Titanic dogs

Two Pomeranians and a Pekinese escape sinking

Three small dogs survived the Titanic disaster cradled in their owners’ arms as they climbed into lifeboats.

Passengers and their pets is one of the lesser-known aspects of the disaster touched on in the compelling new exhibition Titanic and Liverpool: the untold story opening at Merseyside Maritime Museum on 30 March 2012.

There were 12 dogs on the Titanic and kennels were situated at the base of the dummy fourth funnel. The fare was expensive – equal to a child’s – and most of the owners were Americans travelling First Class.

Miss Margaret Hays, aged 24, boarded Titanic at Cherbourg and was travelling home with two friends to New York with her Pomeranian called Lady.

After the collision they put lifejackets on and waited to get into a lifeboat – Margaret had Lady wrapped in a blanket. Fellow American James Clinch Smith spotted the dog and joked: “Oh, I suppose we ought to put a life preserver on the little doggie too.”

Smith was among more than 1,500 people who died in the sinking.

Mrs Elizabeth Barrett Rothschild, aged 54, also saved her Pomeranian (name unknown) when she escaped in a lifeboat. When the rescue ship Carpathia drew alongside, the crew at first declined to take the Pom Pom on board.

Elizabeth retorted that she would stay put unless the dog came with her. She was hoisted aboard clutching her pet, which later died in a fight with another dog in New York. Elizabeth’s wealthy husband Martin was among those lost in the disaster.

The third dog survivor was Sun Yat Sen, a Pekinese named after the first president of the Republic of China founded on 1 January 1912. He escaped in a lifeboat with owner Henry Sleeper Harper, a publisher, his wife Myra and two servants.

Titanic dog victims included a French bulldog called Gamin de Pycombe travelling with 27-year-old banker Robert Williams Daniel, who survived.

Another dog that died while his master survived was a chow chow (name unknown) belonging to stockbroker Harry Anderson, aged 54. Harry escaped in a lifeboat and later put in a claim for $50 for the loss of his pet.

Two dog myths are linked to the Titanic disaster. It is true that 50-year-old Ann Isham refused to get in a lifeboat without her large dog (possibly a Great Dane or St Bernard).

However, there is no evidence to support a story that passengers on the German liner Bremen later saw a woman in a lifejacket with her frozen arms wrapped around a large dog bobbing in the waves. Neither the body of Ann nor her dog were ever found.

Another Titanic myth is the legend of Rigel the big black Newfoundland dog which again has no basis in fact. A report in the New York Herald claimed Rigel swam in front of a lifeboat and barked to alert the Carpathia. The story was thought to have been made up by an enterprising reporter.

The Titanic exhibition is part of the National Museums Liverpool’s Liverpool and the World exhibition series part-funded by the European Union - the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). 

Councillor Phil Davies, ERDF North West Local Monitoring Committee member says:

“Titanic and Liverpool will be a highlight of the region’s cultural calendar in 2012.    
“This ambitious, international exhibition will help fuel the North West visitor economy and raise awareness of the region’s fantastic cultural offer.
Liverpool is a culturally dynamic city and exhibitions such as this demonstrate that we can deliver world-class visitor experiences year-on-year.”

Notes for editors

European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)

Between 2007 and 2013 the Northwest of England will receive a total of €755.5 million (dependent on exchange rate) from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). 

This funding will enhance the competitiveness of the region’s economy by supporting growth in employment and enterprise.

Key targets for the NWOP (North West Operational Programme) include:

- Creating 26,700 net additional jobs by 2015

- Generating £1.17bn additional annual GVA by 2015

- Supporting a 25% reduction in addition CO2 emissions generated by the ERDF programme.

For further information please visit www.communities.gov.uk/erdf

About National Museums Liverpool

National Museums Liverpool comprises eight venues. Our collections are among the most important and varied in Europe and contain everything from Impressionist paintings and rare beetles to a lifejacket from the Titanic.

We attract more than three million visitors every year. Our venues are World Museum, the Walker Art Gallery, Merseyside Maritime Museum, International Slavery Museum, UK Border Agency National Museum, Sudley House and the Lady Lever Art Gallery.  

In July 2011, our eighth venue, the Museum of Liverpool, opened at the city's Pier Head, part of the city's World Heritage Site. The museum tells the definitive story of Liverpool and its people and contains more than 6,000 items. www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/mol/