The sinking of the RMS Titanic in April of 1912 claimed more than 1,500 lives, among them some of the most wealthy and best known early 20th-century celebrities. People like John Jacob Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim died with the ship. Isidor and Ida Strausas, co-owners of Macy’s, the popular American mystery writer Jacques Futrelle, the American painter and sculptor Francis Millet, and Major Archibald Butt who was a friend and aide to the then President William Howard Taft all drowned.

But for fate, many more famous and influential people might have been aboard and among the Titanic’s victims.

John Pierpont Morgan was one of these people. He was an American financier nicknamed the “Napoleon of Wall Street”and founding owner of the International Mercantile Marine Company. (IMMC) This company was the controlling trust and retaining ownership of a number of shipping lines including the White Star Line.  He had helped create General Electric and U.S. Steel and was credited with almost singlehandedly rescuing the Unites States banking system in the panic of 1907. John Morgan attended the ship’s launch in 1911 and had a personal suite on board with his own private promenade deck and a bath that featured specially designed cigar holders. When the Titanic was due to sail, John Morgan was forced to miss the voyage due to illness. He had intended to board the greatest ocean liner ever constructed on its maiden voyage to New York.

Today, J.P. Morgan is considered as one of America's leading businessmen and is credited for helping to shape the nation into what it is today.


The Hershey Chocolate Company and Hershey Chocolate Bar was invented by Milton S. Hershey.  He and his wife had spent the early part of 1912 in France and had planned to travel back home onboard the Titanic. The Hershey Community Archives has in its collection a $300 check written by Hershey to the White Star Line in December 1911. The check was a 10 percent deposit toward he and his wifes stateroom. Despite the large deposit Hershey placed on the ticket, he never stepped foot on the Titanic. Fortunately for Hershey, he return early from his trip in Europe to deal with business. Hershey left Europe three days before the Titanic was to sail on the German liner Amerika. The Amerika was one of several ships to send the Titanic warnings of ice in its path. Warnings that were ignored.

$300 Hershey cheque
Credit: CHRIS KNIGHT, The Patriot-News

Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi is best known as the man who pioneered wireless telegraphy.  He won the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics with Karl Ferdinand Braun, recognising their contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy. Marconi was offered passage on the Titanic by the White Star Line. He declined the offer instead deciding to travel 3 days earlier on board the Cunard liner RMS Lusitania. His decision to do this was due to the large amount of paperwork he had to do. Marconi prefered the public stenographer aboard the Lusitania and would travel on this ship many times.

Although Marconi was later questioned by a Senate committee, he emerged from the disaster as one of its heroes. The Senate committee alleging that his company’s wireless operators had withheld news from the public to sell exclusive information to the New York Times. It was in fact the 5-kw Marconi wireless installation that signaled for help after hitting the iceberg. This being the first time that the distress call S.O.S was used. His invention was credited with saving more than 700 lives.

Three years later during World War 1, Marconi narrowly escaped another famous maritime disaster. He was again onboard the Lusitania in April 1915. In May of the same year, a German U-boat sunk the ship off the coast of Ireland with a large loss of life.

Guglielmo Marconi(115383)
Credit: Library of Congress