Archibald Gracie IV

Archibald Gracie IV (January 15, 1858 – December 4, 1912) was an American writer, soldier, amateur historian, real estate investor, and survivor of the sinking of RMS Titanic. He survived the sinking by climbing aboard an overturned collapsible lifeboat and wrote a popular book about the disaster, which is still in print today.[1] Less than eight months after the sinking, he became the first adult survivor to die.[2]

Archibald Gracie IV
Born(1858-01-15)January 15, 1858
DiedDecember 4, 1912(1912-12-04) (aged 54)
Resting placeWoodlawn Cemetery, Bronx
EducationSt. Paul's School
United States Military Academy
OccupationWriter, amateur historian, real estate investor
Known forSurvivor of the RMS Titanic
Constance Elise Schack
(m. 1890; his death 1912)
Parent(s)Archibald Gracie III
Josephine Mayo

Early life

Gracie was born in Mobile, Alabama, a member of the wealthy Scottish-American Gracie family of New York. He was a namesake and direct descendant of Archibald Gracie, who had built Gracie Mansion, the current official residence of the mayor of New York City, in 1799. His father, Archibald Gracie III, had been an officer with the Confederate Army during the American Civil War; in 1862, he was promoted to brigadier general. In 1863, he served at the Battle of Chickamauga; he was killed in action during the Siege of Petersburg in 1864. In that same year, Archibald IV attended St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire. He later attended the United States Military Academy (though he did not graduate), and eventually became a colonel of the 7th New York Militia.[3]

Gracie was an amateur historian and had a particular interest in the 1863 Battle of Chickamauga, in which his father had served. He spent a number of years researching the battle and eventually wrote a book titled The Truth about Chickamauga, which was published in 1911. In early 1912, he traveled to Europe on the RMS Oceanic alone, without his wife or their daughter. He made his return trip to the United States aboard RMS Titanic as a first class passenger.[3]

Aboard Titanic

Gracie boarded Titanic at Southampton on April 10, 1912 and was assigned first-class cabin C51.[3] He spent much of the voyage chaperoning various unaccompanied women. They included writer Mrs. Helen Churchill Candee, 52,[4] and three sisters, née Lamson, who were also in their fifties: Mrs. E.D. (Charlotte) Appleton,[5] Mrs. R.C. (Malvina) Cornell,[6] and Mrs. J.M. (Caroline) Brown.[7] All four women survived the sinking, but Miss Edith Corse Evans, 36, who accompanied the sisters (and Gracie), did not.[8]

Gracie socialized with a group he called “our coterie”, joined by Candee, his friend J. Clinch Smith, and several others.[9] He also spent time reading books he had found in the first-class library and discussing the Civil War with Isidor Straus. He was known among the other first-class passengers as a tireless raconteur who had an inexhaustible supply of stories about Chickamauga and the American Civil War in general.

On April 14, Gracie decided that he had neglected his health and spent some time in physical exercise on the squash courts and in the ship's swimming pool. He then attended divine services, had an early lunch, and spent the rest of the day reading and socializing. He went to bed early, intending on an early start the next morning on the ship's squash courts.[9]

At about 11:45 pm ship's time Gracie was jarred awake by a jolt. He sat up, realized the ship's engines were no longer moving, and partially dressed, putting on a Norfolk jacket over his regular clothes. Reaching the Boat Deck, he realized the ship was listing slightly. He returned to his cabin to put on his life jacket and on the way back found the women he had been chaperoning. He escorted them up to the Boat Deck and made sure they entered lifeboats. He then retrieved blankets for the women in the boats, and along with his friend Smith assisted Second Officer Charles Lightoller in filling the remaining lifeboats with women and children.

Once the last regular lifeboat had been launched at 1:55 am on the 15th, Gracie and Smith assisted Lightoller and others in freeing the four Engelhardt collapsible boats that were stored atop the crew quarters and attached to the roof by heavy cords and canvas lashings. Gracie had to lend Lightoller his penknife so the boats could be freed. The men were able to launch Collapsibles "C" and "D" and free Collapsible "A" from its lashings, but while they were freeing Collapsible "B" from its place the bridge was suddenly awash. Gracie later wrote about the moment:

My friend Clinch Smith made the proposition that we should leave and go toward the stern. But there arose before us from the decks below a mass of humanity several lines deep converging on the Boat Deck facing us and completely blocking our passage to the stern. There were women in the crowd as well as men and these seemed to be steerage passengers who had just come up from the decks below. Even among these people there was no hysterical cry, no evidence of panic. Oh the agony of it.

As the fore part of the ship dipped below the surface and the water rushed towards them, Gracie jumped with the wave, caught a handhold, and pulled himself up to the roof of the bridge. The undertow caused by the ship's sinking pulled Gracie down; he freed himself from the ship and rose to the surface near the overturned Collapsible "B". Gracie scrambled onto the overturned lifeboat along with a few dozen other men in the water. His friend Clinch Smith disappeared; his remains were never found. In his memoir, Gracie surmises Smith became entangled with the ropes and other debris on the ship, and could not free himself.

As the night wore on, the exhausted, freezing, and soaking wet men aboard the overturned Collapsible "B" found it almost impossible to remain on the slick keel. Gracie later wrote that over half the men who had originally reached the collapsible either died from exhaustion or cold and slipped off the upturned keel during the night. As dawn broke and it became possible for those in other lifeboats to see them, Second Officer Lightoller (who was also on the collapsible, along with Wireless Operator Harold Bride) used his officer's whistle to attract the other boats' attention; eventually lifeboats Nos. 4 and 12 rowed over and rescued the survivors of the overturned boat. Gracie was so tired that he was unable to make the jump himself. He was pulled into lifeboat No. 12, last lifeboat to reach RMS Carpathia (the first rescue ship to arrive).

After the rescue

Gracie returned to New York aboard Carpathia and immediately started on a book about his experiences aboard Titanic and Collapsible "B". His is one of the most detailed accounts of the events of the evening; Gracie spent months trying to determine exactly who was in each lifeboat and when certain events took place.

Gracie died before he could finish correcting the proofs of his book. It was published in 1913 under the original title, The Truth about the Titanic.[9] Since then, the book has gone through numerous printings and is currently available under the title Titanic: A Survivor's Story. Most modern editions also include a short account of the disaster by John B. "Jack" Thayer, III, who also survived the sinking aboard Collapsible "B"; Thayer's account, "privately published for his family and friends in 1940", is titled The Sinking of the S.S. Titanic.[10][11]

Health and death

Gracie never recovered from the ordeal he endured in the sinking of Titanic; as a diabetic, his health was severely affected by the hypothermia and physical injuries he suffered. He died of complications from diabetes on December 4, 1912, fewer than eight months after the sinking.[1] He was buried in the Gracie family plot at Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York City; many of his fellow survivors, as well as family members of victims, attended his funeral. He was the first adult survivor to die.[2]

Gracie was so preoccupied with Titanic's sinking and work he had done on the subject that his last words were, "We must get them into the boats. We must get them all into the boats."[1]

Personal life

On April 22, 1890, he married Constance Elise Schack (1852–1937), the daughter of Danish-born aristocrat, Otto Wilhelm Christian Schack (who served as the Danish Minister to the United States) and Elizabeth Inez McCarty.[12] The ceremony was officiated by the Rev. Henry Y. Satterlee. Together, they had two daughters:

  • Constance Julie Gracie (1891–1903), who was crushed to death on June 7, 1903 in an elevator shaft in the Hôtel de la Trémoïlle in Paris, France while the family was vacationing in Europe.[13]
  • Edith Temple Gracie (1894–1918), a debutante[14] who was married on December 15, 1917, to Dunbar Burchell Adams, son of John Dunbar Adams, president of the American Chicle Company.[15] She died of pneumonia a little over a year later, on December 31, 1918, aged 24.[3]

His daughter Edith and wife Constance each inherited one-half of his estate. After his daughter's death, her husband inherited Edith's share.[16] Constance lost her share of the estate in 1917 in the failure of a brokerage house and had to be financially supported by the father-in-law of her late daughter.[17] In 1925, she "married Humberto Aguirre de Urbino, who had represented himself as a Count. He fled later, and, Mrs. Gracie said, had taken $5,000 worth of her jewels. It was brought out then that he was not a Count, but a dishwasher."[17] Constance died at a sanitarium in Washington, D.C. in December 1937 at the age of 85.[12]

As one of the best-known survivors of the disaster, Gracie has been featured as a character in many of the dramatizations of Titanic's sinking. For example, he was played by James Dyrenforth in A Night to Remember (1958) and by Bernard Fox in the film Titanic (1997), where he speaks in an incongruous British accent despite being American.


  • The Truth About the Titanic by Colonel Archibald Gracie, New York, Mitchell Kennerley, 1913
  • Titanic: A Survivor's Story and the Sinking of the S.S. Titanic by Archibald Gracie and Jack Thayer, Academy Chicago Publishers, 1988 ISBN 0-89733-452-3
  • The Truth about Chickamauga, by Archibald Gracie, 1911 ISBN 0-89029-038-5


  1. "Col. Gracie Dies, Haunted By Titanic. 'We Must Get Them All in the Boats,' Last Words of the Man Who Helped to Save Many". The New York Times. December 5, 1912. Retrieved January 31, 2013. Col. Archibald Gracie, U. S. A., retired, died yesterday morning at his apartment at the Hotel St. Louis, in East Thirty-second Street. Death was immediately due to a complication of diseases, but the members of his family and his physicians felt that the real cause was the shock he suffered last April when he went down with the ship and was rescued later after long hours on a half-submerged raft. ... Col. Gracie was believed to have been the last survivor of the lost Titanic to leave the ship.
  2. "First survivors to die after the disaster". Encyclopedia Titanica. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  3. "Archibald Gracie : Titanic Survivor". Encyclopedia Titanica. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  4. "Helen Churchill Candee : Titanic Survivor". Encyclopedia Titanica. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  5. "Charlotte Appleton : Titanic Survivor". Encyclopedia Titanica. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  6. "Malvina Helen Cornell : Titanic Survivor". Encyclopedia Titanica. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  7. "Caroline Lane Brown : Titanic Survivor". Encyclopedia Titanica. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  8. "Edith Corse Evans : Titanic Victim". Encyclopedia Titanica. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  9. Gracie, Archibald IV (2013). The Truth About the Titanic. ISBN 1478164476.
  10. Gracie, Archibald IV & Thayer, John B. III. Titanic: A Survivor's Story & The Sinking of the S.S. Titanic. ISBN 978-0753154533.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  11. Lord, Walter. The Night Goes On. p. 2 (Chapter X).
  12. TIMES, Special to THE NEW YORK (December 13, 1937). "MRS. C. S. GRACIE OF WASHINGTON; Widow of Col.Archibald Gracie, Titanic Survivor, Dies at the Age of 85 ONCE ACTIVE IN SOCIETY Known in Early Years for Her Philanthropies - Whole Family Died Before Her" (PDF). The New York Times. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  13. "NEW YORKER'S CHILD IS KILLED IN PARIS.; Daughter of Archibald Gracie of This City Loses Her Life in an Elevator Accident" (PDF). The New York Times. June 9, 1903. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  14. "MISS GRACIE A DEBUTANTE.; Reception at Hotel Gotham for Daughter of Col. Archibald Gracie" (PDF). The New York Times. November 29, 1912. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  15. "DUNBAR B. ADAMS DEAD.; Grandson of Founder of Chewing Gum Company and War Veteran" (PDF). The New York Times. December 18, 1928. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  16. Times, Special to The New York (May 27, 1923). "ADAMS WILL CASE TANGLE.; Colonel Gracie's Widow and Counsel at Odds in Action Over Estate" (PDF). The New York Times. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  17. "MRS. GRACIE GETS HELP FROM MAN SHE ACCUSED; Widow of Titanic Victim Is Aided by Son-in-Law's Father, Once Sued in Court" (PDF). The New York Times. January 7, 1929. Retrieved November 4, 2019.

Further reading

  • Eaton, John P. & Haas, Charles A. (1995). Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy (2nd ed.). W.W. Newton & Company. ISBN 0-393-03697-9.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
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