When Titanic was released in 1997, it ignited a new wave of interest in the disaster and the stories of the people on board.
Passengers like the “unsinkable” Molly Brown have become famous for the stories of their dramatic escape from the ship, but before there was Jack and Rose, the Strauses were famous as the original love story of the Titanic disaster.
Isidor Straus moved to America from Germany with his family and quickly made a name for himself. Straus and his brother Nathan started selling crockery in the basement of New York’s famous Macy’s department store. Soon they became partners, and finally the store’s full owners.
His business made Straus one of the wealthiest men in America, but nothing made him happier than his wife Ida. The couple had 7 children together (one died as an infant) and by all accounts were madly in love with one another.
Every day that these two were apart, they would write a letter to one another. Their grandson has a full collection of their letters, and guesses that they were together for all but 10 days during their marriage.
But that kind of love only makes what happened on the Titanic even more awful.
Isidor and Ida spent the winter of 1911-12 in Europe, and booked a trip back home to New York traveling first class on the RMS Titanic. Those tickets cost $60,000 each in today’s money, but they became worthless once the ship crashed into an iceberg.
Passengers swarmed to the lifeboats, where women and children were boarding first. Ida got into one of the boats, assuming her husband would follow her, but got off when she realized he would be staying behind.
Instead, she gave her seat – and her expensive new fur coat – to her maid, and declared that “I will not go before the other men,” according to another survivor. Other passengers tried to convince Ida to change her mind, but nothing could make her leave her husband’s side.
“I will not be separated from my husband,” she said. “As we have lived, so will we die, together.” And so they did. The Strauses were last seen arm-in-arm on the ship’s deck, waiting for their fate.
Their love story, which hit the newspapers just hours after the crash, inspired people around the world. The Strauses have been featured as characters in almost every production about the Titanic, including the many movies and the musical. Keep an eye out for them the next time you re-watch Titanic, they’re the couple lying in bed together as water floods the ship.
Ida was never found, but Isidor’s body is buried in the Bronx’s Woodlawn Cemetery, with an inscription from the Song of Solomon: “Many waters cannot quench love—neither can the floods drown it.”
Share this incredible love story with someone you know!