You would be hard-pressed to find anyone that did not know about the Titanic and how she sank. What might surprise you is that the 100 year anniversary of that sinking just occurred. It was the most famous shipwreck in history, with 1500 people dying as a result of what happened that night. It is the subject of everything from poetry to a major motion picture, but much of what has been written deals with the victims and the survivors.
Although we may be familiar with some of the Titanic passengers by name, there are a number of passengers that we may never have heard of before. Thanks to a Centennial Museum exhibit, however, those unnamed passengers are no longer going to be hidden in obscurity. The exhibit shows that there were about 12 dogs on the Titanic that came on board as pets of first-class passengers.
J. Joseph Edgette is the exhibit curator and a historian from Widener University. According to Senior Women, he had the following to say: “There is such a special bond between people and their pets. For many, they are considered to be family members. I don’t think any Titanic exhibit has examined that relationship and recognized those loyal family pets that also lost their lives on the cruise.”
When the Titanic sank, there were at least nine dogs that went down with it. Interestingly, there were at least three dogs that survived the disaster. These included a Pekingese and two Pomeranians. When Edgette gave an interview with Yahoo! News, he said that the dogs were able to survive due to their size. He also noted that human passengers were probably not sacrificed to save the dogs. “The dogs that survived were so small that it’s doubtful anyone even realized they were being carried to the lifeboats.”
Lady was a Pomeranian who survived according to Encyclopedia Titanica. She was purchased by Margaret Bechstein Hays in Paris, who was heading home to New York after traveling in Europe. Supposedly, somebody joked when she stepped onto the lifeboat with the dog, saying: “Oh, I suppose we ought to put a life preserve on the little doggie, too.”
First-class passengers were the only people allowed to bring dogs onto the Titanic. According to Yahoo! News, Edgette said that most of those dogs were kept in the kennels on the ship but there were a few that stayed in the cabins. As the ship was sinking, some of the dogs were released from the kennels according to an informational website, Titanic Tales.
Not all the dogs that were on the ship were identified. Edgette says that we only know of a few of the dogs but there may have been more. Information is available about some of the animal casualties from the Titanic, including “Dog”, a fox terrier, and “Gamin de Pycombe”, a French bulldog.
Ann Elizabeth Isham is one of the passengers that lost her life. Reportedly, she refused to get on the lifeboat when her Great Dane could not go with her. Her body was later found with the dog floating at sea when recovery ships arrived.
There were insurance payments that were provided to some of the passengers as compensation for their lost pets. As an example, a Philadelphia resident, William Ernest Carter, received $300 for his children’s Airedale and King Charles Spaniel because they were insured in advance.
It seems as if there were also other animals on the Titanic but some of it may only be rumors. Edith Russell reportedly brought along a pet pig, but some stories say it was a toy. There may also have been cats on board that were there to control the rat population, although nothing is known for sure.
Pennsylvania’s Widener University is where you would find the Centennial Titanic exhibit. That University is named for a local family that had lost two family members on the Titanic. You can find a number of exhibits and artifacts in the museum that deal with Titanic passengers.