment in their profession, they remained there for a time. While in Sydney, two things happened which would change Henry's outlook on life.
   First, and perhaps, most importantly, he met a young lady with whom he fell deeply in love. Research has not yet uncovered her name, but Henry's descendants tell the story of his young lady in Australia, to whom he became engaged. His intentions, according to letters home, were to return eventually to Australia and marry this woman.

   Both Henry and Howard were common people. They had no base of wealth from which to draw monies as needed. Henry's second blessing in Australia had been winning a sweepstakes that aided in funding the balance of his trip.
   Henry and Howard apparently had differing interests in choices of sights to see, so they agreed to part company when they left Australia to explore their own adventures. It is believed that the two young men reunited briefly in Durban, South Africa and vowed to meet again in England early in 1912 to conclude the voyage home together.

   Henry's movements during the time he and Howard were traveling separately are unknown. He eventually arrived in England to spend time with his many relatives. Having visited England in 1907, this part of the trip was actually a reunion of sorts. Howard had arrived in England about a week before Henry and the two reunited travelers spent time together awaiting the day Titanic would depart.

   Henry was also a musician. He had left Buffalo with his violin in tow. During his early years he had studied violin under the tutelage of a Mr. Penner and he had played in his Presbyterian Church orchestra. Music was ultimately where his heart told him to look toward a career. While in Europe, near the end of his trip, he arranged an interview and audition with John Philip Sousa, "the March King." Sousa was impressed with Henry's abilities but had no openings available for a violinist. He instructed Henry to continue to pursue a career in concert violin and suggested several avenues to attain those goals. Henry's musical talents most likely aided his friend, Howard, who had taken up the clarinet while they were still traversing the United States. Henry's abilities to read and interpret music undoubtedly aided Howard's musical development. Research indicates that later, while briefly reunited in South Africa, the two entered a talent contest and won a trip. Howard most likely used that prize to fulfill part of his solo travels.

   Henry and Howard were opposites. According to Howard's memoirs, Henry was "Popular among his own set. He was quiet, honest, unassuming and upright. He did not drink, smoke, swear or cast an evil eye upon the beautiful young ladies that crossed his path." Howard, on the other hand, was somewhat less even keeled. By his own evaluation, he had "a fiery temper, arrogant, aggressive and he would cuss and fight." Howard was also very strong in his convictions and political outlooks. While Howard's complete story is to be told another time, suffice it to say he met, in his travels, several world leaders who would change the course of history. He fancied that, not only had he learned from them, but that they, also, had learned from him.

   Finally, it was the day of Titanic's departure from Southampton. Henry arrived at the dock alone. Why Howard was not with him to board the ill-fated liner or how Howard's steamer trunk came to be in Henry's possession aboard the ship has not yet been confirmed. Three different scenarios exist to explain Howard's absence and those scenarios are being researched. History tells the rest of the story. Henry met his untimely death aboard the ship that couldn't be sunk, leaving Howard's possessions to rest at the bottom of the ocean for 81 years. Henry's father was appointed by the courts as Administrator of Henry's estate after his death. The estate filed a claim against the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company (OSNC), owner of the White Star Line, which, in turn, was the owner of the steamship Titanic. OSNC had placed a large sum of money in escrow, pending settlement of claims against it resulting from the Titanic disaster. Five hundred dollars of that escrow was devoted to Henry Sutehall, Jr.

   On March 14, 1916, on advice of his attorney, Henry's father settled the claim in Erie county, New York's Surrogate Court for the amount of two hundred dollars. Henry's body was never recovered. All of his possessions were lost. The possessions of his friend, Howard Irwin, were lost. All that remained were family memories.

   In 1993, during recovery efforts at the wreck site, RMS Titanic, Inc. President George Tulloch was aboard the submersible Nautile on a dive to the debris field. Before Nautile lay a steamer trunk, which was recovered and taken to France for restoration of its contents. After 81 years at the bottom of the ocean, Howard Irwin's personal possessions were found. Among the trunk's contents was a memorandum, or diary, Howard kept for the year of 1910. His first entry in this memorandum begins the tale of their journey: "On Jan. 1st, Harry Sutehall and myself started on a trip around the world. Working our way, stopping in all the principalities between Buff & Frisco. From there to Australia, then through the Suez Canal & Med. Sea to England. From there to New York and Buffalo we figure. With luck this trip will take us two years and with bad luck (WELL) we are going anyway."

   Because of the efforts of George Tulloch and RMS Titanic, Inc., history was reborn with a new and continuing life. Howard Irwin's possessions and Henry Sutehall's life story became an active part of the legacy of the Titanic. In fact, for those readers who have visited the exhibitions in St. Petersburg or in Boston, you've most likely seen many of Howard's possessions, including the above-mentioned diary, on exhibit.

   Our involvement with Titanic is a direct result of RMS Titanic, Inc.'s recovery effort and we are forever indebted to Mr. Tulloch and his company, not only for changing our lives forever, but also for bringing these people and many more back to life as a result of their dedicated efforts.

Quotes from the memoirs of Howard Irwin are used with the permission of Helen Irwin Lunney Quotes from the memorandum of Howard Irwin are used with the permission of RMS Titanic, Inc.

Dave and Barb Shuttle live in Erie, Pennsylavnia and are Titanic International Association members. Nineteen letters, written by Dave's family, were recovered by RMS Titanic, Inc. They were part of the contents of Howard Irwin's steamer trunk. Dave's great Aunt Pearl was Howard's girlfriend.

© 1998 David R. Shuttle and Barbara W. Shuttle

Related Biographies


Barb Shuttle, USA


  Send New Information

Comment and discuss

  1. Maureen Zottoli
    Dear Dave and Barb, This article that you present is excellent, touching and above all helps tremendously in the quest to allow the sentimentalists to see the value of salvage regarding the RMS Titanic. I spoke with someone today who had recently been to one of the places where you can view contents from the trunk and she said it was eery in a way. Kind of like you want to see it and learn from it but it was sad that this article you are seeing was actually retrieved from so far below the water surface and had once belonged to someone who had died. One of the Postman from the mailroom owned a watch. It was on display at the US Postal Museum here in DC. I just stared at it for a long time contemplating the life it had belonged to. Your article brings some folks back to life for us. Thank you for taking the time to write it. Maureen.
  2. Robert Falange Robert Falange
    I have just finished reading this intriguing story and was interested in the remaining mysteries which Dave and Barb have highlighted. Have there been any developments since? Do we yet know why Henry Sutehall travelled with Howard Irwin's luggage but without Howard? What were the three possible scenario's explaining Howard's absence? What happened to Henry's fiancee? Has Howard's life story been told yet? best wishes, bob
Open Thread Leave a Reply Watch Thread

Find Related Items


Encyclopedia Titanica (2003) A Tragic Friendship (Voyage, ref: #1476, published 28 August 2003, generated 20th May 2024 03:02:30 PM); URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/tragic-friendship.html