Benjamin Guggenheim

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Benjamin Guggenheim
Guggenheim in 1912
Born(1865-10-26)October 26, 1865
DiedApril 15, 1912(1912-04-15) (aged 46)
EducationColumbia College
Peirce School of Business
Florette Seligman
(m. 1894)
Children3, including Peggy Guggenheim and Barbara Hazel Guggenheim
ParentMeyer Guggenheim

Benjamin Guggenheim (October 26, 1865 – April 15, 1912) was an American businessman, a wealthy member of the Guggenheim family. He died aboard RMS Titanic when the ship sank in the North Atlantic Ocean. His body was never recovered.[1]

Early life[edit]

Guggenheim was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the fifth of seven sons of the wealthy mining magnate Meyer Guggenheim (1828–1905), and Barbara Myers (1834–1900), both originally from Lengnau, Aargau, Switzerland.[2][3] The first member of his family to enter an institute of higher learning, he entered Columbia College in 1882, matriculating with the class of 1887. However, he found most of his course boring and dropped out after his second year.[4][5][6] He also attended the Peirce School of Business (now Peirce College), then one of the most prominent business schools in the country.[7] Guggenheim was Jewish.[8] In 1894, he married Florette Seligman (1870–1937),[9] daughter of James Seligman, a senior partner in the firm J. & W. Seligman & Co. and Rosa Seligman, née Content. Her family originated in Baiersdorf, Franconia, Germany. Together, they had three daughters: Benita Rosalind Guggenheim (1895–1927), Marguerite "Peggy" Guggenheim (1898–1979) and Barbara Hazel Guggenheim (1903–1995).

Guggenheim inherited a great deal of money from his mother. Due to business concerns, he grew distant from his wife and was frequently away from their New York City home. He maintained an apartment in Paris, France.[10]

Aboard the Titanic[edit]

This article in The New York Times relates a description from an assistant steward of Guggenheim's last hours, including helping other passengers to board lifeboats, donning formal wear instead of a life preserver, and saying that he and his secretary were "prepared to go down like gentlemen".[11]

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 Aubart'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 B84 while Aubart and Sägesser occupied cabin B35. Pernot occupied an unknown cabin in second class.[1]

Guggenheim and Giglio slept through the Titanic's encounter with the iceberg only to be awakened just after midnight ship's time by Aubart and Sägesser, who had felt the collision. Sägesser later quoted Giglio as saying, "Never mind, icebergs! What is an iceberg?"[citation needed] Guggenheim was persuaded to awaken and dress, and bedroom steward James Etches helped fit him with a lifebelt and a heavy sweater before sending Guggenheim, Giglio, and the two women up to the boat deck.[1]

As Aubart 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 and that he was not going to be rescued, he returned to his cabin with Giglio and the two men changed into evening wear.[1] Titanic survivor Rose Amelie Icard wrote in a letter, "The millionaire Benjamin Guggenheim after having helped the rescue of women and children, got dressed and put a rose at his buttonhole, to die."[12][13][14] He was heard to remark, "We've dressed up in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen."[1] Etches, who survived the sinking, recorded Guggenheim's message: "If anything should happen to me, tell my wife in New York that I've done my best in doing my duty."[1] Etches reported that "shortly after the last few boats were lowered and I was ordered by the deck officer to man an oar, I waved good-bye to Mr. Guggenheim, and that was the last I saw of him and [Giglio]."[1] Both men, as well as Guggenheim's chauffeur Pernot, died in the sinking. Their bodies, if recovered, were never identified.


Guggenheim was among the most prominent American victims of the disaster. As such, he has been portrayed in numerous films, television series and a Broadway show based on the sinking:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Guggenheim, Dying, Sent Wife Message". The 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.
  2. ^ "Family tree of Barbara Myers".
  3. ^ Barbara Myers Guggenheim
  4. ^ University, Columbia (1897). Catalogue of Matriculants who Have Not Graduated, 1758-1897. Published for the University.
  5. ^ Annual Register of the Officers and Students of Columbia College. New York City: Columbia College. 1884. p. 13.
  6. ^ Davis, John H. (August 1994). The Guggenheims: An American Epic. SP Books. p. 201. ISBN 978-1-56171-351-6.
  7. ^ Everts, Bart. "What do a wealthy Titanic passenger, a world tennis champion, and a 90's rapper have in common? Peirce College of course!". Retrieved June 25, 2020.
  8. ^ "The Titanic and Jews".
  9. ^ Guggenheim-Seligman : New York Times (1894) – October 25, 1894
  10. ^ "Benjamin Guggenheim". Archived from the original on March 31, 2012. Retrieved February 16, 2012.
  11. ^ "Guggenheim, Dying, Sent Wife Message". The New York Times. April 20, 1912. p. 9.
  12. ^ Poppy Danby (March 21, 2014). "Titanic letter reveals new first-hand account of disaster". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on March 22, 2014. Retrieved September 24, 2016.
  13. ^ "Titanic Letters Translated by email Reddit, Reveal Harrowing New Perspective on the Tragedy". The Huffington Post. March 21, 2014. Retrieved September 24, 2016.
  14. ^ md28usmc (March 21, 2014). "REQUEST. I own the only set of letters written by Rose Amélie Icard (longest French living Titanic survivor) describing a first hand account of what happened as the Titanic sank. It's written in French and I would love to have it translated so I could have them framed". Reddit. Retrieved September 24, 2016.
  15. ^ "David Eisner". Retrieved April 21, 2022.

External links and references[edit]