A Rare Titanic Family: How the Caldwells Survived the Sinking and Traveled the World
Julie Hedgepeth Williams
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Of the families that boarded the unsinkable Titanic in 1912, only a fourth stayed together during the sinking and arrived safely in New York. Albert and Sylvia Caldwell and their 10-month-old son, Alden, were one of those rare Titanic families. Author Julie Williams draws on first-person accounts from her great-Uncle Albert and extensive research to tell the fascinating story of the young family who were saved by a combination of luck, pluck, Albert's outgoing nature, Sylvia's illness, and Alden's helplessness. Their detailed story of the short life of the Titanic and their lucky rescue aboard the ill-starred Lifeboat 13 has never been fully told in Titanic literature. A Rare Titanic Family includes a photo taken of them on deck an unusual surviving souvenir sent to them after the disaster. But the trip on the Titanic was only one part of a bigger nightmare for the Caldwells.
Albert and Sylvia, idealistic young Presbyterian missionaries from the American Midwest, had set out to Bangkok, Siam, on the very day of their wedding in 1909, eager to serve God and see the world. But things went awry. In the end, they fled Bangkok in a desperate journey around the world to save Sylvia's health. Fellow missionaries, however, believed that the couple had plotted to renege on their contract and contrive an excuse to go home early, at great financial loss to the church. The trip around the world thus developed into a grim game of cat and mouse, with the Caldwells as the prey. Not even the loss of the Titanic ended the hunt. A Rare Titanic Family follows the true-life plot twists in a biographical account of a family that survived the Titanic but could never escape the shadow the ship cast over them.
a half acres of land, but it needed a water supply, upgraded equipment, and “two or three expert teachers. It is absolutely essential to the life and growth of our mission schools that they keep ahead of the government schools.” It would, the Foreign Missions Board warned, be shortsighted of churchmen to let the college lose its edge. Albert found he had a tough act to follow. Leaders of the school, including the Reverend W. G. McClure and Dr. Wachter, had been wise managers, putting the
to have to give up our work so soon. But we must not complain . . . Mrs. Caldwell has been sick, from the day we arrived in Siam . . . She suffered a great deal during these past two years . . . But we were told that every one must first become acclimated. I myself have been in perfect health, and like the climate. Dr. Hansen told me some time ago, that we would eventually have to give up the work here, as Mrs. Caldwell could not stand the Tropics. In so saying, he conveniently forgot or
was known as a crusader against pastor burnout, and tending to Sylvia could have been part of his crusade. In fact, as Albert recalled it when he was well into his eighties, “Of course the missionary society met us there and took us to a hotel.” Perhaps H. B. McAfee had been sent by the Board of Foreign Missions to collect the Caldwells and get them to a hotel, and no one bothered to tell Carter of the duplicate effort. Or perhaps Carter was deliberately standing by to aid McAfee, should Sylvia
story. However, if Beesley really did at first recall Albert as female, it might have been a natural mistake in all the confusion and hubbub, as Albert was carrying the baby. Everyone seemed to remember that. Entrepreneurs leaped into action to sell items related to the Titanic disaster. Albert acquired this card in New York and mailed it less than a week after the disaster. By the time Albert sent this postcard to Sam Conybeare, the Caldwells were looking forward to going home the next
indeed this could have been the case. However, the variations were relatively minor ones on a similar theme—until he began spotlighting the stoker. Alden Caldwell as a young teen. The overall thematic shift to the stoker, rather than Alden, as the key player came into focus as Alden aged. By the time Alden was a teen, no doubt he would have objected to being called a baby in his parents’ newspaper interviews about the Titanic. Probably he took some ribbing for it from his friends.