This is a guest write-up by Margaret McAleer, a chronicler in the Manuscript Division.
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Major Archie Butt, a frifinish and aide to two pinhabitants, stood on the deck of the sinking RMS Titanic in the at an early stage morning hrs of April 15, 1912. He and Frank Millet, his cshed frifinish and possibly even more, would not endure the next few hours, although exactly how they passed away has actually been a source of Titanic conjecture for more than a century.
The story of Butt’s death is one of the many touching moments in the Library’s recently digitized William H. Taft Papers. Taft, a Republican and indigenous of Ohio, was born on today in 1857. He came of age in the era of American inventions that readjusted the human being — the telegraph, electrical energy, lights, recordings, film, automobiles, planes and also, of course, massive steam-powered ships. His is the biggest of the Manumanuscript Division’s 23 presidential collections, making up about 676,000 papers covering his personal life and public career, consisting of his term as U.S. president, 1909-1913, and also his tenure as chief justice of the UNITED STATE Supreme Court, 1921-1930. Similar to many type of of the Library’s presidential collections, the Taft Papers reveal via emotional intimacy the humankind of the president, his household and also staff.
Few moments are even more moving than his devastation at the fatality of Butt, a male he concerned as a “younger brother.” Taft wept so openly at among his memorial solutions that he had to be led from the podium.
“Never before did I know how a lot he wregarding me until he was dead,” Taft eulogized.
Beginning in the early 1890s, Archibald Willingham Butt flourished in making Washington, D.C., his own. The affable Georgia native was well-preferred in the city from the moment he arrived as a newspaper correspondent. In 1898, Butt signed up through the armed forces once war broke out via Spain. His army unidevelops ended up being his signature look, as he was quite the dandy: “A flash of bewild’ring dazzle,” the poet William J. Lampton composed.
Butt ended up being President Theodore Roosevelt’s frifinish and military aide in 1908, taking to the White Housage whirl through “boyish delight,” according to a former aide.
Archie Butt, at left, and President Taft, appropriate, reviewing a parade. Photo: Bain News Service. Prints and Photographs Division.
In 1909, Taft asked Butt to remain on once he thrived Roosevelt as president. He had actually known Butt given that he was governor basic of the Philippines and also Butt was stationed there. The transition was simple, as Roosevelt and Taft were political allies and friends.
Butt purchased a big residence in Foggy Bottom, sharing the place through Francis Davis Millet, an esteemed artist that was at leastern 17 years his senior. Millet additionally served on the UNITED STATE Commission of Fine Arts. The pair, through an additional housemate, often entertained, hosting parties that included Taft, Roosevelt and various other members of Washington’s elite.
Chroniclers conflict the nature of their partnership. Butt was a lifelengthy bachelor. Millet commonly lived acomponent from his wife and family as he sought far-flung comgoals. He was known to have actually same-sex relationships. Their friendship deepened once Millet available to paint Butt’s portrait in his Georgetvery own studio, a portrait Butt explained as an incredible act of generosity. According to a shared frifinish, it was “a labour of love.” Yet one more friend commented, after their deaths, that they had “mutual a sympathy of mind which is most inexplicable.”
Archie Butt in 1909. Photo: Bain News Service. Prints and Photographs Division.
Still, Washington can damage even those who love it.
The happy Roosevelt-Taft orbit in which Butt flourimelted ended up being toxic by 1912. The previous and also current pinhabitants turned versus one various other in a heated challenge for the Republihave the right to nomination; Taft felt betrayed and doomed.
Butt was wrecked by this bitter rivalry in between 2 males he adored. Travel and also tension brought about him to drop almost 20 pounds. “If I am to go via this frightful summer,” Butt created to his sister-in-legislation, Clara, 2 days after Roosevelt announced his intention to run, “I have to have a rest now.”
Millet was came to about Butt and insisted that he accompany him to Italy while he attfinished to service at the Amerihave the right to Academy in Rome and also then travel somewhere else on the continent for a couple of weeks. Taft urged him to go, also, and Butt cruised for Europe via Millet on March 1. Once at sea, he wrote to Taft’s secretary, asking him to book rerevolve take a trip for him on the maiden voyage of the many elite liner ever built: “I want to come back by the Titanic.”
Those that witnessed him in Europe in the time of the next six weeks reported greatly that he was downactors and apprehensive. “He pertained to us in a depressed and also sad state of mind,” reported loved ones in England. Marian Longstreth Thayer, the socialite and fellow Titanic passenger, oboffered that he “did not recognize exactly how he was going to stand also the rushing life he was returning to.”
Butt’s mood supposedly lifted as he left London to satisfy the Titanic in Southampton. Millet joined the ship in Cherbourg, and also they settled into their first-class accommodations.
Disaster struck 4 days later at 11:40 p.m., Sunday, April 14. Butt and Millett were playing cards with several others when the ship struck the iceberg.
Butt’s death was deeply felt in Washington, as evidenced by coverage in The Washington Times on April 19, 1912.
Later, survivors told many kind of various stories of Butt’s final hours.
Some said he coolly played cards until practically the finish. Thayer wrote Taft that he ruburned unseeing past her on the way to his stateroom. Mostly tright here was the press’s heroic take that Butt took charge, ushering womales and also children right into lifeboats and also threatening to kill any male that tried to take their place. It’s never been clear which, if any or all, are true. One heartbreaking anecdote — which had actually him helping Marie G. Young into the last spot in the last lifewatercraft, then gallantly tipping his hat as they were lowered amethod — was debunked by Young in a letter to Taft, saying she did not see him at all that night. Millet, it was reported, was last watched helping womales right into lifeboats.
Excerpt from Taft’s main diary of April 15, 1912.
On the other hand, in Washington, President Taft waited late right into the night on April 15 for updays on the disaster and then into the following day. A telegram at 4:20 p.m. on April 16 sassist Millet was saved, but tbelow was no word on Butt.
Within days, the bitter reality emerged. Millet’s body was respanned, floating among the wreckage. He was 63. The body of Butt, 46, was never before uncovered. Newsdocuments devoted peras of coverage to Butt’s passing.
To an additional, he confessed to seeing Butt in “eextremely area I walk, every man I fulfill, eincredibly woguy I meet. . . . The sweet flavor of his presence is through me constantly.” On May 5, while speaking at Butt’s memorial organization in D.C., Taft damaged down and also could not proceed.
Butt-Millet memorial. Photo: Jacob Dinkelaker, National Park Service
He shortly sustained the construction of a memorial fountain to Butt and also Millet — the only 2 federal officials shed in the disaster — in President’s Park on the White House Ellipse. Sculpted by the famed Daniel Chester French, it depicts an allegorical male number (Butt) who holds a shield and also sword as signs of army valor. A female figure (Millet) holds a brush and also palette evoking the arts.
Taft’s instincts about his reelection possibilities were accurate.
In the general election in November, he and also Roosevelt split votes, enabling the Democrat, Woodrow Wilson, to claim an overwhelming victory of 435 Electoral College votes. Roosevelt, by then running as a Progressive, had actually 88 and also Taft, the Republihave the right to incumbent, won just 8.
Taft was not finished in public life. He would go on to become one of the nation’s most consequential U.S. Supreme Court chief justices. Still, there is little bit doubt that the Titanic, and also the loss of Archie Butt, never truly left his mind.
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