Washington A. Roebling II and the R.M.S. Titanic

Washington A. Roebling II, 1910
Special Collections and University
Archives, Rutgers University
Though 102 years have passed, the R.M.S. Titanic and the stories surrounding her foundering in the icy waters of the North Atlantic continues to captivate our imaginations.

Washington A. Roebling II, son of Charles G. Roebling, president of John A. Roebling Sons Company, and Stephen W. Blackwell, son of Jonathan H. Blackwell, a wholesale dealer of groceries and for a time state senator for Mercer County, traveled to Europe in the early months of 1912, accompanied by Roebling’s chauffeur, Frank Stanley.

After touring the countryside, Stanley returned home, but Blackwell and Roebling decided to delay their departure and book passage on the maiden voyage of Titanic.

They boarded at Southampton, England, from which she departed on April 10, 1912, destined for New York with ports of call at Cherbourg, France, and Queenstown, Ireland. The voyage was uneventful until April 14 at 11:40 P.M. when she struck an iceberg off the Grand Banks, near Newfoundland, Canada, buckling plates along the starboard side of the ship. The large gash rendered her watertight compartments useless, and she took on water for several hours before foundering at 2:20 A.M. on April 15.

Early newspaper reports here in Trenton were hopeful that Blackwell and Roebling had survived, but within a few days it became apparent they had been lost in the disaster. Of the 2,228 passengers and crew aboard Titanic, 1,523 perished and 705 survived.

Blackwell’s body was not recovered and a cenotaph for him was placed in the family lot in the churchyard of the Old School Baptist Church in Hopewell, N.J.; Roebling’s body was likewise not recovered and he was memorialized on the family monument in his father’s lot at Riverview Cemetery.

Charles G. Roebling Lot in Riverview Cemetery, Trenton, N.J.

The monument was designed and executed by the firm of Thomas Delahunty, Philadelphia, following the death of his wife Sarah Ormsby in 1887. Their son Harrison had died in 1883, and, now, with the inconsolable loss of his sole remaining son, he retained Alexander McDonald Co., a Boston-based monument company with a branch office just outside the cemetery gates, to create a fitting memorial. Craftsmen from that company carved in raised letters a cenotaph on the front panel of the monument’s die:

In Memory Of
Washington A. Roebling, II.
Son of Charles G. and Sarah O. Roebling
Born March 25, 1881
Perished and Lost at Sea on the
Steamship Titanic April 15, 1912 

Charles G. Roebling’s lot is located in Section U, Lot 4-6.

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