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TITANIC! Icebergs and Hematology Research at JMC

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Charlotte and son Thomas Cardeza aboard their steam yacht Eleanor, ca. 1900

On April 15, 1912, at the moment when the North Atlantic covered the stern of the "unsinkable" steamship Titanic, over 1,500 passengers and crew had only a few minutes of life remaining as they floated in the icy seawater. In one of the too-few lifeboats, Mrs. Charlotte Drake Martinez Cardeza and her 35- year-old son Thomas were among the 700 to survive that unforgettable night.

Years later, Thomas Drake Martinez Cardeza’s wife, Mary Racine, would be treated by a Jefferson Hospital physician, leading to a lasting relationship between the Cardezas and Jefferson. This lasting relationship developed into the establishment of a research foundation named in memory of Charlotte D. M. Cardeza (1854-1939). In 1952, upon the death of her only son Thomas, the family fortune of $5.5 million went to Jefferson Medical College to establish the Charlotte Drake Cardeza Foundation for blood research.

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Mrs. Charlotte Drake Cardeza

Charlotte, daughter of a Philadelphia magnate and divorced and widowed from a successful lawyer, enjoyed her fabulous wealth by traveling the globe, twice circumnavigating it with her son aboard their steam yacht, Eleanor. She was something of a bonne vivante in staid Philadelphia society: a traveler, art buyer, yachtswoman and big game hunter. When she and Thomas returned from a trip to Africa and Europe - they booked the most exclusive accommodations aboard the world’s biggest, longest and most luxurious ship, RMS (Royal Mail Ship) Titanic. One of only two "Millionaire Suites" on the vessel (the corresponding suite on the port side was occupied by the manager of the line) their starboard cabins B-51, 53, 55 consisted of two bedrooms, and private bath, and a private sitting room with fireplace. The Georgian style rooms were paneled in oak and had an enclosed private promenade deck. It came at a cost of $4,350 (in 2001 dollars = $79,410). They traveled with two servants and fourteen steamer trunks, three crates of baggage and four suitcases. The Cardezas’ loss of property claim against the White Star Line’s insurer was the largest of any passenger. The cost of their belongings, valued at $177,352.75 (in 2001 dollars = $3,237,597.08), was mostly associated with Mrs. Cardeza’s jewelry.

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Mrs. Cardeza on African safari, ca. 1911

As historians have noted, the loss of the R.M.S. Titanic was the end of an age...the First Class survivors were castigated for saving themselves while dozens of Second and Third Class children drowned. (On the Cardeza’s life boat, number 3, publisher Henry Sleeper Harper managed to save his Pekinese dog named Sun-Yat-Sen.) After the disaster, the establishment of the U.S. income tax in 1913 and the horror of the Great War to-come; "conspicuous consumption" by the very wealthy became less fashionable. Modern "charitable giving" encouraged the accumulation of riches to be used for the greater good. The Charlotte Drake Cardeza Foundation continues its research today under the direction of Stephen McKenzie, MD.

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