Washington Roebling

Washington Roebling

25/3/1881 - 15/4/1912

Washington Augustus Roebling, II, 31, born 25 March 1881, the only son of Charles G. Roebling. Washington's mother, the former Miss Ormsby of Pittsburgh died during his childhood. Washington carried a fabled name as heir to the Roebling wire-rope fortune. His uncle and namesake was the intrepid engineer who built the Brooklyn Bridge, and his father was an executive in the family business, John A. Roebling's Sons Co. Blessed with great wealth by his relatives' deeds, the young man was something of a playboy, but he had a good mind and took a special interest in his family's investments. Roebling graduated first from the State Model School and then from the Hill School in Pottstown, PA with a degree in engineering. While in school, he was noted for his football playing ability. After working for a time at his father's business (the Roebling Wire Co.), he began work at the Walter Automobile plant which was later taken over by the Mercer Automobile Company, Mercerville. While at the Mercer plant he designed and built his Roebling-Planche racing car, finishing in second place in the Vanderbilt Cup Race in Savannah, Georgia in 1910. In early 1912, he left on a tour of Europe with his friend Stephen Weart Blackwell, also of Trenton. Roebling's chauffeur, Frank Stanley accompanied the two men, bringing with them Roebling's Fiat car. They toured Italy and France, and it was in France that they met up with the George Dennick Wick family. It was on the voyage to Europe, they also become acquainted with a member of the Wick party, Miss Caroline Bonnell. However, a week before the completion of their trip, Stanley fell ill and returned to the U. S. on another ship, bringing the Fiat back with him. Roebling and Blackwell boarded the Titanic at Southampton as first class passengers. Roebling carried ticket no. PC 17590 (£50 9s 11d) and occupied cabin A-24. On the night of 14 April, according to Edith Graham and her daughter Margaret, Roebling alerted them to the danger and with the help of Howard Case, escorted them to the lifeboats, making no attempt to enter themselves. Caroline Bonnell said Roebling also helped her and the women in the Wick party into a lifeboat, during which he said cheerfully, "you will back with us on the ship again soon." Roebling and Blackwell both perished, however, there was some confusion over Roebling's fate when an early list of survivors listed a Mr Washington. This was later determined to refer to Dr. Washington Dodge who escaped with his wife and son. Upon receiving word of the sinking, two cousins of Roebling, Ferdinand W. Roebling, Jr. and Karl Roebling left for New York with Blackwell's two brothers. After failing to find their relatives among the survivors arriving on the Carpathia , and talking with Ms. Bonnell, the relatives realized the men's fate and returned to Trenton. In addition to his father, Roebling also left behind two sisters, Miss Helen Roebling, at the time engaged to noted Philadelphia artist, Caroll Sergeant Tyson, Jr.; and Mrs Richard McCall Cadwalder (nee Emily Roebling) of Philadelphia. Charles G. Roebling, a prominent member of the Trinity Episcopal Church in Trenton, later had the west wall of the cathedral rebuilt as a memorial to his son. Charles Roebling himself died in 1918 and the age of 69, never having recovered from his son's death. After the chauffeur Stanley's return to America, the Fiat car, the only remnant of the men's ill-fated journey was driven back home by relatives. What became of it remains a mystery.


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