The Titanic and Six Chicago Connections



106 years ago this morning, the news that was rocking the world was that the Titanic had struck an iceberg the night before at 11:40pm and sank to the bottom of the ocean 2 hours and 40 minutes later. The Titanic, the unsinkable new addition to the White Star Line built by Harland & Wolff in Belfast, Ireland, was on its maiden voyage. As the reports started coming in, it became apparent that out of 2200 passengers and crew, only 700 were rescued by the Carpathia four hours later. 1500 souls—some returning from vacation, some seeking new opportunities in America—were not going to be landing in New York. 1500 dreams ended that night.


The Titanic (from the John Oxley Library).


The last lifeboat successfully launched from the Titanic, photographed by a passenger of the Carpathia.

There were 73 passengers on board the Titanic that had Chicago listed as their destination. Of those 73, six were residents of Chicago: Ann Eliza Isham; Ida Hippach and her daughter, Jean Hippach; Nils Johansson; Arnelia Lemore; and Mr. Ervin Lewy.

Ann Eliza Isham was born in Chicago in 1862 to Edward Swift Isham and Frances Burch. Her father, Edward Isham, had established a law firm with Robert Todd Lincoln that was in existence until 1988. Ann Eliza was a member of 2nd Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue and 19th Street in Chicago. She was admitted to church membership by profession of faith on January 24, 1883, one day before her 21st birthday. She was the 2nd president of the Women’s Board of Northwestern Hospital from 1899 to 1901 and the only president in the history of the Women’s Board to hold the title “Miss.”


Anne Eliza Isham from the Passavant book.

In 1912 Ann, who was 50 years old at the time, had been living in Europe with her sister Frances. She boarded the Titanic as a first-class passenger in Cherbourg. Her destination was New York with a plan to spend the summer there with her brother Edward. Ann was one of four first-class women who died in the disaster, and her body was never recovered. Her family erected a memorial to her in Vermont. It was never proven, but there is a story that she was traveling with her dog, a Great Dane. She jumped out of a lifeboat to join him as she was not able to leave him behind.

Arnelia Lemore, 39 years old, was a second-class passenger who boarded the Titanic in South Hampton.   She was a seamstress by trade and listed as a “button hole machinist” in 1912. Though she was married, she was estranged from her husband at that time. Returning to Chicago from a visit to her parents in England, she shared a second-class cabin with 3 other English women. She survived by being led to lifeboat #14. Her destination address was on Austin Avenue in Chicago. Eventually she became an optometrist’s assistant here, making several return trips to England to visit her parents. She lived in Chicago until around 1940, at which time she returned to live in London, England. She died May 15, 1950, at the age of 84.

Nils Johansson, 30 years old, boarded the Titanic in South Hampton as a third-class passenger. Nils was born in Sweden in 1881 and had immigrated to the United States sometime around the turn of the century. Working for 8 years as a machine smith in Chicago, he was returning to Sweden to bring his 23-year-old fiancée, Olga Lunden, back to Chicago with him. Their destination was the home of his uncle, Oscar Benson, on Ashland Avenue. Unfortunately, Nils did not survive, and his last words to Olga as he put her into one of the lifeboats were: “Send my regards to Father and Mother.” His body was never recovered. Olga survived and became a cook living in Connecticut.


From left: the sapphire ring Ervin bought in Paris before boarding the Titanic; a painting of the infamous ship; Ervin Lewy (photo courtesy of Stanley Lewy).

Ervin Lewy was 31 years old when he boarded the Titanic in Cherbourg as a first-class passenger. Ervin was the treasurer of Lewy Brothers Jewelers, one of four brothers who succeeded their father, Bennot Lewy, in the jewelry business. Lewy Brothers Jewelers was located at State and Adams back in 1912. When it first opened its doors as Lewy the Jeweler in 1860 it was located on West Van Buren.

Ervin set out on January 15, 1912, to Amsterdam on a diamond purchasing trip. Amsterdam was the world’s center for diamond polishing and trade at that time, mainly due to the discovery of diamonds in 1867 in South Africa. Ervin was scheduled to return on a ship called the Rotterdam a week earlier. However, due to a rather unsuccessful buying trip, he decided to stay another week. His last communication to his family was through a telegraph to his brother that he was on his way home aboard the Titanic. Sadly, he did not survive and his body was never identified or recovered.

During his last week, he spent some time in Paris and purchased a sapphire ring from Cartier for his grandmother. The ring arrived by mail to his family a few days after his death. His grandfather reset the stone and surrounded it with diamond baguettes for his wife. Ervin was unmarried and lived with his sister Frieda Uppenheimer on South Park Avenue in Chicago. His company survived another ten years after his death, ultimately declaring bankruptcy in 1925.


Jean; mother, Ida Hippach; and son.

Ida Hippach and her daughter, Jean, were traveling home to Chicago on the Titanic after vacationing in Europe since January of that year. Ida was 44 years old and Jean was 17. They boarded the Titanic in Cherbourg as first-class passengers. Husband and father, Louis Hippach, was the co-owner of plate glass dealers Tyler & Hippach, in Chicago. Tyler & Hippach was founded in 1886 and was sold in 1963 to Globe Glass & Trim. Originally a family of four children, tragedy struck on December 30, 1903, when the two oldest sons, aged 14 and 12, went to the performance of Mr. Blue Beard at the Iroquois Theatre and perished in that horrific fire.

When the Titanic struck the iceberg, Ida and Jean decided to dress and go up to the deck. They saw people being put into lifeboats but initially did not think it too serious. After John Jacob Astor put his wife into a lifeboat, he urged Ida and Jean to join her in lifeboat #4. They credit him with saving their lives that day. When the Carpathia arrived in New York, they were met by Louis and the family’s youngest son, Howard. Together they returned to Chicago on April 21, 1912, on the Twentieth Century Limited. Sadly, tragedy was to strike again in October of 1914, when Howard was killed in an auto accident. Jean went on to marry and raise three children, living in Lake Forest and Massachusetts. She is buried with her family in Rosehill Cemetery. Ida and her husband moved to Evanston. After his death in 1935, she lived with Jean until her death on September 22, 1940, following a stroke. She is buried in Rosehill.

After the Titanic disaster, many new safeguards were put into place, including lifeboat seats for every passenger and crew member, along with onboard safety drills. Other safety precautions require that vessels avoid taking the fastest route during the months of January through April when icebergs pose the greatest threat.

The Titanic continues to fascinate everyone 106 years later. May those who perished Rest in Eternal Peace!