107 #81: Col. John Jacob Astor IV was crushed by a falling funnel as Titanic sank

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FALSE. This has generally been accepted as fact, probably because of the following statement by First Class survivor, Colonel Archibald Gracie:

‘From the fact that I never saw Colonel Astor on the Boat Deck later, and also because his body, when found, was crushed (according to the statement of one who saw it at Halifax, Mr. Harry K. White, of Boston, Mr. Edward A. Kent’s brother-in-law, my schoolmate and friend from boyhood), I am of the opinion that he met his fate on the ship when the boilers tore through it, as described later.’

However, Gerald Ross, an electrician on the Mackay-Bennett, the ship which recovered the bodies of most of the Titanic’s victims, informed the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin:

‘I saw the recovery of Col. Astor’s body. Like the others it was floating buoyed by a lifebelt. Both arms extended upwards. The face was swollen, one jaw was injured. His body was clothed in a business suit and tan shoes. His watch, a costly thing, studded with diamonds, was dangling from his pocket. It had stopped at 3:20. Practically all the other watches on bodies we recovered had stopped at 2:10. His watch chain was of platinum and so were the settings of the rings he wore.’

Astor’s jaw injury was relatively slight and could have been caused by his lifebelt, if he jumped from Titanic, or by other drowning passengers or debris as the ship sank. The Mackay- Bennett’s description of body no. 124, which was identified as Astor from the effects found with it, made no mention of either serious injury or blackening:


CLOTHING—Blue serge suit; blue handkerchief with ‘A.V.’; belt with gold buckle; brown boots with red rubber soles; brown flannel shirt; ‘J.J.A.’ on back of collar.

EFFECTS—Gold watch; cuff links, gold with diamond; diamond ring with three stones; £225 in English notes; $2440 in notes; £5 in gold; 7s. in silver; 5 ten franc pieces; gold pencil; pocketbook.


John Snow, an undertaker aboard the ship, said that the body was in an ‘excellent state of preservation’, and Captain Roberts, the commander of Astor’s yacht, saw his body at Halifax and said his features were unharmed and only slightly discoloured by water.

If you’d like to read the full book of101 Things You Thought You Knew About The Titanic…But Didn’t!, or any of my other books on Titanic, please visit my Author Page on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/tim-maltin/e/B005LNHYEQ/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_1

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