Letter of condolence surfaces in wake of Titanic popularity

With the blockbuster movie "Titanic" predicted to sweep the Academy Awards next week, local connections to actual victims of the tragedy have surfaced.

Sue Morris, an administrator and curator at the Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley, was watching the feature film last week when she remembered that in one of the museum's collections was a letter of condolence sent from one relative of a Titanic victim to another in San Francisco.

The letter was written to Eugene Meyer, after his son, Edgar, was lost in the shipwreck.

It was donated to the museum's Western Jewish History collection among many personal papers of the late Rosalie Meyer Stern of San Francisco, Eugene's daughter and Edgar's sister.

Oscar Straus, a New York Jewish philanthropist and Macy's scion, wrote in the letter:

"Our hearts are sorrowing by reason of the same calamity. It would seem our beloved ones died that others might live…We deeply sympathize and mourn with you.

"Affectionately, Oscar S. Straus."

Straus, in the letter, was referring to the death of his brother Isidor, who he called a "second father" and the "inspiration of my life," and his sister-in-law Ida Straus.

According to family lore, Morris said, Ida was offered a seat in the life rafts because she was a first-class passenger and a woman. But she gave away her seat to remain with her husband.

The letter and others in the Rosalie Meyer Stern collection are being prepared for publication. Richard and the late Rhoda Goldman of San Francisco commissioned the project two years ago.

Lori Eppstein

Lori Eppstein is a former staff writer.