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“On Board Titanic” – 100 years ago

04/13/2012
The Voyage of the Titanic

Detail of the sheet music for "The Voyage of the Titanic" by Annie Gertrude Bell, c. 1912. (Virginia Historical Society)

On the starry night of April 14, 1912, halfway through its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York, RMS (Royal Majesty Ship) Titanic sideswiped an iceberg in the North Atlantic, and in the early morning hours on April 15th, it sank with a tremendous loss of life. The sleek, fast passenger liner—the largest in the world and deemed unsinkable by virtue of its size and modern construction—carried only enough lifeboats for less than half of those on board. In all, more than 1,500 souls perished.

The tragedy shocked the world at a time that, in retrospect, seems an Indian summer before the horrors of the Great War. Despite the passage of time since 1912, which has witnessed far greater calamities, the sinking of the Titanic retains its power to fascinate and appall.

The event naturally generated enormous press coverage and drove newspapers to badger the slightly more than 700 survivors for eyewitness accounts. One of them was a twenty-eight-year-old Virginia-born banker, Robert W. Daniel. Thirty telegrams and one letter sent to Daniel’s relatives in Richmond are in the Virginia Historical Society collection and give a glimpse into his ordeal. The earliest, a telegram sent by Daniel when the ship stopped at Cherbourg, France, cryptically told his family he was “On Board Titanic.”

Within a week, half a dozen other cables followed to let family know that Daniel had survived, having been picked up more dead than alive by RMS Carpathia. An accomplished swimmer, he had jumped overboard after the lifeboats were lowered and was apparently pulled, unconscious, into a small canvas-sided collapsible boat from the Titanic.

On the way to New York, he befriended another survivor, Eloise Hughes Smith, who had been widowed by the sinking. They married within a year. In contrast to his willingness to speak to reporters in 1912, in later years Daniel refused to talk about the experience. Perhaps it was the traumatic nature of the event, or it could have been related to the stigma that many males felt as survivors.

After the Titanic disaster, Daniel returned to the banking business. He eventually moved back to Virginia, purchased the historic Brandon-on-the-James, and became a gentleman farmer. He married several times over the course of his life and had one son. He went on to serve in the Virginia Senate. Daniel died in 1940 and is buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.

Mss2 D2235 b, Telegram 1 of 8

POSTAL TELEGRAPH - COMMERCIAL CABLES
CABLEGRAM
247W.SW. 6-- 622pm
Cherbourg. Apl.10th,1912
Daniel Chesterfield, Richmond-Va.
On Board Titanic.
Cablegram sent from Robert W. Daniel to his mother Hallie Wise (Williams) Daniel of Richmond, Virginia
(Virginia Historical Society, Mss2 D2235 b)

Mss2 D2235 b, Telegram 2 of 8

THE WESTERN UNION TELEGRAPH COMPANY
Received at No. 1621 West Broad Street
25 RD W S.
Cu, Phila, pa April 15,12
Mrs J R V Daniel,
Chesterfield,
Richmond, va.
Reports Titanic exaggerated entering halifax harbor all safe.
C P Stokes.
1252 PM
Charlie Stokes sent a telegram to Robert Daniel's mother in the afternoon of 15 April stating that all is well with Titanic and it is entering Halifax harbor
(Virginia Historical Society, Mss2 D2235 b).

Mss2 D2235 b, Telegram 3 of 8

POSTAL TELEGRAPH - COMMERCIAL CABLES
TELEGRAM
Received at Jefferson Hotel, Richmond, VA
7rd b 8
Phila.Pa/Apl.16-12
Mrs. Jas. Daniels
The Chesterfield
Richmond Va.
It is authentically reported Bob safe on Carpathia.
Charlie (Stokes?)
1056AM
(Virginia Historical Society, Mss2 D2235 b).

Mss2 D2235 b, Telegram 4 of 8

THE WESTERN UNION TELEGRAPH COMPANY
Received at No. 1217 East Main Street, Richmond, Va.
11 RD W. 8.
BW, New York April 16,12
Mrs J R V Daniels,
Chesterfield Flats,
Richmond Va.
Robert Daniels safe aboard carpathia due here thursday.
White Star Line
1016 AM.
Telegram sent to Robert Daniel's mother informing her of her son's rescue. Word of her son's rescue reached her more than twenty-four hours after the first report of the Titanic's sinking (Mss2 D2235 b).
(Virginia Historical Society, Mss2 D2235 b)

Mss2 D2235 b, Telegram 5 of 8

THE WESTERN UNION TELEGRAPH COMPANY
Received at No. 1217 East Main Street, Richmond, Va.
all7ny vb 13
HW Newyork apl 16 12
John L Williams & Sons
Richmond Va
Robert W Daniels name appears on third list of passengers saved just out
1112a A.Weber.
(Virginia Historical Society, Mss2 D2235 b)

Mss2 D2235 b, Telegram 6 of 8

THE WESTERN UNION TELEGRAPH COMPANY
Received at No. 1217 East Main Street, Richmond, Va.
56 RD W. 5 via Halifax
S. S. Carpathia April 17,12
Daniel, Chesterfield, Flats, Richmond, Va.
Rescued steamer carpathia Richmond sunday.
Robert.
604 PM.
(Virginia Historical Society, Mss2 D2235 b)

Mss2 D2235 b, Telegram 7 of 8

THE WESTERN UNION TELEGRAPH COMPANY
Received at No. 1217 East Main Street, Richmond, Va.
54 RD W 26, Duplicate.
sx, New York April 18,12
Mrs. James R Daniel,
1001 Floyd Ave, Richmond, Va.
Will you or any member of family meet Robt W Daniel reported on
board Carpathia due tonight if so at what hotel can you be seen.
Newyork Sun.
406 PM
(Virginia Historical Society, Mss2 D2235 b)

Mss2 D2235 b, Telegram 8 of 8

THE WESTERN UNION TELEGRAPH COMPANY
Received at 507 West 115th (?) St. Near B'Way
Phone 6750 Audubon
Richmond VA April 19th-12
To: Robert William Daniel
Care R. C. Cautley, 605 West 141st Street NY.
Rush us 500 words sinking of Titanic by
wire our expense also wire time your arrival Richmond so
we can meet you for exclusive interview.
The News Leader.
616PM
(Virginia Historical Society, Mss2 D2235 b)

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Mike permalink
    04/17/2012 2:35 pm

    Thanks so much posting this information about Robert Daniel; I was able to make use of it for a program I held last Saturday to commemorate the centenary of the Titanic’s sinking, and it was great to be able to provide a Richmond connection to the disaster. And btw, I thoroughly enjoy your blog postings–so keep them coming! Great work!

    Like

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