Jump to content

Benjamin Guggenheim

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Benjamin Guggenheim
Born(1865-10-26)October 26, 1865
DiedApril 15, 1912(1912-04-15) (aged 46)
Cause of deathSinking of the Titanic
EducationColumbia College
Peirce School of Business
Florette Seligman
(m. 1894)
Children3, including Peggy and Barbara
ParentMeyer Guggenheim

Benjamin Guggenheim (October 26, 1865 – April 15, 1912) was an American businessman, who was a wealthy member of the Guggenheim family. He was among the most prominent American passengers aboard RMS Titanic and perished along with 1,500 people when the ship sank on her maiden voyage.

Early life[edit]

Guggenheim was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the fifth of seven sons of the wealthy mining magnate Meyer Guggenheim and Barbara Myers. Guggenheim's parents were Jewish.[1] His father was a Swiss Jew born in Lengnau, Aargau, Switzerland[2] and his mother was a German Jew. Guggenheim met Barbara Meyers (1834–1900), a fellow immigrant on the ship to the United States, and married her four years later around 1852.[3] Benjamin was the first member of his family to enter an institute of higher learning, he entered Columbia College in 1882, matriculating with the class of 1887. However, he found most of his courses boring and dropped out after his second year.[4][5][6] He also attended the Peirce School of Business (now Peirce College), then one of the most prominent business schools in the country.[7] In 1894, he married Florette Seligman (1870–1937),[8] daughter of James Seligman, a senior partner in the firm J. & W. Seligman & Co. and Rosa Seligman, née Content. Her family originated in Baiersdorf, Franconia, Germany. Together, they had three daughters: Benita Rosalind Guggenheim (1895–1927), Marguerite "Peggy" Guggenheim (1898–1979) and Barbara Hazel Guggenheim (1903–1995).

Guggenheim inherited a great deal of money from his mother. Due to business concerns, he grew distant from his wife and was frequently away from their New York City home. He maintained an apartment in Paris, France.[9]


This article in The New York Times relates a description from an assistant steward of Guggenheim's last hours, including helping other passengers to board lifeboats, donning formal wear instead of a life preserver, and saying that he and his secretary were "prepared to go down like gentlemen".[10]

Guggenheim boarded the RMS Titanic and was accompanied by his mistress, a French singer named Léontine Aubart (1887–1964); his secretary, Victor Giglio (1888–1912); his chauffeur, René Pernot (1872–1912); and Madame Aubart's maid, Emma Sägesser (1887–1964). His ticket was number 17593 and cost £79 4s (other sources give the price as £56 18s 7d). He and Giglio occupied stateroom cabin B84 while Aubart and Sägesser occupied cabin B35. Pernot occupied an unknown cabin in second class.[11]

Guggenheim and Giglio slept through the Titanic's encounter with the iceberg only to be awakened just after midnight ship's time by Aubart and Sägesser, who had felt the collision. Sägesser later quoted Giglio as saying, "Never mind, icebergs! What is an iceberg?"[citation needed] Bedroom steward Henry Etches stopped by Guggenheim's stateroom, B-84 and awoke Guggenheim and Giglio, telling them to get dressed. During the evacuation, Steward Etches returned to Guggenheim's stateroom; Guggenheim answered the door on the first knock, leading Etches to conclude that the magnate had only just retired and undressed for bed. Etches entered the room, pulled their three lifebelts out, and placed one on Guggenheim. "This will hurt", Guggenheim complained. Etches helped to pull heavy sweaters over them both. Giglio and Guggenheim stayed together as they left the cabin and went out on deck. Etches saw them on their way.[12][11] Etches later testified that Guggenheim and his valet went from lifeboat to lifeboat ensuring the women and children were safely aboard and that the two were of great assistance to the officers.[13]

Guggenheim ultimately realised that the situation was much more serious than he had implied.[11] Titanic survivor Rose Amelie Icard wrote in a letter, "The millionaire Benjamin Guggenheim after having helped the rescue of women and children, got dressed and put a rose at his buttonhole, to die."[14][15][16] Sometime after arriving on deck, Etches saw Guggenheim and Giglio; they were dressed in their evening clothes and had taken off their sweaters and lifebelts. Guggenheim explained, "We've dressed up in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen."[11] Etches, who survived the sinking, recorded Guggenheim's message to give to his wife: "If anything should happen to me, tell my wife in New York that I've done my best in doing my duty."[11] Etches next watched Guggenheim and Giglio pass from Boats Nos. 7 and 5, "helping the women and children". Guggenheim shouted repeatedly, "Women first" and the two men were of "great assistance" to the officers. Another steward reportedly said Guggenheim sent another message to his wife, asking to tell her "that I played the game straight to the end and that no women was left on board this ship because Ben Guggenheim was a coward. Tell her that my last thoughts will be of her and our girls". The steward said Guggenheim "lit a cigar and sauntered up to the boat deck to help load the lifeboats."[17] As Aubart and Sägesser reluctantly entered Lifeboat No. 9, Guggenheim reportedly was on the deck nearby and spoke in German, "We will soon see each other again! It's just a repair. Tomorrow the Titanic will go on again."[18] Etches reported that "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 [Giglio]."[11] Guggenheim and Giglio, as well as Guggenheim's chauffeur Pernot, died in the sinking. Their bodies were never recovered.


Guggenheim's family, including his brother Robert, had been hoping for news of their loved one, whom the press had reported was among the missing prior to the Carpathia's arrival in New York. The news Guggenheim had died was confirmed by a wireless dispatch sent from the ship and received on April 18, 1912. After relating how Guggenheim was one of his charges during the voyage, Etches told them about Guggenheim's actions and the final favour asked of him. Etches, producing the note and handing it to the widow, reported: "That's all he said, there wasn't time for more." The family were very grateful for the news and visit.[19]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Titanic and Jews". April 15, 2012.
  2. ^ Davis, John H. (1994). The Guggenheims: An American Epic. New York: S.P.I. Books. ISBN 9781561713516. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
  3. ^ Reme, Jim; Navarra, Tova; R.N, Tova Navarra (2002). Monmouth University. Arcadia Publishing. p. 29. ISBN 9780738510101. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
  4. ^ University, Columbia (1897). Catalogue of Matriculants who Have Not Graduated, 1758-1897. Published for the University.
  5. ^ Annual Register of the Officers and Students of Columbia College. New York City: Columbia College. 1884. p. 13.
  6. ^ Davis, John H. (August 1994). The Guggenheims: An American Epic. SP Books. p. 201. ISBN 978-1-56171-351-6.
  7. ^ Everts, Bart. "What do a wealthy Titanic passenger, a world tennis champion, and a 90's rapper have in common? Peirce College of course!". Archived from the original on June 28, 2020. Retrieved June 25, 2020.
  8. ^ Guggenheim-Seligman : New York Times (1894) – October 25, 1894
  9. ^ "Benjamin Guggenheim". biography.com. Archived from the original on March 31, 2012. Retrieved February 16, 2012.
  10. ^ "Guggenheim, Dying, Sent Wife Message". The New York Times. April 20, 1912. p. 9.
  11. ^ a b c d e f "Guggenheim, Dying, Sent Wife Message". The New York Times. April 20, 1912. Retrieved April 17, 2012. Efforts to find the body of Benjamin Guggenheim, who was the fifth of the seven Guggenheim brothers, as well as the bodies of other victims, will be made by the six surviving brothers.
  12. ^ Fitch, Layton & Wormstedt 2012, p. 187.
  13. ^ "GUGGENHEIM, DYING, SENT WIFE MESSAGE". Encyclopedia Titanica. New York Times. September 10, 2004. Retrieved March 17, 2023.
  14. ^ Poppy Danby (March 21, 2014). "Titanic letter reveals new first-hand account of disaster". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on March 22, 2014. Retrieved September 24, 2016.
  15. ^ "Titanic Letters Translated by email Reddit, Reveal Harrowing New Perspective on the Tragedy". The Huffington Post. March 21, 2014. Retrieved September 24, 2016.
  16. ^ md28usmc (March 21, 2014). "REQUEST. I own the only set of letters written by Rose Amélie Icard (longest French living Titanic survivor) describing a first hand account of what happened as the Titanic sank. It's written in French and I would love to have it translated so I could have them framed". Reddit. Retrieved September 24, 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  17. ^ Fitch, Layton & Wormstedt 2012, p. 194.
  18. ^ Fitch, Layton & Wormstedt 2012, p. 213.
  19. ^ Fitch, Layton & Wormstedt 2012, p. 266.
  20. ^ "David Eisner". TVGuide.com. Retrieved April 21, 2022.


  • Fitch, Tad; Layton, J. Kent; Wormstedt, Bill (2012). On A Sea of Glass: The Life & Loss of the R.M.S. Titanic. Amberley Books. ISBN 978-1848689275.

External links and references[edit]