Heir to Major Cedar Rapids Company Fortune Died on the Titanic
We all know the tragic story...
On a fateful evening, the unsinkable Titanic was put to the test and failed. More than 1,500 people died in the sinking of this ship.
One of those many people actually was an important figure in Cedar Rapids at the time.
It turns out that Iowa has quite a few interesting connections to the Titanic. One of the last survivors of the Titanic lived and died in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Seventeen passengers actually listed Iowa as either their final destination or mentioned that they were from the Hawkeye State. Only two of those individuals ended up surviving the shipwreck. Another one of them is connected to a Waterloo native and heir to a Cedar Rapids fortune.
One unlikely passenger on that fated ship was Walter Douglas. Douglas was an executive for Quaker Oats. His father actually founded the company after immigrating to the United States. Born in Waterloo, Douglas ran this business with his brother until he died that fateful night. They also founded the company now known as Penford Products.
Official documents report Douglas and his family lived in Cedar Rapids. This Waterloo native became known as a "captain of industry" in Cedar Rapids due to him amassing approximately $4 million dollars. In 1912, Douglas had recently retired from his Minneapolis linseed oil business and made a trip to Europe with his wife Mahala and their maid to pick up furniture.
According to reports, the Iowan's wife was a gifted singer and socialite, and a part of one of the founding families of Cedar Rapids.
On their journey back home, they bought tickets for the Titanic. When the ship collided with the iceberg, Douglas and his wife were actually in their cabin. Everything seemed fine until people started to gather in the halls with life preservers, and they finally figured out something was wrong.
Douglas quickly helped get his wife and their maid to safety. It was much easier for them to hop on a lifeboat because of their status as first-class passengers. He made sure that both of the women were safely on the lifeboat. Douglas promised Mahala that he would follow right behind them.
The Waterloo man refused to actually go on one nor did he try to weasel his way onto a raft. His final words according to reports were regarding letting others go before him even though he was a first-class passenger,
"No, I must be a gentleman."
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