The Titanic is one of the most famous tragedies in maritime history. And a number of its victims and survivors were quite famous too. The ocean liner, which sank off the coast of Newfoundland on its maiden voyage to New York City, was billed as the paragon of luxury travel. As a result, many prominent individuals decided to book a trip on the doomed ship.
Some of the ship’s most famous passengers included a top fashion designer, one of the wealthiest men in the world, and a famous British countess.
Most of the well-known people on board were first-class passengers. Researcher Chuck Anesi crunched the numbers, breaking down the demographics of the survivors. He found that 97.22 per cent of the 144 female first-class passengers were rescued, while only 32.57 per cent of their 175 male counterparts were saved.
Ultimately, he found that male second-class passengers fared the worse in terms of survival, with only 14 out of 168 making it out alive. The total survival rate for women was 74 per cent, while the male survival rate was 20 per cent.
Here are 12 of the most famous victims of the Titanic disaster and 11 prominent people who survived:
DIED: John Jacob Astor, millionaire
Millionaire John Jacob Astor was a member of the prominent Astor family and helped build the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City. He was also an inventor, a science fiction novelist, and served in the Spanish-American War.
Astor was travelling with his wife Madeleine in Europe when she became pregnant. To ensure the child would be born in the United States, the couple booked a trip home on the Titanic. He was last seen clinging to the side of a raft. His wife survived the disaster.
Astor was worth nearly US$87,000,000 at the time – US$2.21 billion in today’s dollars. He was the richest passenger on-board the Titanic.
SURVIVED: Archibald Gracie IV, historian and author
Gracie achieved prominence in the wake of the Titanic disaster due to his meticulous and detailed account of the tragedy.
The historian and Alabama native, who’d written a book on the American Civil War’s Battle of Chickamauga, was returning from a European holiday on the Titanic.
He was woken up when the ship crashed into an iceberg. After escorting a number of women to the lifeboats, Gracie helped other passengers evacuate the ship.
When the ship sank, Gracie surfaced beside an overturned lifeboat. He managed to climb on top with a number of other men, and they spent much of the night balanced there.
DIED: W.T. Stead, investigative journalist
Stead was a highly influential editor who, in an uncanny twist, may have foreseen his death on the Titanic.
As the editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, the newspaperman published an explosive and controversial investigative series about child prostitution. He is credited with helping to invent investigative journalism.
A devoted spiritualist, Stead also established a magazine dedicated to the supernatural and a psychic service known as Julia’s Bureau.
He also penned a fictional story in 1886 that bore an unsettling resemblance to the real-life events of the Titanic.
How the Mail Steamer Went Down in Mid Atlantic, by a Survivor tells a story of an ocean liner that sinks in the Atlantic. In the story, only 200 passengers and crew members of the original 700 people on board survive the disaster, due to a lifeboat shortage.
According to Biography.com, Stead did not hang around on deck as the Titanic sank. He spent his final hours reading in his cabin.
SURVIVED: Noël Leslie, countess and philanthropist
Noël Leslie, Countess of Rothes, was one of the Titanic’s most famous passengers at the time.
A popular figure in London society, Leslie became a countess after marrying Norman Evelyn Leslie, Earl of Rothes, in 1900.
Leslie and her cousin Gladys Cherry booked a trip on the Titanic. According to Biography.com, Leslie and Cherry escaped on a lifeboat and assisted crew members in rowing the raft to safety.
The cousins, along with crew member Thomas Jones, reportedly advocated rowing back to search for survivors, but their fellow lifeboat occupants voted against it.
The countess reportedly helped take care of her fellow survivors on board the Carpathia. According to Encyclopaedia Titania, she was dubbed “the plucky little countess” in the press and was a major subject of the media frenzy that ensued in the wake of the disaster.
After surviving the Titanic disaster, Leslie became a prominent philanthropist and worked as a nurse during the first world war.
DIED: Thomas Andrews, architect of the Titanic
Thomas Andrews was no ordinary Titanic victim. The Irish architect was the principal designer for the Titanic. Andrews, or “Tommie” as he was known, had a successful career in naval architecture before he died on his ship’s ill-fated last voyage.
SURVIVED: The Unsinkable Molly Brown
Socialite and philanthropist Margaret Brown is best known for surviving the Titanic disaster.
According to Biography.com, she was born in Mississippi to Irish immigrants. She married James Joseph Brown in New York City. The couple became fabulously wealthy when Brown’s mining business struck ore.
Brown became a well-known socialite with a penchant for dramatic hats and social activism on the behalf of women and children.
Brown was returning from a voyage around Europe when she decided to book a trip on the Titanic. During the disaster, she reportedly helped to row the lifeboat and demanded that the group of survivors row back to the spot where the ship went down, to look for survivors. This earned her the nickname “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” – although her friends and family reportedly called her Maggie.
Brown’s life was immortalised in the Broadway musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown, which was later adapted into a Hollywood film.
DIED: John Thayer, railroad executive
Thayer was well-known in 1912 as a former cricket player and a Pennsylvania Railroad Company executive.
SURVIVED: Company official J. Bruce Ismay
Ismay may have survived the sinking of the Titanic, but he never lived down the public scorn he received in the wake of the disaster. The White Star Line managing director was the highest-ranking company official to survive the disaster. He boarded a lifeboat 20 minutes before the ship sank into the Atlantic.
DIED: Isidore Straus, co-owner of Macy’s, and his wife Ida
The couple first met after the Civil War when a penniless Isidore Straus moved to New York City, according to Premier Exhibitions. Isidore and his brother later acquired Macy’s, and he eventually became a powerful businessman and a member of the US House of Representatives.
According to Today, Straus was offered a spot on a lifeboat while the ship was sinking. He declined, saying he wouldn’t board a raft until every woman and child had got off the ship.
Ida then refused to leave her husband. When her husband urged her to evacuate the ship, she reportedly responded, “We have lived together for many years. Where you go, I go.”
SURVIVED: Cosmo and Lucy Duff-Gordon, landowner and fashion designer
Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon and his wife Lady Lucy Duff-Gordon were two of the most prominent passengers on board the Titanic.
Duff-Gordon was a major landowner and society figure in the United Kingdom, known for his fencing skills. Lady Duff-Gordon was a top British fashion designer, whose innovations included the precursor to the modern day fashion show.
The Duff-Gordons booked a trip on the Titanic to travel to New York City on business. When disaster struck, they both escaped on the first lifeboat that embarked off the ship.
According to Vogue, Lady Duff-Gordon described the scene on the Titanic, saying, “Everyone seemed to be rushing for that boat. A few men who crowded in were turned back at the point of Captain Smith’s revolver, and several of them were felled before order was restored. I recall being pushed towards one of the boats and being helped in.”
In the wake of the tragedy, Sir Duff-Gordon received criticism for not adhering to the ship’s “women and children first” evacuation policy.
A few years later in 1915, Lady Duff-Gordon escaped death again after cancelling her voyage on the doomed Lusitania.
DIED: Benjamin Guggenheim, mining magnate
Benjamin Guggenheim was a member of the powerful Guggenheim family, which earned its fortune in the mining industry. He was travelling on the ship with his lover Léontine Aubart and a number of staffers.
According to LIFE Titanic: The Tragedy That Shook the World, Guggenheim was initially optimistic about the ship’s prospects, telling his maid that, “We will soon see each other again. It’s just a repair. Tomorrow the Titanic will go on again”.
SURVIVED: Silent film star Dorothy Gibson
After getting her start as a young girl in vaudeville, Gibson went on to become a model and launch a career as a silent film star. She was 22-years-old when she booked a passage on the Titanic. Gibson reportedly heard the ship crash into an iceberg. She grabbed her mother and together they escaped the ship on the first lifeboat.
Gibson subsequently appeared as herself in a now-lost 1912 film about her experienced called Saved from the Titanic. According to the History Press, Gibson sported the same clothes in the film as she had on during the disaster. Gibson quit acting soon afterward.
DIED: Industrialist George Dennick Wick
The industrialist was the founding president of Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company, a now-defunct steel-manufacturing business. Wick had been travelling in Europe to improve his health. Unfortunately, he booked a trip on the Titanic to return to the United States.
According to encyclopaedia Titania, he was last seen on the deck of the ship, waving to his family as they escaped on a lifeboat.
SURVIVED: Lawyer Elsie Bowerman
Bowerman survived the sinking of the Titanic and went on to lead an extraordinary life as a lawyer and suffragette .
DIED: Charles Melville Hays, railroad executive
Hays started out in the railway business as a teenage clerk. He went on to become the president of the Grand Trunk Railway, which operated in Canada and the northeast of the United States.
The American railway magnate may have had some reservations about embarking on the Titanic’s maiden voyage. Biography.com reported that he “told his companions that the trend toward large boats might end in tragedy”.
SURVIVED: Feminist Helen Churchill Candee
An author and a single mother, Candee penned the early feminist work How Women May Earn a Living in 1900.
She booked a passage on the Titanic to return to the United States to care for her son, who had been injured.
Despite breaking her ankle during the chaotic evacuation, according to Biography.com, the writer teamed up with Molly Brown to man the oars of the lifeboat.
DIED: Henry B. Harris, Broadway producer
Harris was a major player on Broadway when he lost his life on the Titanic. He’d started producing plays and managing stars back in 1897, and was returning to the United States after a business trip to London.
SURVIVED: Karl Behr, tennis player
The Independent reported that banker and tennis star Karl Behr only booked a trip on the Titanic to pursue his future wife, Helen Newsom.
Behr went on to continue his successful tennis career after surviving the disaster.
DIED: Jacques Futrelle, mystery writer
Futrelle achieved success as a mystery author before losing his life on the Titanic. The Georgia native started out as a journalist, working for the now defunct New York Herald and the Boston Post.
According to Biography.com, he is best remembered for his fictional stories. He penned a series about fictional detective Professor Augustus S.F.X. Van Dusen. His most famous story was The Problem of Cell 13.
SURVIVED: Edith Rosenbaum, stylist and journalist
Rosenbaum was a stylist, fashion buyer, and journalist who was returning to the United States on the Titanic after embarking on a reporting assignment in Paris.
The Telegraph reported that a year before the Titanic disaster, Rosenbaum had “survived a car accident the year before in which her fiancé, a German gun manufacturer, had been killed”. Following the accident, her mother bought her a small musical toy pig as a good-luck charm.
As the ship went down, the stylist would play the toy’s tune to calm and distract the crying children on her lifeboat.
DIED: Archibald Butt, presidential aide
Archibald Butt reportedly prevented panicked male passengers from storming the lifeboats. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Butt led a distinguished – and varied – career before perishing during the Titanic disaster. United States President William Taft later broke down weeping while delivering the eulogy at Butt’s funeral.