Question of the Week
The RMS Titanic sank 100 years ago, taking with it several members of the George D. Widener family. Which family member survived?
Answer: Eleanor Elkins, George's wife
One of the most famous catastrophes in maritime history is the sinking of the RMS Titanic during its initial voyage. The ship sank into the frigid waters of the North Atlantic on April 15, 1912, taking the lives of 1,517 passengers. A number of Philadelphians were on the ill-fated ship that April. Nine passengers from Philadelphia lost their lives, and among them were capitalist and sportsman George Dunton Widener and his son, Harry Elkins Widener. Widener’s wife, Eleanor Elkins, was among the 26 Philadelphia passengers who were rescued. Since women and children were allowed to board lifeboats first, a disproportionately high number of men died in the wreck. The local press remarked: “Generosity, unselfishness, chivalry and a high sense of duty and honor were the main characteristics that distinguished George D. Widener…He died—bravely, conscientiously, unselfishly and nobly.”
Another passenger on board the Titanic was Richard Norris Williams II, who later served as president of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Williams’s father was killed by one of the collapsing smokestacks of the ship, while a brother, C. Duane Williams, perished in the icy waters. Luckily Williams and other victims were saved by the RMS Carpathia. Doctors believed that it would be necessary to amputate Williams’s legs, since he spent so much time in the frigid waters. But the young man miraculously recovered and became an accomplished tennis champion.
Image: This editorial cartoon mourns those who lost their lives on the Titanic.
About the Author
Look for these history stories every Sunday in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The stories, called Memory Stream, are published in the Currents section of the newspaper.