Titanic Stories: The Truth Behind Lifeboat No.1 "The Money Boat"

Titanic Stories: The Truth Behind Lifeboat No.1 “The Money Boat”

There are many Titanic stories and myths surrounding the most tragic maritime disaster ever recorded. Perhaps the reason we are still so fascinated by the sinking of RMS Titanic is that not many of them can be proved or disproved. The passenger list, among other things, is something which draws our attention, given that there were so many wealthy individuals onboard who were lost and saved.

As with today the more shocking Titanic stories that were told about the night of the sinking and thereafter have audiences gripped and wanting to learn more.

One such story is that of the so-called “Money Boat” and here we take look at the facts and theories surrounding one of the most disturbing Titanic stories that can never be truly understood or explained.

The Money Boat Facts

Titanic stories - the Money Boat - Lifeboat number one
Lifeboat number one, cutter boat ready to launch

One of two wooden cutter boats, the so-called “Money Boat” or lifeboat no.1, was never actually intended as a lifeboat at all but a smaller vessel that could be launched out to sea during an emergency.

Should the crew need to fetch a man overboard or attend to something at water level on the ship the small boat was suspended at the ready over the starboard side of the deck and easy to launch.

Despite being able to hold 40 passengers, lifeboat no.1 only had 12 passengers when it was launched into the sea just over one hour following Titanic’s collision with the iceberg.

Most of the 12 passengers who boarded lifeboat no.1 were men, despite Captain Smith’s orders for only women and children passengers to be eligible to leave the ship at such an early part of the sinking.

Titanic stories - Money Boat survivors
Lady Duff Gordon and Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon

Of these 12 passengers, five were first-class ticket holders and three of those were men.

They included, Lady Lucy Duff-Gordon, noted fashion designer and her husband Scottish Olympian and wealthy landowner Sir Cosmos Duff-Gordon, their secretary Mabel Francatelli, stationary business owner Abraham Lincoln Salomon and leather manufacturer Charles Emil Henry Stengel.

The other seven were fireman, stokers, coal trimmers and lookout, George Symons, who was placed in charge of the boat by First Officer Murdoch, a responsibility he would later regret.

The Money Boat Theories

Because there were only 12 people in lifeboat no.1 when RMS Titanic finally went under, there was plenty of opportunity for those onboard to row back to the sink site and some of those who had gone into the water but what actually prevented them from doing so was unclear.

It was recorded by news outlets that Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon bribed the crew onboard the lifeboat to row away from the wreckage faster rather than return and risk being swamped, as well as having bribed himself onto the lifeboat in the first place.

This is said to be where the name the “Money Boat” originated.

Other Titanic stories from onboard lifeboat no.1 say that discussions were being held about the loss of personal possessions that had gone down with the ship and Lady Duff-Gordon herself was heard to remark;

“there goes your beautiful nightdress, gone!”

Whilst crewmen were heard to mourn the loss of everything they owned as well as wages for the time it took to get onboard another vessel and begin working again.

At this Sir, Cosmo is rumoured to have promised each crew member money to start off again. There was even proof that he wrote each crewman from lifeboat no.1 a £5 cheque after the investigative hearing had ceased. However, theories speculate that the £5 cheque was the sum promised to the crew after they had refused to row back to save those in peril or hush money to keep them quiet about any discussion that had taken place onboard in relation to not rowing back.

Titanic stories - lifeboat number one seen from below
The Money Boat

George Symons testified that the only reason he even agreed for the boat to be launched in the first place was that he was obeying the orders of First Officer Murdoch who gave the command to launch away.

The Verdict that Cleared the Money Boat

When Lucy Duff-Gordon and her husband spoke as witnesses at the investigative hearing, huge crowds came to hear what was said, the largest crowds drawn during the entire investigation.

Titanic stories - 12 survivors Money Boat
Onboard RMS Carpathia after being recovered 12 survivors

The public had been drawn together by swarms of negative press that surrounded the Duff-Gordon’s and the escape of the wealthy men and women. Along with the fact that the rescue ship RMS Carpathia collected lifeboat no.1 from the freezing waters early on the morning of the 15th with only 12 passengers inside which led to the group being photographed together on the deck of RMS Carpathia. Much speculation arose as to how so many men had managed to flee and survive the sinking of RMS Titanic before women and children.

At the hearing, Lucy Duff-Gordon was blamed for the hesitation to return by members of the crew in lifeboat no.1. She is said to have warned the crew against being swamped and refused to save others from the wreckage, despite there being more than enough room. After facing so much bad press she and her husband were called to testify about their experiences and the recollections of all that escaped on the “Money Boat” differed, therefore, none could be entirely believed.

Titanic stories - Lady Duff Gordon
Lady Duff Gordon in the news at the Titanic inquest

Backed up by the other members of the crew in the money boat and the testimony of their secretary, the Duff-Gordon’s, their secretary, the other first-class passengers and the crew onboard were cleared of any wrongdoing.

The suspicion still exists though as to why they didn’t try to save at least some of the people who perished in the water with movies and TV series depicting the shipping disaster since showing what various scenarios about what presumably took place inside the “Money Boat”.

Items Sold at Auction from the “Money Boat”

Due to the controversy surrounding the story of the “Money Boat” items associated with the passengers aboard have sold at auction for vast sums of money.

A menu detailing the last lunch served onboard RMS Titanic was in the possession of Abraham Saloman, he had crumpled the item in his jacket pocket and this menu recent auction for £100,000.

Titanic stories - Francatelli letter
Francatelli letter

Another item to go under the hammer was a letter from Mabel Francatelli to Abraham Saloman enquiring about his recovery from the ordeal.

“We do hope you have now quite recovered from the terrible experience. I am afraid our nerves are still bad, as we had such trouble and anxiety added to our already awful experience by the very unjust inquiry when we arrived in London.”

The letter was penned 6 months following the disaster from Lady Duff Gordon new businesses in New York and was sold for £4,950 at auction.

Titanic stories - Lady Duff Gordon kimono
Lady Duff Gordon Kimono


One of the items that garnered a lot of attention in the press was a kimono that was said to be worn by Lady Duff Gordon on the night of her escape from RMS Titanic.

There has however been doubt shed upon the kimono’s authenticity for Lady Duff Gordon had stated clearly what she wore when leaving RMS Titanic, a nightdress, robe, heavy fur coats.

A UK fashion museum determined the fabric and style of the kimono were not in use until well after World War One, therefore throwing doubt that the artifact was ever on the boat at all.

Despite this and family statements disputing the kimono’s connection to RMS Titanic, it sold for $75,205 to an anonymous collector.

RMS Titanic History at 30 James Street

Uncover little known Titanic stories about RMS Titanic here. From the food that was served to the items recovered from the wreck site decades after we have delved into the past and present archives of RMS Titanic and brought as many of the facts, myths, and legends to our guests and those who read our blog. Search further back for touching love stories or learn about the most prominent passengers on board in our history section.

why not pay a visit to 30 James Street itself and explore the former White Star Offices, brought to life for the public to enjoy 30 James Street – Home of the Titanic is a landmark in the maritime history of Liverpool.

30 James Street exterior

Visitors can even dine in the stunning Caprtahia Rooftop Restaurant and Champagne Bar which honours the brave rescue ship and her crew who plucked passengers out of the waters.

Our Titanic-themed hotel rooms are ideal for groups of guests and couples to visit the city together and each room has its own unique decor and theme that relates to a passenger, a destination or places where RMS Titanic was assembled.

Call now on 0151 601 8801 or email for more information on info@sinatureliving.co.uk to book your stay or plan your visit today.