The novelist, then 40, considered returning from his first European holiday aboard the Titanic; an English publisher talked him out of the plan, persuading the writer that taking another ship would be less expensive.
Dreiser was at sea aboard the liner Kroonland when he heard the news. He recalled his reaction the following year in his memoir, A Traveler at Forty: “To think of a ship as immense as the Titanic, new and bright, sinking in endless fathoms of water. And the two thousand passengers routed like rats from their berths only to float helplessly in miles of water, praying and crying!”
The Italian inventor, wireless telegraphy pioneer and winner of the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics was offered free passage on Titanic but had taken the Lusitania three days earlier.
Although Marconi was later grilled by a Senate committee over allegations that his company’s wireless operators had withheld news from the public in order to sell information to the New York Times, he emerged from the disaster as one of its heroes, his invention credited with saving more than 700 lives.
Three years later, Marconi would narrowly escape another famous maritime disaster. He was on board the Lusitania in April 1915 on the voyage immediately before it was sunk by a German U-boat in May.
Many families on both sides of the Atlantic have stories of relatives who might have been aboard the Titanic but, fortunately for future generations, missed the boat. Though only a small percentage of such tales may have much basis in reality, they are part of a long tradition.
In fact, within days of the disaster, newspapers were already remarking on the phenomenon. “‘JUST MISSED IT’ CLUB FORMED WITH 6,904 MEMBERS” Michigan’s Sault Ste. Marie Evening News headlined an April 20, 1912 story, five days after the sinking. Later it quoted one Percival Slathersome, a presumably fictional artist, as saying, “I count it lucky that I didn’t have the price to go abroad this year. If all of us who ‘just missed it’ had got aboard the Titanic she would have sunk at the Liverpool dock from the overload.”
By the time Ohio’s Lima Daily News weighed in, on April 26, the club seems to have grown considerably. “Up to the present time the count shows that just 118,337 people escaped death because they missed the Titanic or changed their minds a moment before sailing time,” the newspaper observed…
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