The Titanic Historical Society

More About Frank J. Goldsmith

A True Life Adventure
The Autobiography of Frank Goldsmith, a Third Class Titanic Survivor

FOREWORD by Walter Lord

On a sunny afternoon in May, 1965, I had the pleasure of seeing Frank and Victoria Goldsmith off on the RMS Queen Mary, bound from New York to Southampton. It was a memorable occasion for this was Frank's first ocean crossing since 1912 when he sailed on the ill-fated Titanic.

At that distant date Frank was a lively nine-year old English boy accompanying his parents to America, where Mr. Goldsmith hoped to find work as a machinist in Detroit. Traveling with them was a family friend, Tom Theobold, and a young lad named Alfred Rush. His family had already moved to the States, and the Goldsmiths promised to look after him on the crossing. All were in third class, Theobold and young Rush being quartered with the single men toward the bow and the Goldsmiths in a tiny cabin near the stern.

The trip and its aftermath are recalled in his charming memoir, which has a special value that is almost unique in Titanic literature. There are numerous accounts by first class passengers, but they at least had the means to rebuild their lives. There are also many accounts by the young colleens and Irish lads in steerage, but they too faced little financial loss. After all, they had nothing to begin with. The Goldsmiths, on the other hand, were a small but tightly-knit family dependent almost entirely on the father's earning power. There was no anticipation and no planning for any other state of affairs.

Frank Goldsmith pictured with Edwina Troutt and Margaret O'Neill All went smoothly the first days out. Frankie quickly joined a group of boys his own age, and they raced around in a pack exploring the ship and devising various tests of skill and daring. If third class had no fancy gym, there were plenty of games that could be played on the bollards, cranes, and ventilators.

The fifth day out, Sunday, April 14th was important from the start -- not because of anything that happened to the Titanic, but because it was young Alfred Rush's sixteenth birthday. To celebrate, he proudly put on long trousers for the first time.

That night, the Titanic had her famous rendezvous with the iceberg, and the Goldsmiths were aroused with the rest of the passengers. Dressing, they were soon joined by Tom Theobold and Alfred Rush. Sticking together as a party of five, they eventually made their way to the forward end of the Boat Deck, where Collapsibles C and D were being loaded. A line of seamen, arms linked, barred the way to all except women and children. The situation looked so desperate that Mr. Theobold took off his wedding ring and handed it to Mrs. Goldsmith to keep for his wife.

Mrs. Goldsmith and Frankie were then passed through the line, and a kind hearted sailor was prepared to let Alfred through too. He was small for his age and could have easily passed for a child. But he had not achieved the right to wear those long trousers for nothing. "I am a man," he announced and pulled back to rejoin Mr. Goldsmith and Tom Theobold.

Mrs. Goldsmith and Frankie were safely tucked into one of the collapsibles, and in another moment the boat was jerking toward the sea. The big problem was to keep the canvas sides from snaring on the rivet heads that studded the Titanic's hull. This was somehow managed, and the boat pulled a few hundred yards away, where the occupants watched the great ship make her final plunge.

Safely aboard the Carpathia early the following morning, Mrs. Goldsmith and Frankie watched the later lifeboats arrive, hoping vainly for some sign of the others in their party. Various Carpathia crewmen did their best to cheer them up -- maybe there were survivors on the other rescue ships too.

Frankie must have been very appealing, for in almost no time he was adopted as a mascot by a group of the Titanic's surviving crewmen. They made him a member of a sort of club, initiating him with a drink called a "Bombay Oyster," which tasted as bad as it looked. Comforted by Fireman Sam Collins, Frankle slowly recovered his spirits.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Goldsmith organized a sewing circle to make clothes for the Titanic's surviving children so by the time the Carpathia reached New York, both mother and son were emotionally prepared to face the future. But how? Mr. Goldsmith, Tom Theobold, and young Alfred were clearly gone forever. Detroit, where Mrs. Goldsmith's sister lived, seemed at this point as far away as the moon. She and Frankie were entering a new land without a cent, Fortunately, they walked down the gangplank into the arms of the Salvation Army. Major Thomas Cowan of that organization quickly took them in tow, arranged for claims to be filed for their lost baggage, and put them in touch with the various Titanic relief funds that were springing up on both sides of the Atlantic. He even wangled $15 out of the White Star Line to help cover their travel expenses to Detroit.

The survivors also learned how to help themselves. Mrs. Goldsmith became part of an informal network of at least 16 widows who kept in touch, sharing advice and information on lawyers and even such delicate matters as remarriage. "Have everything you get in your own name," advised survivor Rosa Abbott, "so that, if his love changes, you will be able to help yourself."

For this post-disaster part of his memoirs, Frank relies almost entirely on his mother's correspondence. These letters give a far better picture of the situation than anything seen through the eyes of a nine year old.

This memoir remains a classic account of how a plucky son not only survived but surmounted the greatest sea tragedy of all time.

Walter Lord
March 1991.
Edward Kamuda (left), Walter Lord (right)