The recent opening of a multi-million-dollar film epic about the April 1912 sinking of Titanic has sparked new interest in the ill-fated liner and her passengers. Even landlocked Nebraska can claim several connections to this “Titanic” disaster as revealed in a recent Nebraska History article written by Edward Tryon. One of the prominent casualties was forty-eight-year-old Emil Brandeis, who with his brothers and father, had built J. L. Brandeis & Sons into Omaha’s largest retailer. Brandeis was returning from a trip to Europe and altered his plans so he could sail on Titanic‘s maiden voyage. His body was later recovered, and his ashes rest today in an Omaha cemetery. His pocket watch, found with his body, is at Omaha’s Western Heritage Museum.
Two other soon-to-be Nebraskans were on board Titanic and both survived. Swedish emigrant Carl Johnson was enroute to Saunders County, Nebraska, to live with a brother. When Titanic went down, he plunged into the ocean and was later picked up by a lifeboat. “Titanic Carl” Johnson died in Wahoo in 1978. Victor Halva, from Moravia, claimed to have been a stowaway. He, too, was rescued from the sea by a lifeboat. Halva came to Lynch, Nebraska, to live with relatives and later moved to O’Neill, where he died in 1958.
One Nebraskan not on Titanic nevertheless had a close connection to the disaster. John Kuhl of Randolph, former speaker of the Nebraska House of Representatives, was traveling to Europe on board Carpathia, and witnessed the heartbreaking scene when Carpathia rescued Titanic‘s dazed survivors.
The article, “Nebraska Connections to a Titanic Disaster,” appeared in the Summer 1997 issue of Nebraska History, published by the Nebraska State Historical Society.