What: A century ago, a famously “unsinkable” liner took 1,500 passengers to a watery grave, including one Tiger, Stephen Blackwell 1888. His signature, above, survives on a Princeton form that sought personal information from alumni. Much modern interest in the disaster dates from “A Night to Remember,” the bestselling 1955 book by Walter Lord ’39.
A snuff wholesaler in Trenton, wealthy Blackwell had been morose ever since his young bride succumbed to typhoid. Seeking a change of scenery, he sailed to Europe with Washington Roebling, among Trenton’s leading citizens, who wanted to test-drive Fiats in France.
After two delightful months, the friends sailed for home together. Blackwell bought first-class ticket No. 113784 for Cabin T, Boat Deck, R.M.S. Titanic.
As the doomed ship began to list, Roebling smiled and waved to the women and children he gallantly had assisted into lifeboats. Blackwell was last seen talking with Capt. E. J. Smith in the Smoking Room. University president John Grier Hibben 1882 later would say he was thankful Blackwell died – he surely had surrendered his place to another, and any true Princeton gentleman would have done the same.
After his drowning, Blackwell’s letters kept arriving from Europe, saying he finally felt happy.
Where: Alumni Records, Princeton University Archives