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Gay History – April 14, 1912: The Forgotten Gay Passengers and Crew of the RMS Titanic

 

Just before midnight on April 14th. 1912 the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg and sank in the in the North Atlantic Ocean. The sinking of Titanic in the early morning hours of the next day caused the deaths of more than 1,500 people in one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in modern history.

At  11:40 pm ship’s time. Titanic sideswiped an iceberg and the glancing collision caused Titanic‘s hull plates to buckle inwards along her starboard side and opened five of her sixteen watertight compartments to the sea.  By 2:20 AM, she broke apart and foundered.

Having just 20 lifeboats, Titanic was entirely unprepared for the sinking. Even if they had been filled, only half of the passengers on board would have made it safety. In fact, many of the first lifeboats to leave Titanic were only half-full because so many passengers didn’t believe it could possibly be sinking.

There were 2,224 people on board. Only 710 were saved.

Just under two hours after the Titanic foundered, the Cunard liner RMS Carpathia arrived on the scene of the sinking, where she brought aboard the survivors.

Were there gay passengers and crew on the Titanic at its time of sinking?

The answer is undoubtedly yes.

Jack Fritscher, author of the gayrotic novella Titanic: The Untold Tale of Gay Passengers and Crew (Palm Drive Publishing), reckoned that “if, according to Kinsey, one out of six ordinary men is gay, 225 gay men died. If two out of six in the travel industry are gay, 450 gay men died, making Titanic an overlooked but essential chapter in gay history.” Since men were more likely to go down with the ship, the gay male casualties were undoubtedly higher than most.

Among the Titanic’s passengers there was Archibald Butt, known as Archie, was an influential military aide to US presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. He is described as being  ‘camp’ and a ‘dandy’ who was always impeccably dressed.

Of course there is no conclusive evidence that passenger Archibald Butt was gay but when it comes to passenger Francis Millet, he was  known to have an affair with writer Charles Warren Stoddard in Venice in 1875. Stoddard would later leave him, devastating Millet.

Joseph Fynney was a RMS Titanic victim. It has been suggested that, with travel partner William Alfred Gaskell, were both gay passengers aboard the Titanic.

Fynney was a “confirmed bachelor” and people reported that Fynney took great interest in helping the young men circling around him, and his neighbors complained about the late-night visits of these young men. He volunteered at the local church, St. James, Toxteth, helping young delinquents. A handsome bachelor, Fynney always brought a young man with him while vising his mother in Canada.

Fynney boarded the Titanic at Southampton as a second class passenger; travelling with him, on the same ticket, was William Alfred Gaskell.  They both died in the sinking. Only Fynney’s body was recovered.

There were also Michael Whitney and Edward Wedding who were known to be lovers and and also some of the working crew including the rugged Balkan Stoker, the redheaded Royal Purser Felix Jones,  ship’s second carpenter Michael Brice and Third Officer Sam Maxwell. 

Learn more about the gay passengers upon the RMS Titanic and that fateful night. Watch Hugh Brewster, author of ‘RMS Titanic: Gilded Lives on a Fatal Voyage’ which talks about the untold gay story of the Titanic’s fatal maiden voyage.

 

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Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, journalist and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story,

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