On April 10, 1912, Mr. Thomas William Solomon Brown, age 60, was given a boarding pass, affording him the privilege of walking up the gangway of White Star Line's latest and greatest passenger ship, for a trip across the Atlantic Ocean to New York.
Mr. Brown never did see New York because his ship sank 2 days after leaving port. You may have heard of it. She was named the RMS Titanic.
I know of Mr. Brown because the Titanic Artifact Exhibition is presently being held at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, and my wife and I tiptoed up the steps a couple days ago to check it out.
Upon entering the exhibit, everyone is given a "boarding pass" with the name of one of the passengers that actually made that fateful trip. Mr. Brown was from Cape Town South Africa and was in the middle of a journey that he hoped would take him to Seattle Washington, where he would embark on a new business opportunity. It turns out he was a successful Hotelier.
Thomas Brown had company in his 2nd class stateroom on the Titanic, his wife Elizabeth, 20 years his junior and his 15 year old daughter, Edith Eileen traveled with him. Have you ever heard the phrase, "Women and children first?" Well, it works, because Elizabeth and Edith survived that disastrous night. Thomas was not so lucky.
This was quite an exhibit. Very well done. The boarding pass touch at that start, I found to be very interesting. It sort of personalized the exhibit from the get go. And the artifacts on display, just amazing. From pieces of the unsinkable ship, like the ships whistle and engine room telegraph to the personal items found at that bottom, like cuff links, eye glasses and shoes, I couldn't take my eyes off them. There was diner plates from the first and second class dining rooms, in almost perfect condition. Wine bottles with wine still in the bottle. Just amazing. After sitting on the ocean floor for almost a hundred years they now sat within arms reach, amazingly intact.
What a sad story, but one worth revisiting if the exhibit comes to a city near you.
I recommend it.