A total of 2,224 people sailed on the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic from Southampton, England, to New York City. Partway through the voyage, the ship struck an iceberg and sank in the early morning of 15 April 1912, resulting in the deaths of over 1,500 people, including about 815 of the passengers.
Several people planned to travel on the Titanic but for one reason failed to do so. Some had actually booked cabins and these are confirmed by their presence in an early passenger list. Others only appear in newspaper reports or family lore and are therefore harder to verify.
In fact, within days of the disaster, newspapers were already remarking on the phenomenon. “‘JUST MISSED IT’ CLUB FORMED WITH 6,904 MEMBERS,” Michigan’s Sault Ste. Marie Evening News headlined an April 20, 1912 story, five days after the sinking. Later it quoted one Percival Slathersome, a presumably fictional artist, as saying, “I count it lucky that I didn’t have the price to go abroad this year. If all of us who ‘just missed it’ had got aboard the Titanic she would have sunk at the Liverpool dock from the overload.”
By the time Ohio’s Lima Daily News weighed in, on April 26, the club seems to have grown considerably. “Up to the present time the count shows that just 118,337 people escaped death because they missed the Titanic or changed their minds a moment before sailing time,” the newspaper observed.
However, below are 14 amazing stories of lucky individuals who changed their plans to sail on the Titanic.
1. J. Pierpont Morgan
John Pierpont Morgan came from a family of successful financers. After beginning his career as an accountant, Morgan moved into business, reorganizing the railroads and amalgamating several steel companies to form United States Steel, the world’s first billion-dollar corporation. He also created General Electrical, by merging The Edison General Electrical and Thomas Houston Electrical. By 1891, the company was the dominant electrical equipment manufacturing firm in the US. Morgan also reputedly saved the US banking system during the panic of 1907, earning himself the title: “The Napoleon of Wall Street.
Morgan also amalgamated the majority of transatlantic shipping lines into the IMM- the International Mercantile Marine. Amongst those lines was the White Star Company, the company that owned the Titanic. This fact meant that technically speaking; JP Morgan was the owner of the legendary liner that could have cost him his life. Such was his interest that the ship was equipped with a private suite just for Morgan, complete with a promenade deck, and a personalized bath with specially designed cigar holders.
So it is no surprise to learn that Morgan had booked passage on Titanic’s maiden voyage. However, he never made it. The businessman had been enjoying a restorative holiday at the French resort of Aix, taking the sulfur baths for his health. At the last minute, he decided to extend his vacation and continue in Aix. The maiden voyage of the much-vaunted Titanic would have to go on without him. “Monetary losses amount to nothing in life,” he told a New York Times reporter who visited Aix several days after the sinking. “It is the loss of life that counts. It is that frightful death.” Frightful death or not, Morgan had avoided it.
However, in recent years, an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory has grown up around Morgan’s eleventh-hour decisions not to sail. The theory speculates that Morgan orchestrated the sinking of the Titanic to eliminate several rivals to the idea of the creation of a US central bank. Those opponents included John Jacob Astor IV, Benjamin Guggenheim and Isidor Straus who went down with the ship. The idea, however, doesn’t hold much water. Morgan’s role in championing the bank was a small one, and by the time it was set up in December 1913, Morgan had been dead nine months, having passed away in Rome earlier that year.
Curiously, at least two other people associated with Morgan were also booked to travel on Titanic. Like Morgan, they did not sail. However, fate, rather than his own decision saved one-the outgoing US ambassador to France.
2. Robert Bacon
US ambassador to France, Robert Bacon had enjoyed a varied career. After graduating from Harvard Law School, he began his working life in the Steel Industry. Bacon worked in partnership with JP Morgan to form the US Steel Corporation and International Mercantile Marines before moving into politics in 1903. He initially served as Assistant US Secretary of State in 1905 until in 1909 he undertook a short stint as Secretary of State during the last 38 days of President Roosevelt’s office. After that, Bacon moved to France to become its US Ambassador.
In April 1912, Bacon was looking forward to retiring from his diplomatic post in Europe and returning home to America to take up a fresh challenge in academia. He had been invited to become a fellow of Harvard University and had accepted the post.“The service of higher education must be honorable when it can tempt a man to exchange an American ambassadorship for a university trusteeship,” commented the editors of The Harvard Crimson when they learned of Bacons’ appointment in February 1912.
So, the soon to be ex-ambassador, his wife Martha and their four children Robert, Gasper, Elliot, and Martha all booked passage back to New York on the maiden voyage of the Titanic. However, they never made the ship. Bacon’s replacement, Myron T Herrick arrived at his new post late, and Bacon had to reluctantly delay his departure to assist Herrick’s transition into the ambassadorship. The family eventually sailed home from La Havre on April 20, 1912, on the maiden voyage of another luxury liner, the SS France.
This lucky twist of fate most assuredly saved Bacons life, because, as a man, he would have been last in line for the lifeboats. Instead, Robert Bacon enjoyed another seven years of life before he died of blood poisoning in 1919. Most of this time was spent in military service. In August 1914, during the early months of the First World War, Bacon returned to France to help with the American Field Service, which was offering medical assistance to French and British Troops. Once America itself joined the war, he became a commissioned officer, eventually serving as Chief of the American Military mission at British headquarters.
Robert Bacon was not the only First Class passenger in the “Just Missed It” club whose extra years of life were used in service to others.
3. Milton Hershey
Milton Hershey was a self-made man. The son of farmers, after a brief stint as a printer, Hershey was apprenticed to a confectioner. He opened the highly successful Lancaster Caramel Company in 1883. In 1900, Hershey sold his company and started another: the Hershey Chocolate Company. By 1907, he had established a factory to mass produce the chocolates that became a nationwide success. Hershey was now a wealthy man.
However, Hershey did not keep this wealth to himself. His chocolate factory was built in Pennsylvanian dairy farmland, as Hershey required a good supply of milk for his chocolate making. As a result, a town began to grow up around it, named Hershey after the factory and its owner. As Hershey and his wife, Catherine had no children; the couple started to invest their wealth into good works within Hershey town. The couple actively financed many of its public facilities including the Milton Hersey School.
Hershey and his wife had spent the winter of 1911-12 holidaying in the south of France. Catherine’s’ health was poor, and the couple believed the warm climate of Nice would be beneficial. However, they planned to return to the US in April- and booked passage on the Titanic. The Hershey archives show that on December 18, 1911, a cheque $300 – a 10% deposit on a first class suite- passed through the Hershey Company accounts. Hershey was said to love a novelty, so the idea of sailing on the ‘unsinkable’ and most luxurious liner of its day must have been irresistible.
However, the Hersheys never boarded. Milton Hershey had been contacted by one of his employees and asked to return from his European trip early so he could attend to some business. So Hershey left Europe three days earlier than planned on the German liner Amerika, therefore missing his chance to experience the wonders of the Titanic– and saving his life. The Amerika turned out to be one of the ships that sent out ice warnings to the Titanic, which followed in its wake.
Hershey had already made provision for the continuation of many of his philanthropic works in his will. However, some would never have been completed if he had died on Titanic– particularly in the town of Hershey, “How the town developed and his support of public education in the community, none of that would have happened,” said Pam Whitenack, Director of Hershey Community Archives.
Another loss to the world of good works was averted when a future Nobel peace prizewinner avoided passage on the doomed liner.
4. John R. Mott
It was his principles rather than outside events that saved John R. Mott from traveling on Titanic. Mott, a dedicated Christian had become a charity worker for the YMCA after being inspired by a lecture given by J Kynaston Studd in 1886 when Mott was a student at Cornell University. After Mott graduated, he began to work for the YMCA of America and Canada, becoming its National Secretary. Later, he also became involved with the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions.
Mott’s work took him around the globe as he spoke at conferences, addressing students on Christian values. As a result, he spent a lot of time at sea. It has been calculated that he spent over 34 days a year just traveling by boat as he moved about the globe. He crossed the Pacific Ocean 14 times and the Atlantic an incredible 100 times.
So, being such a seasoned traveler, it is hardly surprising that Mott came to the attention of The White Star Company. In 1912, they offered him and a companion free passage on the Titanic’s maiden voyage. However, to the company’s surprise, the two men refused. They were uncomfortable with the notion of sailing on such a luxurious ship, instead opting for passage to New York on the much humbler liner, Lapland. On reaching New York and hearing of the disaster, the two men were said to have looked at each other and said: “The Good Lord must have more work for us to do.”
Mott did indeed have more work to do. He went on to become the General Secretary of the International Committee of the YMCA in 1915. During World War One earned a Distinguished Service Medal for his work with the National War Work Council and continued his international work with the YMCA, conducting relief work for prisoners of war in various countries. In 1946, he shared the Nobel Peace prize with Emily Balch for his work in establishing and strengthening Protestant Christian student organizations that worked for world peace.
Mott was not the only Nobel prize winner who turned down a place on the Titanic.
5. Guglielmo Marconi
Like John R. Mott, the Italian inventor of wireless telegraphy and 1909 Nobel Prize winner for physics, Guglielmo Marconi was offered free passage on Titanic. The inventor and his family had been holidaying in England near Southampton and were invited to be guests of The White Star Company on the ships maiden voyage. Marconi initially accepted. However, his plans were upset. Marconi found that he had to get back to New York early. He also had work to do en route and needed a ship with a public stenographer. So he switched to the Lusitania, which departed three days before Titanic was due to sail.
However, the plan was, his wife Beatrice and their two children would indeed follow on Titanic. Again, however, fate intervened. Marconi’s son, Guilio fell ill with a sudden fever, and so Mrs. Marconi decided to delay their departure until the little boy recovered. She and her daughter Degna apparently watched the Titanic depart Southampton, waving to passengers before returning sadly to their holiday home, not yet aware of how lucky they were.
Mr. Marconi meanwhile heard news of the disaster just after his arrival in New York. It was initially reported the ship and passengers had been saved and towed to Halifax. It was not until 7 PM the day after the disaster that its true scope was revealed publicly when the Carpathia finally docked in New York.
Marconi’s wireless operators were accused of withholding the full information of the disaster so they could sell the information to the papers, leading to Marconi’s interrogation by a Senatorial inquiry. However, both the operators and the inventor swiftly turned from villains to heroes when it became known that in fact Marconi’s wireless telegraphy and the brave actions of his operators on board Titanic had in fact saved more than 700 lives.
The Marconi family were not the only passengers to be initially disappointed not to travel on Titanic.