Saturday, December 9, 2017

Living(ston) History: Frances Livingston Glover and her daughter, the unsinkable Susanna

Crime writer Armstrong Livingston dedicated his mystery novel The Monster in the Pool (1929)--to be reviewed here soon I hope--to his lone paternal aunt, Frances Livingston Glover, who, like other members of the author's father's side of the family, lived a life of considerable wealth and privilege.  Born in 1849, Frances Glover turned 80 in the year of the publication of The Monster in the Pool, suggesting that the book dedication may have been a sort of gift to the old woman from her 44-year-old nephew. 

Frances, one of two elder siblings to Armstrong Livingston's father, noted criminal defense attorney Robert Armstrong Livingston, wed wealthy insurance and real estate broker James Andrew Glover in 1888, three years after the future author's birth, and with Glover she had three daughters. After leaving prep school, Armstrong Livingston entered his uncles's business and resided for a time in the Glover's Manhattan household, which then consisted of his uncle and aunt, his three girl cousins and four Irish-born house servants (a cook, waitress, laundress and maid). 

The eldest Glover daughter, Susanna, made news in New York when she became a prominent survivor of the 1909 wreck of RMS Republic, the so-called "Millionaire's Ship" (on account of the large number of wealthy American passengers), which sank in the Atlantic off Nantucket after colliding in the fog with SS Florida. In stark contrast with RMS Titanic three years later, a distress call was quickly answered, resulting in the rescue of all 739 surviving passengers and crew.  (Three Republic passengers had been killed in the collision, along with three Florida crewmen.)

Republic and Florida collide

Young Susanna Glover, who had just made her debut at the age of 18 the previous year, distinguished herself during the calamity "by her self-possession," the New York Times reported at the time.  (Her passport photo application reported that her chin was "firm.") 

With the Republic sinking to the bottom of the ocean, its passengers and crew were transferred to the Florida, leaving this ship, which had its own complement of 900 Italian immigrants, dangerously overloaded.  Fortunately, RMS Baltic arrived to share some of the human burden.  During the transfer, however, a riot nearly broke out among the Italian immigrants when they were required to remain on Florida until the first-class passengers from Republic had been transferred.

Susanna Glover responded by taking matters firmly in hand.  When she left Florida for Baltic, she carried with her two Italian babies, one tucked under each of her arms.  It's something I would have liked to have seen!

The wreckage of Republic was located in 1981, not far from that of the better-remembered SS Andrea Doria.  Salvage operations have been made, rumors having long swirled that the Republican was loaded with Russian gold.

More coming soon on Armstrong Livingston's interesting maternal side of the family--the Anglo-French side.

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