October 26, 1865|
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Died||April 15, 1912
Atlantic Ocean, aboard the RMS Titanic
|Citizenship||American and German|
Businessmanmistress = Madame Leontine Aubert
|Spouse(s)||Florette Seligman (m. 1894–1912)|
|Children||Benita Rosalind Guggenheim
Barbara Hazel Guggenheim
Benjamin was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, the fifth of seven sons of the wealthy mining magnate Meyer Guggenheim (1828–1905) and Barbara Myers (1834–1900). In 1894, he married Florette Seligman (1870–1937), daughter of James Seligman, a senior partner in the firm J & W Seligman, and Rosa Seligman née Content. They had three daughters: Benita Rosalind Guggenheim (1895–1927), Marguerite "Peggy" Guggenheim (1898–1979) and Barbara Hazel Guggenheim (1903–1995).
Benjamin Guggenheim inherited a great deal of money from his father. He grew distant from his wife and for business reasons, was frequently away from their New York City home. He maintained an apartment in Paris, France.
Aboard the Titanic
Guggenheim boarded the RMS Titanic and was accompanied by his mistress, a French singer named Léontine Aubart (1887–1964); his valet, Victor Giglio (1888–1912); his chauffeur, René Pernot (1872–1912); and Madame Aubert's maid, Emma Sägesser (1887–1964). His ticket was number 17593 and cost £79 4s (other sources give the price as £56 18s 7d). He and Giglio occupied stateroom cabin B82 while Aubert and Sägesser occupied cabin B35. Pernot occupied an unknown cabin in second class.
Guggenheim and Giglio slept through the Titanic's encounter with the iceberg only to be awakened just after midnight ship's time by Aubert and Sägesser, who had felt the collision. Sägesser later quoted Giglio as saying, "Never mind, icebergs! What is an iceberg?" Guggenheim was persuaded to awaken and dress; Bedroom Steward Henry Samuel Etches helped him on with a lifebelt and a heavy sweater before sending him, Giglio, and the two ladies up to the Boat Deck.
As Aubert and Sägesser reluctantly entered Lifeboat No. 9, Guggenheim spoke to the maid in German, saying, "We will soon see each other again! It's just a repair. Tomorrow the Titanic will go on again." Realizing that the situation was much more serious than he had implied, as well as realizing he was not going to be rescued, he then returned to his cabin with Giglio and the two men changed into evening wear. The two were seen heading into the Grand staircase closing the door behind them. He was heard to remark, "We've dressed up in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen." He also gave a survivor a message saying, "Tell my wife, if it should happen that my secretary and I both go down, tell her I played the game out straight to the end. No woman shall be left aboard this ship because Ben Guggenheim was a coward." Guggenheim and his valet were last seen seated in deck chairs in the foyer of the Grand Staircase sipping brandy and smoking cigars. Both men went down with the ship. Their bodies, if recovered, were never identified. Guggenheim's chauffeur, René Pernot, was also lost in the disaster.
One of Guggenheim's final acts was to write the following message: "If anything should happen to me, tell my wife I've done my best in doing my duty."
Benjamin Guggenheim was one of the most prominent American victims of the disaster. As such, he has been portrayed in numerous movies, television series and a Broadway show depicting the sinking.
- Camillo Guercio (in an uncredited role) in Titanic (1953)
- Harold Goldblatt in A Night to Remember (1958)
- John Moffatt in S.O.S. Titanic (1979 TV movie)
- Joseph Kolinski in Titanic: A New Musical (1997), a Broadway musical that ran for 804 performances
- Michael Ensign in Titanic (1997). Guggenheim is depicted in the flooding Grand Staircase.
- David Eisner in Titanic (2012 TV miniseries / 4 episodes)
In the novel Last Tango in Aberystwyth by Malcolm Pryce, Ben Guggenheim's concern for others before himself as the Titanic is sinking is used as a moral compass.
- "Guggenheim, Dying, Sent Wife Message". New York Times. April 20, 1912. Retrieved April 17, 2012. "Efforts to find the body of Benjamin Guggenheim, who was the fifth of the seven Guggenheim brothers, as well as the bodies of other victims, will be made by the six surviving brothers."
- Guggenheim-Seligman : New York Times (1894) – October 25, 1894
- "Benjamin Guggenheim". biography.com. Retrieved February 16, 2012.
- Encyclopedia Titanica Biography of Benjamin Guggenheim
- Benjamin Guggenheim on Titanic-Titanic.com
- Encyclopedia Titanica Biography of Emma Sägesser[dead link]
- Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy, by John P. Eaton and Charles A. Haas, W.W. Newton & Company, 2nd edition 1995 ISBN 0-393-03697-9
- A Night to Remember, by Walter Lord, ed. Nathaniel Hilbreck, Owl Books, rep. 2004, ISBN 0-8050-7764-2