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Benjamin Guggenheim | American Businessman, Age, Family, Biography, Early Life, Career, Facts

QUICK FACTS

IntroBusinessman
WasBusinessperson, Entrepreneur
FromUnited States of America
TypeBusiness
GenderMale
Birth26 October 1865, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
Death15 April 1912, North Atlantic (aged 46 years)
FamilyFather: Meyer Guggenheim, Siblings: William B. Guggenheim, Isaac Guggenheim, Murray Guggenheim, Solomon R. Guggenheim, Simon Guggenheim, Daniel Guggenheim, Spouse: Floretta Seligman, Children: Peggy Guggenheim

BIOGRAPHY

Benjamin “Ben” Guggenheim (October 26, 1865 – April 15, 1912) was an American businessman. He died aboard RMS Titanic when the ship sank in the North Atlantic Ocean. His body was never recovered.

EARLY LIFE

Benjamin Guggenheim was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US, 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 & Co. and Rosa Seligman née Content. 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 father. 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.

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 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 B82 while Aubart 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 Aubart 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 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, 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. Titanic survivor Rose Amelie Icard wrote in a letter, “The billionaire Benjamin Guggenheim after having helped the rescue of women and children got dressed, a rose at his buttonhole, to die.” 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 Etches, who survived the sinking, a message, which Etches wrote down: “If anything should happen to me, tell my wife in New York that I’ve done my best in doing my duty.” 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].” Guggenheim and Giglio 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, Pernot, was also lost in the disaster.

PORTRAYALS

Benjamin Guggenheim was one of the most prominent American victims of the disaster. As such, he has been portrayed in numerous films, 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)
  • Michael Ensign in Titanic (1997)
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