ISIDOR & IDA STRAUS: IN THE NAME OF LOVE

Isidor Straus, 67, and his wife Ida, 63, almost always traveled together; in fact, they were rarely apart during their married life and wrote each other daily during periods of separation.

The son of German immigrants who had settled in Georgia, Isidor met Ida when he and his brother moved to New York City following the Civil War. Isidor arrived penniless in New York because he had paid every one of his debts before he left Talbotton, Georgia, even though standard practice at the time was not to honor the suddenly worthless Confederate scrip. Soon, though, Isidor and his brother Nathan became involved in the firm of R.H. Macy & Co., and eventually acquired it. Isidor also served as a New York congressman from 1895-97.

 

The Strauses—now wealthy philanthropists who generously supported dozens of causes in New York— had traveled to Europe early in 1912, crossing the Atlantic on the German liner Amerika. It was their custom to travel on German steamers whenever possible, but on their return trip to America they decided to travel on the maiden voyage of Titanic.

Isidor, Ida, and the Night of the Titanic Sinking

On the night of the disaster, as the call to board the lifeboats went out, Isidor escorted Ida to Lifeboat 8 and prepared to say goodbye to her. Ida, however, refused to enter the small boat, saying, “We have lived together for many years. Where you go, I go.” Several other first- class passengers tried to convince Ida to board but she could not be swayed. Instead, she sent her newly employed maid, Ellen Bird, in her place, after first wrapping her in a fur as protection against the cold. The Strauses were last seen seated side by side on Titanic’s Boat Deck.

The Strauses were not far from a member of their family on the night of their deaths. Their eldest son, Jesse Isidor, the US Ambassador to France, was traveling back to Paris on the Amerika, which had sent Titanic an ice warning earlier that day. Jesse Isidor had also sent his parents a personal telegram, mentioning the ice he had seen.

Isidor’s body was recovered by the Mackay-Bennett. A funereal service for Isidor was delayed for a few days in the hopes that Ida’s body might too be recovered, allowing the two who had lived and died together to also share a funeral—but Ida’s body was never found. Several days later, over twenty thousand people gathered at Carnegie Hall in New York City for a memorial service in the Strauses honor.