One hundred years ago, on April 15, 1912, the Titanic sank. Of the 2,228 passengers and crew members who set sail, only 705 survived. A less well known statistic is that of the twelve dogs known to have been on board, only 3 survived — two Pomeranians and a Pekingese. (There were also some cats, chickens, and birds… and undoubtedly a few rats … but none of them survived.)
Sadly, the one French Bulldog passenger went down with the ship. Most of the dogs belonged to wealthy Americans travelling in first class, since the fare for a dog was the equivalent of that for a child. One of those owners was Robert Daniel, a 27 year old banker, who was bringing back with him a brindle French bulldog named Gamin de Pycombe. Gamin was born in January 1910 and was just two years old when he died. His breeder was Gwendoline Romilly of what would later be the “Taplow” kennel. He was sired by CH Charlemagne of Amersham, a French import to Britain who became Britain’s first pied champion Frenchie, and who later was the first Frenchie to be a champion in both the UK and the USA.
Mr. Daniel had bought the dog in England for a very high price of £150 (about £11,000 or $17,000 in today’s prices). Stories told later by survivors indicated that Mr. Daniel’s Frenchie was staying in his cabin, rather than in the well-appointed kennel on board. When the ship was going down, it was reported that someone released the kenneled dogs, though this was of little help to them except for the three small dogs who were secretly taken aboard lifeboats by their owners.
Another passenger, Edith Russell, later said that Gamin de Pycombe was in his master’s cabin, which was near hers. She recalled hearing him whimpering as she walked along the hall on her way to the upper deck after the ship had hit the iceberg. She said she went in to calm him and put him to bed. In an interview in 1966 she said: “The dog was scared so I petted him and laid him down in his bed. He was very obedient and sat there and looked at me sweetly as I closed the door. I did not know then that we were in any great danger or else I would have taken him with me.” Another surviving passenger later reported having seen a French Bulldog swimming in the ocean, so apparently someone did let Gamin de Pycombe out of his owner’s cabin.
In James Cameron’s film, an early scene of the boarding of the ship did show a Frenchie being led aboard with some other dogs. Cameron is said to have filmed a scene showing the doomed dogs during the sinking, but wisely cut this from the final movie. Though moviegoers can watch a movie showing people drowning, it’s likely that having to watch dogs drowning would have cut down on attendance.
Robert Daniel was in lifeboat #6, where he met a young American woman named Eloise Smith (Mrs. Lucien Hughes), whose husband had not been lucky enough to get into a lifeboat and was consequently drowned. Two years later Robert Daniel and Eloise Smith married, but the marriage did not last. Robert Daniel was married twice more, and eventually settled in Richmond, VA where he became a state Senator, and maintained a stable of horses. He died in 1940 at the age of 56.
In 1912, the French Bulldog National Specialty was held in New York on April 20 – five days after the sinking of the Titanic. One of the three judges for the exhibition was Samuel Goldenberg, who had boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg in order to be in New York in time to judge our show. Goldenberg was a well known breeder, and in 1904 had
imported from France a young dog named Nellcote Gamin, described in the 1926 book The French Bulldog as “the cornerstone in the establishment of French Bulldogs in America.” Goldenberg had judged our 1911 National Specialty the previous year, and attracted the largest entry of French Bulldogs of any show that had been held in the world up until then. When the Titanic sank, Samuel and his wife Nella survived and arrived in New York on the Carpathia on April 18, which gave him only one day to rest and recuperate before judging the Specialty at the Waldorf-Astoria. The winner at that show was the brindle dog CH Gamin’s Riquet.
Interestingly, this article from the New York Times of April 24, 1912 has a story about the only piece of luggage saved from the Titanic — a canvas satchel owned by Samuel Goldenberg. It also notes that until the docking of the Carpathia, Mr. Goldenberg was on the list of the dead. We do not know whether the Show Committee for the Specialty was surprised when he showed up to judge or whether somehow they had gotten more accurate information beforehand.
Our National Specialties always have some sort of drama, but usually not as much drama as the 1912 one.