Benjamin Guggenheim (October 26th, 1865 – April 15th, 1912) was an American businessman. He died aboard RMS Titanic.


Early life

Benjamin was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, the fifth of seven sons of the wealthy mining magnate Meyer Guggenheim (1828–1905) and Barbara Myers (1834 – 1900). In 1894, he married Florette Seligman (1870 – 1937),[1] daughter of James Seligman, a senior partner in the firm J & W Seligman, and Rosa Seligman née Content. They had three daughters: Benita Rosalind Guggenheim (1895 – 1927), Marguerite "Peggy" Guggenheim (1898 – 1979) and Barbara Hazel Guggenheim (1903 – 1995).

While Guggenheim inherited a great deal of money from his father, he did not inherit his father's business acumen. His inheritance dwindled considerably from a number of poor investments. He grew distant from his wife and, ostensibly for business reasons, was frequently away from their New York City home. He maintained an apartment in Paris, France.[2]

Aboard the Titanic

Guggenheim boarded the RMS Titanic and was accompanied by his mistress, a French singer named Léontine Aubart (1887 – 1964), he boarded the Titanic to show of his money; his valet, Victor Giglio (1888 – 1912); his chauffeur, René Pernot (1872 – 1912); and Madame Aubart's maid, Emma Sägesser (1887–1964). His ticket was number 17593 and cost £79 4s (other sources give the price as £56 18s 7d). He and Giglio occupied stateroom B-82 while Aubart and Sägesser occupied cabin B-35. Pernot occupied an unknown cabin in second class.


Guggenheim and Giglio slept through the Titanic's encounter with the iceberg only to be awakened just after midnight ship's time by Aubart and Sägesser, who had felt the collision. Sägesser later quoted Giglio as saying, "Never mind, icebergs! What is an iceberg?" Guggenheim was persuaded to awaken and dress; Bedroom Steward Henry Samuel Etches helped him on with a lifebelt and a heavy sweater before sending him, Giglio, and the two ladies up to the Boat Deck.

As Aubart and Sägesser reluctantly entered Lifeboat 9, Guggenheim spoke to the maid in German, saying, "We will soon see each other again! It's just a repair. Tomorrow the Titanic will go on again." Realizing that the situation was much more serious than he had implied, as well as realizing he was not going to be rescued, he then returned to his cabin with Giglio and the two men changed into evening wear. The two were seen heading into the Grand Staircase closing the door behind them. He was heard to remark, "We've dressed up in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen." He also gave a survivor a message saying, "If anything should happen to me, tell my wife in New York I've done my best in doing my duty." Guggenheim and his valet were last seen seated in deck chairs in the foyer of the Grand Staircase sipping brandy and smoking cigars. Both men went down with the ship. Their bodies, if recovered, were never identified. Guggenheim's chauffeur, René Pernot, was also lost in the disaster.

One of his final acts was to write the following message: "If anything should happen to me, tell my wife I've done my best in doing my duty." [3]


Benjamin Guggenheim was one of the most prominent American victims of the disaster. As such, he has been portrayed in the numerous movies, television series and a Broadway show depicting the sinking.

  • Camillo Guercio (in an uncredited role) in the 1953 Film Titanic
  • Harold Goldblatt in A Night to Remember (1958)
  • John Moffatt in S.O.S. Titanic (1979 TV movie)
  • Joseph Kolinski in Titanic: A New Musical (1997), a Broadway musical that ran for 804 performances
  • Michael Ensign in the 1997 film Titanic. Guggenheim is depicted in the Grand Staircase, refusing a lifebelt from a steward and staying in the Grand Staircase as it floods. He is last seen staring in horror at the rushing water coming up to meet him.
  • David Eisner in the 2012 miniseries Titanic (three episodes out of four)

Guggenheim is possibly the inspiration for the character in the Italian animated series Huntik: Secrets & Seekers, the character in which shares the same name.

In the novel Last Tango in Aberystwyth by Malcolm Pryce, Ben Guggenheim's concern for others before himself as the Titanic is sinking is used as a moral compass.


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