Frank Aks

Frank Aks

Postby Timothy Trower on Sun Jul 19, 2009 4:10 pm

From the Philadelphia Examiner http://www.examiner.com/philadelphia

The Titanic baby and the remains of a tragic night

July 17, 2009

With every new day, the day before becomes history… and as days fade into months and years, people only have their memories and sometimes a keepsake or artifact that accompany those memories. As the people pass on, memories become second-hand stories, but the physical objects remain as silent survivors of another time and place . . . a physical link to the past.

Take for example, an off-white silk scarf… the type of thing that a pretty young woman might throw around her neck to ward off an evening’s chill… an evening like that of April 12, 1912.

On that particular night, eighteen year old Madeleine Astor, wife of the famous millionaire John Jacob Astor, owned just such a scarf. She was pregnant and traveling to New York aboard the RMS Titanic, and the ship had just struck that famous iceberg.

As the stewards summoned the passengers out of their cabins, Mrs. Astor had wrapped that silk scarf around her neck and gone on deck with her husband, their valet, and Kitty, John’s pet Airedale terrier. Needless to say, there was much confusion and chaos on deck.

As Madeleine passed a young woman carrying a baby, she paused for a moment, took off her scarf, and used it to cover the infant’s head. Madeleine went on with her husband to find a lifeboat. She survived; her husband and the Airedale did not. However, the scarf also survived… but in a roundabout sort of way…

The small infant was Frank Phillip Aks. Only ten months old, Frank and his mother, Leah, were on their way to America and ultimately Norfolk, Virginia, as third class passengers. His father, Samuel, was a tailor who had come to America earlier to establish himself before sending for Leah and Frank.

After receiving the scarf from Mrs. Astor, Leah was standing on deck amid the disorder when a panic-stricken passenger grabbed Frank from his mother’s arms and tossed him into lifeboat number 11. An obviously distraught Leah immediately tried to push her way forward to her son but was stopped by a crew member who thought she was trying to rush the departing lifeboat. Numb from shock, Leah stood helpless and was pushed in another direction. She eventually was pulled into lifeboat number 13.

Meanwhile, baby Frank had been caught by a young woman who wrapped him in a wool lap blanket from the lifeboat. Now covered in both the silk scarf and wool blanket, little Frank waited in the cold darkness with the other survivors, as the Titanic slipped below the waters and into history.

In the next several hours both lifeboats number 11 and 13 were picked up by the Carpathia, which arrived on the scene as quickly as possible after receiving the Titanic’s distress call. Again, there was confusion as hundreds of survivors now crowded the Carpathia’s decks. Everyone seemed to be looking for family and friends…

Leah Aks was among them, when she suddenly saw her child in another woman’s arms. Unfortunately, the woman claimed young Frank as her own and both women were taken before the Captain of the Carpathia. There, Leah was able to positively identify her baby by a birthmark on his chest. Finally, after several agonizing hours, Mrs. Aks was reunited with her son, who was still wrapped in the blanket and scarf.

In due course, they joined Samuel and began a new life in Norfolk. Leah passed away in 1967. Her son Frank became known as "the Titanic baby" and attended survivor reunions for many years until his death in 1991. Both were buried in a family plot in Norfolk.

But in a way, they and their story both still live on through two seemingly common objects… pieces of history. Mrs. Astor’s white silk scarf and the plaid wool lap blanket from lifeboat number 11 were kept by Frank and today they may be seen on display in the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Virginia.
They are poignant reminders of a cold, dark night on a lonely sea.

This article written by Carson Barnes and posted with permission of the author. The original article may be found at http://www.examiner.com/x-12089-Tidewat ... agic-night Thanks to Andy Clarkson for the tip.
All the best,

Tim

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Re: Frank Aks

Postby Alan on Sat Oct 09, 2010 10:42 pm

Tim,

While it has obviously been quite some time since this story was posted, I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself and post a quick note. My name is Alan Weinraub, and I am the great grandson of Leah Rosen Aks, and great nephew of Frank Philip Aks. My grandmother, Sarah Carpathia Weinraub (nee Aks) was born the following year in Norfolk, Virginia (where her legal middle name was taken down as Titanic, due to Leah's thick accent, making it difficult for the nuns to understand she wanted the name to be after the ship which had saved her). While Leah passed away several years before my birth, I was fortunate enough to spend many days chatting with "Uncle Phil" during my young/teen years. He was an incredibly jovial and outgoing person, and while his memories of the disaster were obviously obscured by his age at the time, he never resisted gentle proddings to take about it.

I know none of this has much to do with, or adds to, the nuances of the story, but I wanted to folks to understand that he was a normal person just like you or me....;-)

Best regards!
Alan
Alan
 

Re: Frank Aks

Postby Karen Kamuda on Mon Oct 11, 2010 8:54 am

Tim,

I happened to catch your post of a newspaper story on Leah and Philip "Frank" Aks over the weekend.
Frank was an Honor Member of the Titanic Historical Society and attended its conventions until he died.
Ed and I recall Frank "holding court" at these events, he loved to talk about it. As an infant his version of what happened, naturally came from his mother and various newspaper accounts. From experience we know it was commonplace for editors to embellish a story :cry: and that is how myths are born. Since this account by Mrs. Aks occurred shortly after the disaster, and is in the first person, this would be more reflective of what happened. This was published some years ago in The Titanic Commutator, hope you like it.

Karen


MRS. AKS TELLS HOW SHE ESCAPED DEATH
NORFOLK (VIRGINIA) LEDGER-DISPATCH
April 24, 1912

That Captain Smith of the ill-fated Titanic, stepped into a lifeboat and then back on the steamer just as she was going down, was asserted today by Mrs. Aks, who was among the third-class passengers rescued and brought to to New York by the Cunard Liner Carpathia.

Captain Smith stepped into the last boat; stepped back on the Titanic; stepped into the small boat again, and just as his steamer was going down stepped on her deck and perished with the passengers and other officers and crew said Mrs. Aks. "Our boat was a short distance from the Tltanic and I could see the captain as long as the big ocean liner was above the water."

Mrs. Aks arrived here yesterday from New York, accompanied by her 7-months-old baby and her husband, who went to the metropolis to bring his family to Norfolk. They are stopping, temporarily, with Harry Greene, ladies' tailor, at 131 College Place, and gave out her first interview in Norfolk to a reporter for The Ledger-Dispatch this morning.

Mrs. Aks is a pretty and intelligent young woman and tells a very interesting story of the loss of the White Star Line steamship and of the incidents that followed.

How She Was Saved
That she was saved, she said, was due to the anxiety of another young woman to know what would become of her husband or brother, who had not followed her into one of the small boats.

"I had been kept out of this boat, which was next to the last one that left the ship," said Mrs. Aks, "because it would not hold another passenger. When this young woman jumped back on the Titanic to look for her companion, I got in the boat and we pushed off. The young woman whose place I took went down with the ship."

Mrs. Aks tells of her baby being torn from her arms and its recovery after she had landed on the Carpathia, but declares she does not know where the baby was from the time she lost it on the deck of the Titanic until it was placed in her arms by an Italian passenger in the hospital ward of the Cunard liner. That it was knocked over the side of the ship and into a small boat underneath, as reported she said was not true. In the excitement, it was knocked from her arms, she said, and she supposed that it was picked up on the deck and cared for until the mother was found.

Story of Mrs. Aks
Here is the story of the sinking of the Titanic, as told by Mrs. Aks:
"The weather was fine and the water smooth after we left London [sic] on the 10th of April, she said, "On the following Sunday evening everybody was in good spirits and down on the deck with the third class passengers, where I and my baby Philip had our stateroom. The people were dancing, having concerts and passing away the time in various ways. I retired rather early and about 12 o'clock a woman knocked on my door and awoke me.

She asked me if I knew the ship had struck something, and I told her I did not. Taking her advice, I dressed and went out on the deck. I asked one of the crew if there was danger, and he told me that everything was all right; that there was nothing to be alarmed about. Then I said I would go back and get my baby, and while some of the others told me there was no danger advised me to let the baby sleep. I went in and got the little fellow and came out on deck again with him.

Young Men Aided Her
“When I looked out on the water, I saw the little boats full of people and more people getting into other boats from the first class and second class decks. While I had only a coat and hat on, I tried to get into one of the boats with my baby, but they wouldn't let me go up on the second-class deck and I was about to give up all hope when some of the young men came to my rescue, and by placing their hands together made a ladder by which they lifted me on the outside of the ship from the steerage deck to the second class deck. The passengers were pushing and shoving in their efforts to get into the small boats, and in the crush my baby was knocked from my arms. It was done so quickly that I did not see where the baby went, but I asked everybody to help me find it and everybody said they had not seen the baby. After I looked everywhere on the deck for the little fellow I turned to get into the small boat that was then about to leave the ship, it was so full of passengers that they would not let me on, and I almost gave up. Then a young woman jumped back on the Titanic to look for her husband or brother and I took her place in the lifeboat. I am sure the young woman went down with the Titanic, as I saw the 1ast boat pull away, and she was not in it.

Saw Titanic Go Down
"With our boat but a short distance from the Titanic, I could see the big steamer distinctly as she went down, and the scenes are too horrifying to relate. The passengers and crew were praying, while many were crying and the groans could be heard distinctly. I saw Captain Smith step into the last boat but he immediately stepped back on the ship. Then he stepped back into the life boat again, but turned, and as he saw the water going over his ship stepped back on the deck and went down with her.”

Mrs. Aks said she saw Isidor Straus and his faithful wife while they were standing on the deck of the Titanic after the boats had left. She said Mrs. Straus would not leave her husband, but stuck by his side although every effort had been made to induce her to enter one of the lifeboats.

"While I managed to get into one of the boats," continued Mrs. Aks, "I was compelled to stand up as were the other thirty-six passengers, and I almost froze to death. It was so dark that we could not see anything, and every iceberg that loomed up we thought was a boat waiting for us, and we would turn the head of our boat toward it, only to find that it was mass of ice.

Discovered at Daybreak
"We burned paper, handkerchiefs and even pieces of clothing in hope that the light might attract the attention of some passing vessel but it was daybreak before we were picked up by the Carpathia, and when we got aboard that vessel, I was numb from cold and exposure. The first thing I thought of when I was placed on board the steamer was my baby. I asked everybody if they had seen my baby and every baby on the steamer was brought to me to look at.

"Presently an Italian came with my baby, wrapped in a sailor's coat and very cold. A young lady on the Carpathia gave me some wraps for Philip and a five dollar gold piece. The reaction put me to bed and I remained there until about the time the Carpathia reached New York, and oh, there were so many newspapermen there to interview us, and they asked us so many questlons, I didn't know what I was telling
them. I was so weak and upset from the awful experience I had been through with. And then they wanted to keep me in New York to testify at the investigation, but I couldn't tell them anymore than they already knew.

Died On The Boat
Mrs. Aks said that the boat in which she was rescued picked up a young man who was swimming in the ocean, and that while others were picked up out of the water, they died shortly after being placed in the boat. She said everybody had on lifebelts and she tried to get one on her baby, but it was too large and would not fit.

Asked if she had heard anybody say anything about the dangers of an iceberg on the evening the Titanic crashed into one, or if there was any noticeable change in the temperature, Mrs. Aks replied, "No."

She Lost Everything
Mrs. Aks is twenty-one years old and while born in Warsaw, Russia, was educated in London, and speaks English well. She said she lost everything she possessed when the steamer sank and that the baby would have perished, too had she not carried it with her when she first left the stateroom, as when she went back after some of her belongings, the door of the stateroom was locked and could not be opened.

Her husband has been unable to do any work since the disaster, and as he had sent her all the money he had earned in order that she might come to America, they are now in straitened circumstances and will be cared for by Mr. Greene and his wife until some further arrangements can be made.
"Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” ~~ P. J. O’Rourke
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Re: Frank Aks

Postby Timothy Trower on Mon Oct 11, 2010 9:43 pm

Alan,

Thanks for the post and the memories that you shared with us. It's always nice to hear from close family members who are able to provide additional insights into the passengers and crew of the Titanic.

Karen,

Thanks also for that rather interesting article -- although there are certainly some items that kind of raise the eyebrows (Captain Smith stepping into and out of a lifeboat, etc.) it is a great period piece and undoubtedly contains some great nuggets of truth. I'll have to copy this one over and study it in greater detail.
All the best,

Tim

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Re: Frank Aks

Postby Karen Kamuda on Tue Oct 12, 2010 8:30 am

Tim,
I don't have to tell you that newspaper editors and reporters at times were very creative and I meant that to be clear:
[From experience we know it was commonplace for editors to embellish a story :cry: and that is how myths are born. Since this account by Mrs. Aks occurred shortly after the disaster, and is in the first person, this would be more reflective of what happened. ]
Mrs. Aks didn't say Captain Smith got in and out of a lifeboat (no quotations), it was the reporter. It isn't a good idea to take these things verbatim and its best if you have first person interviews to make comparisons. As it is there will always be myths floating around. Look what was written about Ismay and people believe it to this day.

Karen
"Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” ~~ P. J. O’Rourke
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Joined: Mon Sep 29, 2008 9:37 am
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