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Lucile Carter
Lucile Carter circa 1900.jpg
Lucile Carter circa 1900
Born Lucile Stewart Polk
October 8, 1875(1875-10-08)
Baltimore, Maryland
Died April 26, 1934(1934-04-26) (aged 58)
Ithan, Pennsylvania
Spouse William Ernest Carter
(m. 1896-1914)
George Brooke
(m. 1914-1934)
Children Lucile Polk Carter
William Thornton Carter
Elizabeth Brooke

Lucile Carter was the wife of William Ernest Carter, an extremely wealthy American who inherited a fortune from his father. Both were passengers on the RMS Titanic and both survived the disaster. She was said to be one of the heroines of the tragedy as she, with some of the other socially elite women, assisted in the rowing of one of the Titanic lifeboats.

Early lifeEdit

Lucile Polk 1892 sketch

Sketch of Lucile Carter (then Lucile Polk) in the social pages of a Baltimore newspaper in 1892 when she was aged 17.

Lucile Stewart Carter was born in 1875 in Baltimore. Her father was William Stewart Polk (1828–1917) and her mother was Louisa Ellen (née Anderson). Lucile’s father was a partner in the very successful insurance brokerage firm Hopper Polk and Purnell of Baltimore[1] and was fairly wealthy. Many of the newspaper reports noted that he was a descendant of President James K. Polk.[2]

Before her marriage Lucile was mentioned often in the social pages of the Baltimore newspapers. The picture on the left is a sketch of her in the newspaper “Baltimore American” in 1892 when she was aged 17.[3]

In 1896 she married William Ernest Carter. He was the son of William Thornton Carter (1827–1893) who had made a vast fortune in the coal industry and was said to be “one of the most extensive and successful coal operators in America".[4] Lucile’s husband inherited much of this fortune and the couple lead a very privileged lifestyle. They had two children, Lucile Polk Carter born in 1897 and William Thornton Carter born in 1900. Both of them were also passengers on the Titanic and both were saved.

After their marriage the couple was mentioned frequently in the social pages. Lucile was often noted for her striking clothes. The following is an extract from one of the newspapers.

“Mrs William E Carter of Philadelphia, a beauty of pronounced type, has been startling Newport with flaming costumes. In an accordion plaited Eton suit of red and with a red hat, a red parasol, red slippers and silk stockings of the same shade her Dresden china colouring seems even lovelier than when she wears less striking costumes".[5]

Lucile was also very athletic and quite daring. One newspaper commented that “she was the first woman to play polo riding astride and the first woman to drive a four-in-hand (which is a carriage with four horses) through crowded Thames Street in Baltimore.[6]

In about 1907 the Carter family went to live in Europe. They annually returned to America and spent summer in their mansion in Bryn Mawr with visits to Newport.[7] It was on one of these return trips that they booked their passenger on the Titanic.

On board the TitanicEdit

Photograph of a Lifeboat Carrying Titanic Survivors - NARA - 278337

A Titanic Lifeboat being rowed toward the Carpathia similar to the one rowed by Lucile Carter.

The Carters boarded the Titanic at Southampton. Accompanying the couple were their two children, Mrs Carter's maid Auguste Serepeca, Mr Carter's manservant Alexander Cairns and, the chauffeur Charles Aldworth.[8] William Carter on this trip had brought on board his now famous 25 horsepower Renault automobile. They occupied First Class Cabins B96/98.

The original story told in the press regarding the Carter family’s experience of their ordeal was that William Carter came to the cabin and escorted his family to lifeboat 4. He then left this area with the other men who had taken their wives to this boat. These men were John Astor, George Widener and John Thayer.[9] William Carter escaped from the Titanic on collapsible lifeboat C (along with Bruce Ismay) but the other three men perished on the liner.

Lucile gave details of what happened when she and her two children boarded Lifeboat 4. Her statement was as follows.

"When I went over the side with my children and got in the boat there were no seamen in it. Then came a few men, but there were oars with no one to use them. The boat had been filled with passengers, and there was nothing else for me to do but to take an oar.
We could see now that the time of the ship had come. She was sinking, and we were warned by cries from the men above to pull away from the ship quickly. Mrs. Thayer, wife of the vice-president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, was in my boat, and she, too, took an oar.
It was cold and we had no time to clothe ourselves with warm overcoats. The rowing warmed me. We started to pull away from the ship. We could see the dim outlines of the decks above, but we could not recognize anybody."[10]

She was acclaimed by the press later to have been one of the heroic women who rowed the heavy lifeboats.

After the Titanic disasterEdit

Almondbury House

Almonbury House, Ithan, Philadelphia in 1926. This is where Lucile and her second husband George Brooke lived.

When the family was rescued by the Carpathia they returned to their home in Philadelphia. Then two years later in 1914 Lucile obtained a divorce from William although no details were given at this time. It was sensationally revealed by the newspapers in the following year that Lucile had made the following statement in her application for divorce revealing that William had not accompanied her and the children to Lifeboat 4 to ensure their safety. She said:

“We sailed for America on the Titanic. When the Titanic struck my husband came to our stateroom and said: 'Get up and dress yourself and the children'. I never saw him again until I arrived at the Carpathia at 8 o’clock the next morning, when I saw him leaning on the rail. All he said was that he had had a jolly good breakfast and that he never thought I would make it".[11]

In the same year she married George Brooke who was a very wealthy banker and manufacturer. The marriage ceremony was performed in London on 16 August 1914 and according to George the event was made earlier than originally intended because of the outbreak of the War. The couple sailed almost immediately back to America on board the Olympic, the sister ship of the Titanic.[12]

George Brooke owned several houses one of which was called Almonbury House in Ithan, Philadelphia[13] See photo. They had one child, a daughter whose name was Elizabeth Brooke, still alive today. Lucile died in 1934 at Almonbury House at the age of 58.[14]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. The Washington Times., September 08, 1917, p. 3. Online reference http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84026749/1917-09-08/ed-1/seq-3/
  2. The Times Dispatch (Richmond), April 19, 1912, Page 9. Online reference http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85038615/1912-04-19/ed-1/seq-9/
  3. Baltimore American, 16 October 1892, p. 9. Online reference http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=8DxCAAAAIBAJ&sjid=RLkMAAAAIBAJ&pg=4601,1614588&dq=lucile+polk&hl=en
  4. Carter, C. M. R. 1909 “John Redington of Topsfield, Massachusetts, and some of his descendants, with notes on the Wales family”, p. 24. Online reference http://archive.org/stream/johnredingtonoft02cart#page/24/mode/2up
  5. Palestine daily herald., July 23, 1904, p. 6. Online reference http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86090383/1904-07-23/ed-1/seq-6/
  6. Reading Eagle, 18 June 1914, p. 11. Online reference http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=WldWAAAAIBAJ&sjid=SkINAAAAIBAJ&pg=4298,2404384&dq=william+carter+titanic&hl=en
  7. Toledo Blade, 25 April 1912, p. 8. Online reference http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=MoEkAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Wv8DAAAAIBAJ&pg=3590,4049682&dq=lucile+polk&hl=en
  8. Encyclopaedia Titanica. Online reference http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-survivor/lucile-carter.html
  9. Mowbray J. H. 1912 “Sinking of the Titanic: Eyewitness Accounts”, p. 126.
  10. Mowbray J. H. 1912 “Sinking of the Titanic: Eyewitness Accounts”, p. 55. Online reference. http://books.google.com.au/books?id=VS7FlveweFMC&dq=When+I+went+over+the+side+with+my+children+and+got+in&q=carter#v=onepage&q=carter%20widener%20%22when%20i%20went%22&f=false
  11. Keowee courier., January 27, 1915, p. 5. Online reference http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84026912/1915-01-27/ed-1/seq-5/
  12. The Sun (New York), September 1, 1914, Page 9. Online reference http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030272/1914-09-01/ed-1/seq-9/
  13. “American elite and sociologist:a distinct cyclopedia of twenty thousand American's best families”, p. 94. Online reference http://archive.org/stream/americanelitesoc00herr#page/94/mode/2up
  14. The New York Times 27 October 1934.

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