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Benjamin Guggenheim

“‘If anything should happen to me, tell my wife in New York that I’ve done my best in doing my duty.’

This was the last message of Benjamin Guggenheim, of the famous banking family, dictated to a steward only a short while before the banker sank to his death with the Titanic. It was was not until several days later that the message was received by Mrs. Guggenheim.

It was delivered by James Etches, assistant steward in the first cabin of the Titanic, to whom Mr. Guggenheim communicated it. Etches appeared at the St. Regis Hotel and inquired for Mrs. Benjamin Guggenheim. He said that he had a message from Benjamin Guggenheim, and that it had to be delivered in person.

Mrs. Guggenheim was in the care of Daniel Guggenheim, whose apartments are at the St. Regis. The steward was admitted, but was not permitted to see Mrs. Guggenheim, who is prostrated with grief. He insisted that he must see her personally, but finally consented to transmit the message through her brother-in-law.

‘We were together almost to the end,’ said the steward. ‘I was saved. He went down with the ship. But that isn’t what I want to tell Mrs. Guggenheim.’

The Titanic Launch

Then the steward produced a piece of paper. He had written the message on it, he said, to be certain that it would be correct. The message was as given.

‘That’s all he said’ added the steward, ‘there wasn’t time for more.’

Little by little Mr. Guggenheim got the account of his brother’s death from the steward. It was the first definite news that he had received of his brother.

‘Mr. Guggenheim was one of my charges,’ said the steward anew. ‘He had his secretary with him. His name was Giglio, I believe, an Armenian, about twenty-four years old. Both died like soldiers.

‘When the crash came I awakened them and told them to get dressed. A few minutes later I went into their rooms and helped them to get ready. I put a life preserver on Mr. Guggenheim. He said it hurt him in the back. There was plenty of time and I took it off, adjusted it, and then put it on him again. It was all right this time.

‘They wanted to get out on deck with only a few clothes on, but I pulled a heavy sweater over Mr. Guggenheim’s life belt, and then they both went out. They stayed together and I could see what they were doing. They were going from one lifeboat to another helping the women and children. Mr. Guggenheim would shout out, ‘Women first,’ and he was of great assistance to the officers.

Titanic Propellers

‘Things weren’t so bad at first, but when I saw Mr. Guggenheim about three quarters of an hour after the crash there was great excitement. What surprised me was that both Mr. Guggenheim and his secretary were dressed in their evening clothes. They had deliberately taken off their sweaters,’ and as nearly as I can remember they wore no life belts at all.

‘What’s that for?’ I asked.

‘We’ve dressed up in our best,’ replied Mr. Guggenheim, ‘and are prepared to go down like gentlemen.’ It was then he told me about the message to his wife and that is what I have come here for.

‘Well, shortly after the last few boats were lowered and I was ordered by the deck officer to man an oar, I waved good-bye to Mr. Guggenheim, and that was the last I saw of him and his Armenian secretary.'”


The full text of an article published on Sunday, April 21st, 1912 in the Chicago Record-Herald, later reprinted in Jay Henry Mowbray’s The Sinking of the Titanic.