After first class passengers were settled into their staterooms and the ship set sail, a small booklet entitled List of First Class Passengers was delivered to each room. This comprehensive list included the names not only of all first class passengers and their children, but also whether or not those passengers had their maids or manservants with them. It allowed passengers to know who they’d be rubbing elbows with in the dining saloon or on the promenade deck. This list could also be used by ambitious mothers hoping to put their daughters in the way of an eligible, wealthy bachelor, perhaps by persuading an understanding steward to arrange for their daughters to be seated next to said bachelor at dinner. Some of these passengers were so well-known that they were listed under alias names on the passenger list, including Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff Gordon. Mistresses of certain wealthy passengers, such as Benjamin Guggenheim’s Parisian mistress Madame Aubart, would also be listed under an alias.
Perhaps one of the most famous passengers on board was 47 year old Colonel John Jacob Astor, whose personal wealth was estimated to be $87 million. He traveled with his second wife Madeleine Astor, who was five months pregnant. After a scandalous divorce and marriage to a woman a year younger than his son, Astor and his new wife had gone to Europe over the winter to honeymoon and wait for the gossip to die down. In the spring of 1912 they decided to return home, and booked passage aboard the Titanic, in a parlor suite on C deck.
Another C deck parlor suite was occupied by Isidor and Ida Straus. Straus had arrived to America right before the Civil War, and got his start selling Confederate bonds. After the war he sold china with his brother, and asked if they might sell it in a start up store in New York called Macy’s. Within ten years, the two brothers owned the entire store. Mr. and Mrs. Straus had traveled to Europe with their daughter Beatrice. She stayed behind when her parents decided to return to home on board the Titanic.
Occupying one of the pricey promenade suites (J. Bruce Ismay stayed in the other) was Philadelphian Mrs. Charlotte Cardeza and her son Thomas. They brought 14 trunks, 4 suitcases, 3 crates, and a medicine chest along with them. Their contents included 70 dresses, 10 fur coats, 38 feather boas, 22 hatpins, and 91 pairs of gloves (Mrs. Cardeza and her son survived the sinking, and later filed the largest claim against the White Star Line for loss of property, at 36,567 pounds).
Also staying on B deck was the Countess of Rothes, who married the 19th Earl of Rothes in 1900, and was on her way to join him in Canada. She traveled with her cousin, Gladys Cherry.
Another famous first class passenger was 22 year old actress Dorothy Winifred Gibson, who traveled with her mother back to America after being wired by the producer (who was also her lover) of the film company she worked for explaining that new films were ready for her to make.
Many other notable figures of the time graced the List of First Class Passengers, including George Widener, president of the Philadelphia streetcar system (traveling with his wife and son), John B. Thayer, second vice president of the Pennsylvania railroad (traveling with his wife and son), and Mrs. Molly Brown, wife of Denver millionaire J.J. Brown.
These prominent members of society enjoyed all of the glamour and luxury that the White Star Line offered. Meanwhile, Titanic steamed towards New York, unaware that the “practically unsinkable” ship’s safety features would soon be put to the test.
Sources: Encyclopedia Titanica, The Titanic: The Extraordinary Story of the “Unsinkable” Ship by Geoff Tibballs, Titanic: The Exhibition by John P. Eaton and Charles A. Haas, The Titanic Collection Guide by Eric Sauder and Hugh Brewster, Titanic: Fortune & Fate by Beverly McMillan and Stanley Lehrer