The Incredible Last Journey of
Stanley H. Fox
The deep rumbling blast of the great ocean liner's mighty whistle mingled with the happy cheers of the crowd and the gay musical strains of the ship's band. A covey of small tugs nosed the ship, the pride of England's White Star Lines, out to sea. The morning of April 10th, 1912, was a most pleasant one for the maiden voyage of the Titanic as she eased away from the Southampton seaport. To the 2,206 pasengers and crew massed along the rails it was an exciting drama to be savored and later shared with friends back home.
Among the second class passengers enjoying the festivities was Stanley H. Fox, a salesman for Rochester's Gleason Works. Stanley patted the coat pocket containing his sales book full of English orders for his firm's gear-cutting machines. He also touched the trouser pocket holding his wallet containing $70 dollars, nearly the equivalent of two months salary, that he had frugally saved from his expense account. Perhaps he smiled at this, grinning happily at thoughts of the highly successful trip he'd completed and resolved to store the precious order book in the ship's safe. Perhaps too, he turned his thoughts to his wife Cora Ellen, his two sons, Raymond, age eleven, and Clifford, age six, home in Rochester at 38 Gregory Street. The last sight of land slipped away as he mused silently, thinking about his friends and co-workers back at the foundry and machine shop at Number 10 Brown's Race. What a tale he would have to share with his good friends there.
As a highly skilled machinist he'd been chosen to become one of the firm's ace salesmen, selected to go abroad to represent and sell the Gleason Work's latest machinery to the budding automobile and truck plants in England. He was well liked by both his friends in the machine shop as well as its top management.
It had been his good fortune to find a berth on the first triumphant voyage of the great new flagship they called the Titanic. Even his bosses, William Gleason, founder of the tool company in 1865 and his two sons, James E. Gleason and his brother, Andrew, now at their new plant at 1000 University Avenue, might wish to personally hear about his sales successes and his homeward voyage with some of the most prominent members of international society. He was aware that Mr. and Mrs. John Jacob Astor, Mr. and Mrs. Rothschild, Mr. Thomas Andrews, managing director of Harland & Wolff Shipyard, builders of the Titanic, and Mr. J. Bruce Ismay, chairman of the White Star Line, were among the notable passengers on board. Little wonder, he mused, the London papers were dubbing the liner the "Millionaire's Express." He could hardly believe that he, practically a nobody from Rochester, New York, was actually in such splendid company.
For Stanley, the first few days were a whirlwind of activity exploring the vast ship and finding it a "floating palace" with all the most up-to-date appointments. Roaming much of the ship's 883-foot length, he was able to admire the vessel's graceful lines, her ebony sides and white superstructure. Most impressive were her four huge buff and black smoke stacks majestically silhouetted against the graying skies of the North Atlantic. It seemed like a floating city to Stanley. Wandering along the long companionways, he passed hundreds of staterooms, both the very plain for the steerage passengers on the "E" deck to those exceedingly posh arrangements for those living in the deluxe suites on the "B" deck. His explorations also allowed Stanley to discover the dining saloons for all three classes of passengers.
He may even have been impressed with the first class, a-la-carte French restaurant. Its pink-shaded table lamps perfectly matched the plush rose-colored carpeting complimenting its table setting of silver, crystal and china. Finally he found that this ship, largest in the world at that time, even boasted a squash court and Turkish Bath.
By three days out Stanley had met many travelers, made new friends and exchanged the humorous stories that good salesmen are so adept at telling. That evening the Gleason salesman would celebrate his 38th birthday surrounded with a bevy of new traveling companions. Now, Sunday morning, April 14th, the great ship was four days out of port, doing 22.5 knots, in calm seas. Some say she was attempting to set a new record time for the Atlantic crossing and win the fabled "Blue Riband…a silver chalice emblematic of…supremacy in speed."
All that day, unknown to Mr. Fox, Captain Edward J. Smith had been receiving wireless messages from other liners. These warned of icebergs in his path. The captain, while a prudent man, had great confidence in this "leviathan of the sea." She was sturdily built and propelled through the water by triple screws. Two of these were driven by triple-expansion engines and the other by a turbine. This seemed more than adequate for any eventuality. Some years earlier he stated: "I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that." Further, he knew, the vessel was protected by 16 watertight compartments that were automatically controlled and therefore, considered the great ship Titanic to be quite unsinkable!
As the day wore on the air grew more chill. The Titanic was beginning to ease her way along the North Atlantic sea lanes strewn with small icebergs. One passenger even wrote to his wife reporting "the sea is like a millpond." About 9:00 PM. Stanley Fox found his way into the second-class smoking room and lounge where he met some new friends from the western states. After a few drinks and a round of stories, the group settled into a poker game. It was to continue on into the late evening.
At 11:40 PM. that night Frederick Fleet, the ship's lookout, reported an iceberg dead ahead. The bridge responded to the warning. Slowly the gigantic ship altered her course. It seemed that the ship would slide harmlessly by the towering mountain of ice on her starboard side. A jolting blow sent a tremor thoughout the Titanic. So huge was the 46,000 ton vessel that to most first class passengers, the encounter felt little more than a smacking kiss to the thick steel plates. On the third class level the collision was like a mighty hand slamming the ship's side throwing many pasengers from their bunks. The impact there was tremedous and many knew instantly they were in peril.
Events elsewhere were of a less serious nature. Survivors reported that several onlookers at Fox's card game looked out the portholes at the time of impact. However none felt the incident worth leaving the game to investigate. History doesn't tell us if it was Stanley or one of his party who pointed to his whiskey glass remarking to one of the bystanders, "Just run along the deck and see if any ice has come aboard. I'd like some for my drink." The remark was greeted by a round of general laughter just as they felt the engines halt. Finally all the card players were to see the massive iceberg hugging the Titanic's side. Observing this, one wag in the party put down his cards and suggested, "I expect the iceberg has scratched off some of her new paint, and the Captain doesn't like to go on until she is painted up again."
Ironically, historians point out, if the ship had smashed head-on into the wall of ice she might well have remained afloat. Instead, as the helm was put hard over, the ship veered to one side. This caused a dense underwater projection of ice to knife its way into the hull for 300 feet creating a giant gash that greedily sucked in the icy sea. In ten minutes the first five compartments filled with water. Because the bulkheads between the fifth and sixth compartments went only as high as "E" deck, the water soon spilled over into each consecutive compartment. The vessel was doomed.
While most of the other members of the card party felt the sideswiping caused no serious damage, Stanley Fox quietly left the game and retrieved his valuable sales book from the ship's safe. At this point the Titanic had about three hours to live. Throughout the vessel seamen were shepherding women and children into life jackets and steering them toward the lifeboat stations. The process went badly since no lifeboat drill had been practiced.
It's known that Stanley Fox had donned one of the cork-filled life jackets. Further, he had been one of the many to heroically assist the chldren and women passengers across the slanting promenade deck to the 16 wooden lifeboats and the four collapsible lifeboats—not enough for even half those aboard. After all, the experts agreed, why would it be necessary to have more on an "unsinkable ship"?
The SOS, SOS and CQD, CQD wireless signals were tapped out by the ship's frantic radio operator. This was the first time such international distress signals were used on the high seas. The reached the Carpathia some 58 nautical miles distant. However, the same signals failed to rouse the Californian just over the horizon 19 miles away—her wireless operator had turned off his set at 11:30 and gone off duty. Further her Captain, Stanley Lord, with almost criminal disregard, failed to respond when informed of the sighting of distress rockets by his first officer, Herbert Stone.
Perhaps, equally as guilty was the skipper of the Norwegian fishing trawler, Norge, that was illegally taking seals in ocean waters not more than four hours away. Only recently has it been revealed that the vessel, fearing punishment for its illegal operaton, failed to come to the rescue of the stricken ship.
During the next hour, acts of selflessness and heroism would be recorded large in the annals of all seafaring. Of special note was Captain Smith's watery rescue of a small child and stoic reaction when he found there was no room for him in the overcrowded lifeboat. Most memorable to many of the survivors was the incredible action of the ship's band that continued to play "Alexander's Ragtrime Band" and, with the black waters of the Atlantic now lapping at their feet, continued playing: this time the old hymn, "Nearer My God To Thee."
Arriving at 4:00 A.M., the Carpathia's crew was met by a heart-breaking scene. There, scattered over a four-mile area was tangled wreckage, scores of small icebergs and the lifeboats containing all the humanity that was left on the once proud Titanic. Captain Arthur Roston's crew rescued only 703 survivirs. In all, 1,503 souls were lost at sea, many dying of hyperthermia in the frigid waters. Among them were both Captain E. J. Smith, and Stanley H. Fox, of Rochester, New York.
The White Star office immediately dispatched the Mackay-Bennett, a ship from Halifax, Nova Scotia to search the area for any other possible survivors. Their mission was also to recover any bodies and their personal effects if possible. They returned to port with the last remains of over 300 of the Titanic's complement. Thus Stanley Fox was solemnly placed in the municipal ice rink in Halifax. Once he was identified, a telegram was sent to his widow at her Gregory Street home. The unexpected loss of her husband sent Cora into shock. She was consoled by Lydia Fox, her sister-in-law, but still seemed unable to respond to the situation.
Realizing Cora's incapacity, Lydia immediately set out for Halifax to make arrangements for the return of Stanley's remains to Rochester. Identifying herself as the departed man's sister, she was able to arrange for her brother's body to be returned on a milk train, the first available transportation out of the city that day. When word of this reached Cora, she became even more distraught. If anyone was to take care of her beloved Stanley it must be her, and no other. Thus Cora sent a telegram to the government officials in Canada requesting that Stanley be moved no further than Truro, Nova Scotia where she would soon arrive to take charge of her late husband. Upon arrival in the small community, Stanley's body was removed from the train and his sister, much upset by this unaccountable action, was allowed to continue home.
The final leg of Stanley's journey home was delayed by yet another hectic development. The Canadian officials would not permit Cora to take charge of her husband's remains. She needed, they insisted, proper identification. Unfortunately, she had neither a driver's license nor a passport to prove her identity. It was not until two days later, after the personal intervention of Rochester's Mayor Edgerton, the the matter was cleared up. Finally, Cora and Stanley were reunited.
His body was delivered to a local funeral chapel, re-embalmed and given a stately funeral in his own home. His account book, too, was sent to the Gleason Works. In an unprecedented move, the entire Gleason Works shut down for the afternoon out of respect for their departed employee. Church services were then conducted with dozens of his fellow workers in attendance. Finally buried on April 18th, 1912, Stanley H. Fox's incredible journey had come to an end. And, as one of the Gleason Work's star salesmen, he would forever have an honored place in their hearts and their history.
Even today, 87 years after his demise, there is still an occasional visitor that makes their way to Mount Hope Cemetery to view the grave site of Stanley Fox. Most of these visitors are members of the Titanic Historical Society of Orchard Park, Massachusetts, who have developed an intense interst in the tragic episode and those who were aboard during her maiden voyage.
The Gleason Works also remembers its only employee who lost his life while abroad on company business. Cora was placed on the company payroll, the firm looking after her for many years until her boys were grown. Raymond, one of Stanley's two sons, was eventuslly employed by the Gleason Works. Further, twice each year to this day, the company provides for a small wreath and flag to be reverently placed on Stanley H. Fox's final resting place. Lillian Berthan who lived at 11 Key Terrace in Rochester, was also a traveler aboard the Titanic. Her story is another article.
© 2006, Donovan A. Shilling