Abraham Baba was born in Persia, (now Iran), in 1870. It is believed that he emigrated to the United States of America in 1905; however, on arrival at Ellis Island in New York harbour, he was detained by the authorities for not having sufficient funds, but a relative or friend must have come to his aid as he was released a few days after he arrived. He is also believed to have been married, and it is likely his wife remained in Persia and nothing is known about her.
He settled in Chicago, Illinois, where he obtained employment as a painter. There was a well established Persian community in Chicago at the time and Abraham Baba was probably easily assimilated into this.
By the spring of 1915, however, he and some of his fellow Persian nationals in Chicago had heard rumours that the Turkish rulers in Persia had massacred many of their relatives and they therefore decided to return home to investigate the situation. As a result, at the end of April 1915, nine of the Chicago Persians having booked third class passage on the May sailing of the
Lusitania they all travelled to New York on the first part of their journey.
Abraham Baba was one of these and in company with the others, he arrived at the Cunard berth, Pier 54, in New York harbour on the morning of 1st May 1915. The liner's sailing was actually delayed until the early afternoon, because she had to take on passengers, crew and cargo from the Anchor Lines ship the S.S. Cameronia, which the British Admiralty had requisitioned for war service at the end of April. Then, just six days later, on the afternoon of 7th May, she was torpedoed and sunk off the coast of southern Ireland, only hours away from her Liverpool destination.
Abraham Baba was killed as a result of this sinking by the German submarine
U-20, and as his body was never recovered and identified afterwards, he has no known grave. He was aged 45 years.
In all, of the nine Chicago Persians, six were killed and a member of the local community a Mr. Malik Hatam 63, West Grand Avenue, Chicago, said later of the losses on the
It is a terrible blow to the Persians in Chicago, for on those lost, we depended for news of the wives, mothers and sweethearts imperiled
(sic) at home.
There were three other Persian fellow travellers from Chicago also named Baba, on the
Lusitania's last voyage. George Baba, aged 39 years was also killed and Frank Baba aged 30 years and John Jacob Baba aged 33, both survived. It is likely that they were all related.
In the New York Times for 9th May 1915, it was reported: -
The following cablegram was received by Ohan Stevens of 713 North Clark Street, (Chicago) from his son Thomas, who sailed on the Lusitania with a party of twelve other Persians to visit his grandparents: “Father am safe, Son Thomas”.
Thomas Ohan Stephens was one of the three Persians who survived out of the nine that set out from Chicago.
New York Passenger Lists 1820 – 1957, 1910 U.S. Federal Census, Cunard Records, New York Times, PRO BT 100/345, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, Tragedy of the Lusitania, Graham Maddocks, Stuart Williamson, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly