Continuing our series that marks the centenary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, we look at some of the many "near miss" stories that have direct connections to Carnegie Hall.
Among the many dozens of accounts about the Titanic tragedy that continue to fascinate us a century later, some of the most eerie are the stories of those who narrowly missed being passengers on the fated vessel. Who among us hasn't thought, in the aftermath of some accident or disaster, Wow, that could've been me! Here are three tales of those who, but for a seemingly insignificant twist of fate, would have been aboard the Titanic, facing nearly certain death on the night of April 14, 1912.
Frick, former business partner of Andrew Carnegie and one-time chairman of Carnegie Steel, had booked passage on the Titanic in early 1912, but cancelled when his wife sprained her ankle while on a cruise in the Mediterranean. His booking changed hands several times; at one point, J. P. Morgan was to have taken the suite, but cancelled as well when he was delayed by business. The group of staterooms was ultimately occupied by J. Bruce Ismay, chairman of the White Star Line, to whose fleet Titanic belonged. Ismay survived the sinking, but was vilified publicly and in the press as a coward—William Randolph Hearst dubbed him "J. Brute Ismay"—who should have borne greater responsibility for seeing to the passengers' safety. Although he was not held responsible by any of the official inquiries into the disaster, the damage was done, and he resigned from the White Star Line the following year.
Henry Clay Frick, former business partner of Andrew Carnegie and one-time chairman of Carnegie Steel.
J. Bruce Ismay, chairman of the White Star Line.
J. Bruce Ismay and his wife's names appear on an early survivor list, New York Tribune, April 16, 1912
Bacon—who resigned his post in January 1912—was scheduled to sail home with his wife and daughter on April 10 from Cherbourg aboard the Titanic. His departure was delayed when his replacement, Myron T. Herrick, left New York later than planned, not arriving in France until April 18. Bacon—who also served briefly as US Secretary of State (1909)—spoke at Carnegie Hall in February 1916 at a meeting of the National Security League, inaugurating a "Campaign for a Million Members" for "Preparedness and Patriotism."
Report of Robert Bacon's near miss, New York Tribune, April 17, 1912
Perhaps the most unsettling of these "near miss" stories (at least in terms of its convergence with Carnegie Hall's history), involves the entire London Symphony Orchestra. Legend has always held that the orchestra had been booked for passage aboard the Titanic for a three-week tour of the US and Canada, but ended up departing earlier when some concerts were rescheduled. They made their American debut at Carnegie Hall on April 8, under the baton of Arthur Nikisch. For its own part, the orchestra (which celebrates the centennial of that first US tour this year), acknowledges that the tale remains more folklore than fact, as no hard evidence of the Titanic booking has ever surfaced. It's still a great story.
Flyer for the London Symphony Orchestra's April 1912 concerts at Carnegie Hall
Related: Hall History