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This Day in Georgia History

April 15, 1912

Georgia Ties on Titanic

In addition to Maj. Archibald Butt [see April 14 entry], four other Titanic passengers had Georgia ties, three of whom would perish in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912. Wealthy businessman and philanthropist Isidor Straus was born in Bavaria in 1845 to Lazarus and Sara Straus. Lazarus and his family immigrated to the United States in 1854. They settled in Talbotton, Georgia, where Lazarus ran a general store. Isidor was educated at the Collingsworth Institute, a private religious school for boys. The Straus family lived in Georgia for almost ten years, moving briefly to Columbus in 1863. Reportedly, at age 18, Isidor left for Europe with the intention of purchasing a steamboat to run the Union blockade. This attempt failed, however, and Straus spent the next two years traveling in Europe and learning bookkeeping. When the Civil War ended, Straus met his family in New York, where they opened a crockery business. The family business flourished, soon they had opened silverware, glass, and china departments at Macy’s in New York. In 1887 Isidor and brother Nathan became part owners of Macy’s, and in 1898 purchased full control. Thereafter, the Strauses moved Macy’s from 14th Street to Herald Square, where in 1902 they built what they proudly claimed was “the largest store on earth.” By 1912, Isidor had amassed a considerable fortune and was well known and respected for his philanthropy. In 1912, Isidor and wife Rosalie were visiting Germany. They booked return passage to America aboard the new RMS Titanic. The story of Isidor and Rosalie aboard the Titanic was later documented in the 1958 movie A Night to Remember. As the ship went down, Rosalie refused to leave Isidor in order to board a life boat, saying “No, we are too old; we will die together. We have been living together for many years. Where you go, I go.” Both husband and wife perished in the tragedy. The other Titanic passengers with Georgia ties were Mr. and Mrs. Jacques Futrelle. Jacques Futrelle, a writer, was born in Pike County in 1875. In 1895, he married Atlanta-born May [last name uncertain]. Futrelle had worked as a journalist and theatrical manager but was best known for his detective stories, in which he introduced the fictional character Professor S.F.X. Van Dusen, better known as The Thinking Machine. Futrelle specialized in writing mysteries involving a “locked room problem,” the most famous story being The Problem of Cell 13, in which The Thinking Machine escapes from a death row prison cell. Unfortunately, Futrelle could not escape the Titanic, but he did insist that his wife board a life boat. May Futrelle was the only native Georgian to survive the Titanic disaster. She twice boarded life boats, but disembarked to stay with her husband before he virtually forced her to stay on one. Her last sight of him was standing next to John Jacob Astor smoking a cigarette. May Futrelle provided the world with an authoritative eyewitness account of the sinking with a two-part newspaper series she wrote a mere two weeks afterwards. [Contributed by Professor Eugene Wilkes, University of Georgia School of Law]