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Mark Simonson

April 14, 2012

A Titanic survivor stopped in Oneonta days after disaster

Edward Bean was one amongst the lucky one-third of the passengers aboard the Titanic who lived to tell about the disaster of the ill-fated ship that sank after hitting an iceberg on April 15, 1912. Only about a week after the disaster, Bean was in Oneonta, on his way home to Cincinnati.

Mr. Bean was a guest at the Oneonta Hotel. He had been a traveling representative and buyer of a large hotel supply house in Cincinnati. He had been in Paris and London for the past month purchasing supplies and had booked a trip back to the U.S. on the Titanic about two weeks before it sailed. Bean wanted to be one of the passengers on the giant ship's maiden voyage.

According to the Oneonta Star of Wednesday, April 24, "He was considerably shaken by his experiences and exhibited a nervous and halting manner yesterday when he was interviewed by a Star reporter."

"There is little to tell," said Mr. Bean, "outside of that which has already been published in the newspapers. Although I have tried to place my mind on other things beside the accident it seems impossible for in every newspaper that I pick up, great headlines of the ship stare me in the face; everybody is talking about it and it would naturally fill my mind to a great extent, even if it were not constantly brought to me by outside influences."

The Oneonta Star was no exception to the coverage, as there was a daily headline on the front page for nearly two weeks after the ship sank.

Bean recalled the sequence of events that led to the demise of 1,514 people, and his survival among the 710 passengers.

"I was on the deck when the crash came, but the jar was so slight that it was nearly 15 minutes after that I learned we had struck an ice berg. I was smoking a cigar with a chance acquaintance whose name I did not learn, and whom I have not seen since. It was bitter cold and we were both bundled up with heavy overcoats and I had a cap pulled well down over my head. We were talking about general subjects when we felt the slight jar."

"'What was that?' asked my companion."

"'Nothing serious, I imagine,' I replied."

"Strangely enough, then our talk turned to shipwrecks, but neither of us imagined that the very ship which we were on had been ripped open by an ice berg and that within a few hours we might be struggling for our lives."

"A few minutes later my companion threw his cigar over the rail and remarked: 'Guess I'll turn in.' He turned and left me and I never saw him again. I do not know whether he escaped or not. I had just finished my cigar when one of the crew passed me and remarked, 'we have struck something, an ice berg I guess.' I asked if it was serious and he said that he thought it was for some of the passengers had begun to make preparations to leave in the life boats."

"I hurried to my cabin … placing my personal papers and what few valuables I possess, including a picture of my wife and baby … in my pockets and hurried back to the deck. There was no confusion and I saw several boats lowered, filled mostly with women and children."

"The boat on which I escaped contained about 40 persons, and there were four other men beside myself. Just as the boat was lowered, one of the seamen said, 'there is room for more here, you'd better pile on.' I hesitated for a minute but when I saw that the boat was going to put off without any more passengers, I leaped in and we rowed away."

"I shall never forget that night," Bean continued with a shudder. "The women bore up bravely, although several cried continually, their husbands having been left on the ship."

"I was nearly exhausted after we were picked up by the Carpathia and remained in bed in New York until Saturday morning. I am going straight through to Cincinnati from Oneonta. My nerves have been shattered by the horrible experience and hereafter I expect to remain on land."

Bean left for Albany on the train that afternoon and was to go to Cincinnati from there.

If Oneontans weren't reading about the Titanic disaster in the newspaper, they could go see a film about it at The Oneonta Theatre. For one day only, Tuesday, April 23, an American Press Association film played, "Showing Details of the Catastrophe." Admission was a nickel or a dime, depending on the seating.

While not showing a film about the disaster, what was called The Broad Street Theatre collected the admissions from the day and donated them to "the needy Titanic sufferers."

"Oneonta certainly sympathizes with the sufferers in this disaster and the proceeds will doubtless be large," the Star reported.

On Monday: Oneonta had two sides to a nuclear weapons debate in April 1982.

City Historian Mark Simonson's column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at simmark@stny.rr.com. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/marksimonson.

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