The 5 Most Famous Titanic Survivors
You're probably familiar with the sinking of RMS "Titantic" on April 15, 1912 because of the Oscar-winning film "Titanic" starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. What you may not know is that although 1,500 people died in the tragedy, there were 710 survivors, many of whom were children at the time and lived for decades after the disaster. Here we will outline five of the most notable survivors and their historical significance. For more information on "Titanic" and other major events in United States history, check out The 10 Best U.S. History Books.
Who Are The Five Most Famous Titanic Survivors?
- Margaret "Molly" Brown - Known as "The Unsinkable Molly Brown."
- Eva Hart - Outspoken critic of safety measures on board the ship.
- Michel and Edmond Navratil - Abducted boys left alone at sea.
- Millvina Dean - Youngest passenger and last remaining survivor.
- Edith Brown - Published famous memoirs about the voyage.
The tragedy of the RMS 'Titanic' looms large over history. Even after more than 100 years, the sinking of the luxury cruise ship on its maiden voyage remains one of the worst maritime disasters ever recorded. More than 1,500 people died in the sinking of the 'Titanic,' which has since become a frequent example of man's hubris, and of the need for proper disaster preparation, especially at sea.
RMS 'Titanic' sank on April 15, 1912. Designed as a wonder of modern engineering, promotions for the cruise liner called it unsinkable thanks to a modern design which allowed it to stay afloat even with some compartments flooded. The ship also boasted luxurious accommodations which offered passengers fancy comfort in their travels.
While en route to New York from Queenstown, Ireland, 'Titanic' struck an iceberg in the late hours of the night. The collision ruptured five compartments of the ship, beginning its sinking. Over the next three hours, chaos broke out on the ship as it met its demise in the icy waters of the Atlantic. Only 710 people survived the shipwreck due to the extreme temperatures and inadequate lifeboat space.
Immediately after the 'Titanic' disaster, the ship and its survivors became a worldwide sensation. Newspapers rushed to fill their pages with the eyewitness accounts and harrowing stories of survivors of the tragedy.
Of all the survivors, Margaret Brown achieved almost immediate fame after the sinking of the 'Titanic.' History would come to know her as the "unsinkable" Molly Brown. Brown had already acquired a degree of fame after she and her husband earned a fortune in Colorado mines, and for her philanthropic and political activism. She used her survival on the 'Titanic' as a way to promote her pet causes until her death in 1932. Her life would become the subject of a musical. Actress Debbie Reynolds earned an Oscar nomination for portraying Brown in the film version.
Following the disaster, survivor Eva Hart became one of the most vehement critics of the safety guidelines on the voyage. At age seven, Hart lost her father in the sinking of the ship. In subsequent years, Hart recounted the chaos of the night in graphic detail, including seeing the massive liner split in two as it went down. Eva Hart spent most of her later life retelling her story, and advocating treating the final resting place of the 'Titanic' as a grave site, rather than a historical artifact. She died in 1996.
Frenchman Michel Navratil also embarked on the 'Titanic' as a child. Though only four years old at the time of the voyage, memories of the ship would haunt him for the rest of his life, and help propel him to fame. Michel's father had actually abducted him and his younger brother Edmond from their mother during a bitter custody dispute following their divorce. When Michel's father died in the 'Titanic' sinking, he left Michel and his brother, who could speak only French, alone on an English liner.
Edmond and Michel, both only toddlers, became the subject of an international search following their rescue. Newspapers dubbed the brothers "The Titanic Orphans." A fellow French passenger cared for the two children in New York City before their mother at last sailed to America to rescue her sons. Michel lived out the rest of his days as a philosopher, sharing his memories of 'Titanic' over the years and taking part in 'Titanic' related events. He died in 2001.
Millvina Dean gained fame as the last living survivor of the 'Titanic' disaster. She also garnered notoriety as the youngest passenger. Though she lost her father in the sinking, Millvina had no memory of the ship itself, and only began participating in 'Titanic' events at age 70. Living in poverty in her later years, the International Titanic Societies offered to pay her living costs until her death in 2009 at age 97.
Edith Brown survived the 'Titanic' sinking at age 15. She became famous for publishing her vivid memories of the event in her memoirs. Brown recalled the ship's striking the iceberg, and of how the unpreparedness of the crew led to mass panic. Having lost her father in the shipwreck, Brown took part in a number of high-profile 'Titanic' memorials until her death at age 100.
The tragedy of the 'Titanic' continues to fascinate Hollywood, Broadway, and the public at large more than 100 years later. The discovery of the shipwreck in 1985 led to a renewed interest in the disaster, as did James Cameron's Oscar-winning film. The words of 'Titanic' survivors echo with drama and romance, and serve as an ominous warning to prevent future accidents. The ship may rest in a watery grave, but the public will always keep her elegance and tragedy afloat on a sea of memory.