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100th Anniversary Of Titanic Links W.R. Coe To Voyage

Theodore Roosevelt White House aide Archie Butt went down with the ship   

Timing is everything, and the choices W. R. Coe, whose mansion Coe Hall is the centerpiece of Planting Fields Arboretum State Park, made on his voyages crossing the pond, all worked to his advantage. John Hammond, Oyster Bay town historian says in his book Oyster Bay Remembered, that Mr. Coe was booked on the Titanic on April 12; however, because his wife, Mai, was ill, he changed his reservation on a later date to the Lusitania.

Henry Joyce, Planting Fields Foundation executive director said, “Mr. Coe was not booked on the maiden voyage of the Titanic, but was booked for a return voyage from New York to Southampton. With the sinking of the Titanic, they instead re-booked on the Lusitania in June of that summer.” That was why their new Renault Landaulet, which they bought in Paris in June 1912, was shipped by rail to London for their use while they were in England that summer.

As for the Lusitania, three years later, as an unarmed merchant ship it was torpedoed without warning on May 7, 1915 while heading east off the Old Head of Kinsale, Ireland. She was sunk by a German U-20 and sank within 18 minutes.

Mr. Hammond said his source for his information comes from his archive of clippings. He said, “Mr. Coe was in Europe trying to buy the Carshalton Gates (that were recently refurbished at Planting Fields). There was a delay somehow. Since he was in Europe at the time, I don’t see why he would book passage from New York to Southampton if he was already there.”

Mr. Joyce said they have difficulties in firming up some of the stories about the Coes and the Titanic saying, “There have been more extensive stories but I cannot document them.”

Conflicting stories are not new to Mr. Hammond. He said it is an example of how hard it is to establish history. You can find a source but the information can be incorrect. “Sometimes the people who provide information don’t know all the facts and it becomes more difficult for a researcher a few years later to find out what the details were.”

Mr. Hammond did however, have an Oyster Bay story related to the Titanic. He said, “There is a connection between Theodore Roosevelt and the Titanic. Archie Butt, who was one of his advisors went down with the ship. He was on his staff during the time he was president. As far as we know he is no relation to Reginald Butt, Jr. of Oyster Bay.”

Sagamore Hill National Historic Site Park Ranger Scott Gurney explained that Archie Butt was a military aide and managed formal events for the White House. He worked for TR and when Taft entered the White House in 1908, he worked for President Taft. Mr. Gurney said, “Archie Butt wrote to his mother every day, and after he died in the sinking of the Titanic, she had his letters published. We have them in the Sagamore Hill collection.”

Insurance Connection

On April 15, the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage. Mr. Coe was an insurance broker. His firm, Johnson and Higgins, had probably brokered some of the reinsurance policies on the loss of the Titanic, but no exact information has been traced, according to the Planting Fields Foundation.

Of the 2,224 people on board, 1514 died. Mr. Coe donated $100 (about $1,500 today) to aid survivors.

Titanic the Movie

The sinking of the Titanic has returned to the big screen in 3-D on the 100th anniversary of that tragedy. It is 3-D is a 3 hour, 14 minutes action/adventure/drama by director James Cameron with his cast of Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Kathy Bates and Frances Fisher that re-tells the story of the R.M.S. (Royal Mail Ship) Titanic, the pride and joy of the White Star Line and, at the time, the largest moving object ever built. She was the most luxurious liner of her era. The film is on view locally at the UA Westbury Stadium 12 at 7000 Brush Hollow Road. As a side note, the theater was developed by former Town of Oyster Bay Councilman Tom Hogan.

Snug Harbor Connection

Phillip Blocklyn, Oyster Bay Historical Society (OBHS) executive director received an invitation to the Noble Maritime Collection Study Center at historic Snug Harbor on Staten Island.  Last year they loaned the OBHS a rare oil painting done by silent film director James Stuart Blackton of Cove Neck for an exhibit at the Koenig Center on his life. He made the oil painting of a ship when he was just 23, proving he was a talented artist as well as a film entrepreneur.

Snug Harbor is holding an exhibition of contemporary art commemorating the sinking of the Titanic which opened on April 15, exactly 100 years after the most famous maritime disaster in history. Artists Matthew J. Benchimol, Diane Matyas, Ann Marie McDonnell, Rudolph Montanez, Denise Mumm, Nelleke Nix, Malissa Priebe and Mary Rouncefield are offering viewers a unique and intimate perspective on one of the most famous events in maritime history. The Noble Maritime Collection is located at 1000 Richmond Terrace, Building D, Staten Island, New York. The museum can be reached by phone at 718-447-6490.

Twitter Too

Nicole Menchise, archivist and collections manager for the Oyster Bay Historical Society and Raynham Hall Museum has been monitoring the National Archives website on the Internet because of the anniversary of the Titanic. “There are a lot of cool things about the Titanic and I have been forwarding those items onto our Facebook page. I haven’t found an Oyster Bay connection so far. But every day and on the weekend, I post two to three articles on our Twitter account. What is fun is to see the folks that ‘like’ us and reply to the articles. Sometimes the responses have to do with Oyster Bay. At the moment, most of the Titanic stories are national stories.” You can visit her archivist blog and her Twitter account at