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A true story of pampered pets and Titanic survivors

The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on 5th Avenue in New York

The original Waldorf-Astoria was located on the Fifth Avenue site of the Empire State Building. It started as two hotels: one owned by William Waldorf Astor, opened in 1893, and the other owned by his cousin, John Jacob Astor IV, called the Astoria Hotel, which opened in 1897. John Jacob Astor died on the Titanic in 1912; incidentally, the investigation into the sinking of the Titanic was held at Waldorf-Astoria.

In the late 19th century and early 1900s, New York City’s acclaimed Waldorf-Astoria Hotel was the site of numerous pedigree dog shows. The first French Bulldog show took place at the luxury hotel in 1898, which, according to the French Bulldog Club of America, secured the breed’s reputation as “a high-society dog.”

The Toy Spaniel Club of America also hosted its annual shows at the Waldorf, which attracted dog fanciers from such celebrated kennels as the Nellcote, Dreamwold, Ashton, and Crestwood.

James Mortimer, a renowned dog show judge and bench show superintendent, was often the judge at these lavish events.

Following the Toy Spaniel Club of America’s second annual show at the Waldorf in 1904, The New York Times wrote: “These pampered pets are the real aristocrats of the world of dogs…the display is enough to put an ordinary dog to shame and cause it to become green with envy.

James Mortimer, dog show judge, Best in Show trophy

James Mortimer (1842-1915), was prominent in the kennel circles of the United States and Canada. The James Mortimer Memorial Sterling Silver Trophy first went into competition in 1917. This trophy is awarded by the Westminster Kennel Club for Best in Show, American bred; for permanent possession, one must win Best in Show five times.


According to the article, the show dogs dined from silver cups elaborately engraved with their initials, rested on Roman silk cushions in elaborate French-plate glass kennels, and dined on specially prepared meals.

The New York Daily Tribune also covered the event, noting that the show owed its success to Mrs. Goldenberg, the kennel club’s secretary. Mrs. Goldenberg, the paper reported, “was on hand in a black cloth dress with pleated skirt, the bodice cut away at the neck to show a Val guimpe and a line of pale nasturtiums.”

Mrs. Goldenberg told the reporter, “The popular response has been very cordial, and of course, I am greatly pleased at it.”

Kennel club secretary and her husband survive the Titanic

Samuel L. Goldenberg, Titanic survivor

Samuel L. Goldenberg, an international dog show judge, survived the Titanic with his wife Nella, who was secretary of the Toy Spaniel Club of America.

I originally intended this story to focus on the elaborate dog shows at the Waldorf…but then I started digging into the history of the Toy Spaniel Club of America.

It turns out that Nella Goldenberg (nee Wiggins), was one of the survivors of the Titanic in April 1912. Her husband, Samuel, who was a director for Goldenberg Brothers & Co. on Fifth Avenue and an international dog show judge, also survived.

Mr. and Mrs. Goldenberg lived in Riverdale-on-Hudson, New York, where they had a kennel, Nellcote Kennels. They moved to Paris in 1905, but continued to attend dog shows in New York and crossed the Atlantic about three times a year.

On April 10, 1912, the Goldenbergs embarked the Titanic in Cherbourg as first-class passengers and occupied cabin 92 on the C deck. (Mr. and Mrs. John Jacob Astor IV and their dog, an Airedale named Kitty, occupied cabins 62-64 on the C deck).

The Goldenbergs were on their way to attend the French Bull Dog Club of America’s show at the Waldorf-Astoria on April 20, where Samuel had agreed to be one of the judges.

John Jacob Astor and dog Kitty

John Jacob Astor IV, wife Madeleine, and Kitty their beloved dog.

On the night the Titanic struck the iceberg, the Goldenbergs boarded lifeboat 5. An article in the “Kennel Gazette” from May 1912 states that Mr. Goldenberg refused to board the lifeboat with his wife, and when the boat was launched she cried out to him to say good-bye.

Because there were apparently no other women passengers nearby and the boat wasn’t full, J. Bruce Ismay and one of the officers tossed Samuel into the lifeboat.


 Titanic passengers in Collapsible Boat D, then partially flooded with ice-cold water, approach RMS Carpathia at 7:15 a.m. on April 15, 1912. 

The starboard lifeboat was lowered at approximately 12.45 a.m. with about 34 people — mostly first-class women, a few men and about six crew members, including Titanic’s third officer, Herbert Pitman, the second most senior member of Titanic’s crew to survive. The boat was rowed a safe distance from the ship, and for some time, was tied up to lifeboat 7, as Pitman thought it best for the boats to stay together.

After the ship had sunk, Pitman ordered the boat be rowed back to rescue some of the people still alive in the water; unfortunately, the passengers in the boat discouraged him from doing so, with one passenger said to have said, “Why should we risk our lives in a useless attempt to save those?”

Until the Carpathia arrived in New York on that Thursday night, April 18, Samuel Goldenberg had been listed in all the newspapers as one of the victims of the disaster. On the pier, he was surrounded by friends who congratulated him and his wife on their escape. A New York Times reporter apparently approached him and asked him to tell his story of the disaster. Mr. Goldenberg refused to do so and hurriedly left the pier.

The only baggage to survive the Titanic

Of all the baggage that was on the Titanic, only one piece was reported saved. This was a well-stuffed, brown canvas carry-all, about 3 x 2 feet. It was the only piece of luggage placed in the customs area, under the big wooden “G” sign. It belonged to Samuel L. Goldenberg.

Custom House Special Deputy Surveyor George Smyth said Mr. Goldenberg’s carry-all was the only piece saved from the wrecked liner. No one at the Custom House knew how the carry-all had been saved. When it was brought ashore it was dry and did not appear to have been in the water.

Mr. Goldenberg explains the bag

In a letter to The New York Times dated April 24, 1912, Samuel Goldenberg explained how his baggage survived:

When I left the Titanic I was dressed in my pajamas, coat, trousers, dressing gown, raincoat, and slippers, (not shoes). I had time to take two rugs with me, for my wife and for myself.

On reaching the Carpathia I was told that the barber had some toilet articles and other things to sell. I therefore made the necessary purchases of toothbrushes and other toilet articles, including shirt and collars; for my wife and myself a pair of shoes, &c. I then asked the barber if he had anything to put them into in the shape of a bag, and he sold me a brown canvas kit bag. On reaching New York I put all of the remaining things into this bag, and this is the bag that was mentioned in THE NEW YORK TIMES. I state these facts simply for the purpose of not creating a wrong impression, as, in common with all other passengers, I had no thought of saving any of my luggage at such a moment, and actually did not save any.

Dog survivors of the Titanic

Dogs on the Titanic

Of the 12 confirmed dogs on the Titanic, only three survived. Unfortunately, none of the three pictured here on the ship’s deck survived. Most of the dogs were kept in the ship’s kennel and tended to by crew members, so they were considered more as cargo than as passengers.

There were 12 confirmed dogs on the Titanic. Only three survived: two Pomeranians (one named Lady and bought in France by Miss Margaret Hays) and a Pekingese named Sun Yat-Sen, owned by the Harpers of Harper & Row Publishers (now HarperCollins) fame. The Astor’s dog, Kitty, did not survive.

It has been said that there was a cat with young kittens aboard the Titanic during sea trials, but when the ship arrived in Southampton from Belfast, she was seen disembarking, retrieving one kitten at a time and bringing them down the gangplank to the dock. The cat and the kittens disappeared — some wonder if she had a feline premonition that the voyage would lead to disaster and take away all of the nine lives she had remaining.

If you enjoyed this story, click here for another true animal tale about the Titanic.

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