William Harris Tantum IV, Maritime Historian

William Harris Tantum IV
Courtesy of Titanic Historical Society

William Harris Tantum IV (1930–1980), publishing company executive and maritime historian, was a co-founder and former president of the Titanic Historical Society.

Born in Trenton, he resided in Lower Makefield, Pa., before moving to Greenwich, Conn., and it was there that he became acquainted with Edward S. Kamuda who had founded the Titanic Enthusiasts of America some years earlier.

Given Tantum’s flair for publicity, he was one of the co-founders of the Titanic Historical Society as a successor and the driving force in that organization achieving national acclaim.

He encouraged Robert D. Ballard, Ph.D., to search for R.M.S. Titanic, which foundered after striking an iceberg on April 14, 1912, but died five years before the ship was discovered in the icy waters of the North Atlantic in 1985. In recognition, however, a plaque was placed at the site the following year. The inscription reads: “In memory of those souls who perished with the ‘Titanic’ April 14-15, 1912. Dedicated to William H. Tantum IV, whose dream to find the ‘Titanic’ has been realized by Dr. Robert D. Ballard. The officers and members of the Titanic Historical Society Inc., 1986.”

He was a graduate of Valley Forge Military Academy and Pennsylvania Military College (now Widener University), and retired a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve.

Tantum IV is interred in Section B, Lot 416-418, in the Zerman-Tantum family plot.