Publish date:
Updated on

Race car driver goes down with the Titanic

On this day in 1912, Washington Augustus Roebling II, a 31-year-old race car engineer and driver, dies in the sinking of the RMS Titanic in the icy waters of the North Atlantic. Roebling was named for his uncle, a civil engineer who helped build the Brooklyn Bridge.

Roebling was born March 25, 1881, in Trenton, New Jersey. After studying engineering in school, he went to work in the burgeoning American auto industry. He eventually developed a race car, known as the Roebling-Planche, which took second place in the Vanderbilt Cup Race in 1910 in Savannah, Georgia. In 1912, Roebling, along with his chauffeur, his Fiat car and a friend, sailed to Europe, where they traveled to several countries. For the return trip home to America, Roebling booked a first-class cabin on the Titanic, then the world’s largest and most luxurious ocean liner, measuring 882 feet in length and tipping the scales at over 46,000 tons.

Roebling boarded the ship at Southampton, England, on April 12, 1912, for its maiden voyage. Two days later, at approximately 11:40 p.m., the Titanic struck an iceberg in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic, about 400 miles from Newfoundland. Two hours and 40 minutes after hitting the iceberg, the mangled luxury liner, which had been dubbed “unsinkable” by the press, lay broken in pieces at the bottom of the sea, resulting in the deaths of more than 1,500 passengers and crew members. (The Titanic carried 20 boats capable of holding 1,178 people, which exceeded regulations at the time but was hardly sufficient for the 2,228 individuals onboard.)

Washington Roebling II was survived by his uncle and namesake, an engineer and a colonel in the Union Army during the Civil War who in the late 1860s had become an assistant engineer on the Brooklyn Bridge project. In 1869, he replaced his father John Roebling, who designed the bridge, as head engineer following the older man’s death. Construction of the bridge, which would link the New York City boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn across the East River, began in January 1870. Two years later, Washington Roebling’s ability to work was impacted by decompression sickness and his wife Emily Roebling had to take over day-to-day supervision of the project, which was successfully completed in 1883 and at more than 6,000 feet in length, was at the time the world’s longest suspension bridge. Washington Roebling died on July 21, 1926, at the age of 89.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!


Lincoln dies from an assassin’s bullet

President Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, dies from an assassin’s bullet. Shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater in Washington the night before, Lincoln lived for nine hours before succumbing to the severe head wound he sustained. Lincoln’s death more

Titanic sinks

At 2:20 a.m. on April 15, 1912, the British ocean liner Titanic sinks into the North Atlantic Ocean about 400 miles south of Newfoundland, Canada. The massive ship, which carried 2,200 passengers and crew, had struck an iceberg two and half hours before. On April 10, the RMS more

President Lincoln dies

At 7:22 a.m., Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, dies from a bullet wound inflicted the night before by John Wilkes Booth, an actor and Confederate sympathizer. The president’s death came only six days after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his more

On this day in history in 1947, Jackie Robinson, age 28, becomes the first African-American player in Major League Baseball when he steps onto Ebbets Field in Brooklyn to compete for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Jackie Robinson breaks color barrier

On this day in 1947, Jackie Robinson, age 28, becomes the first African-American player in Major League Baseball when he steps onto Ebbets Field in Brooklyn to compete for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson broke the color barrier in a sport that had been segregated for more than 50 more

Soviets capture Tarnopol in Poland

On this day in 1944, the Soviet Red Army occupies Tarnopol, one of the principal cities of Eastern Galicia, across the former Polish border. Tarnopol, traditionally a part of Poland, then part of the Soviet Union, had become German-occupied territory in the great German offensive more

Lincoln is pronounced dead

On this day in 1865, President Abraham Lincoln succumbs to a gunshot wound inflicted by an assassin the night before; he is pronounced dead at 7:22 am. An angry Confederate actor, John Wilkes Booth, shot Lincoln in the back of the head while the president, first lady Mary Todd more

“Unsinkable” Titanic sinks

The RMS Titanic, billed as unsinkable, sinks into the icy waters of the North Atlantic after hitting an iceberg on its maiden voyage, killing 1,517 people. The United Kingdom’s White Star Line built the Titanic to be the most luxurious cruise ship in the world. It was nearly more

The Sacco-Vanzetti case draws national attention

A paymaster and a security guard are killed during a mid-afternoon armed robbery of a shoe company in South Braintree, Massachusetts. Out of this rather unremarkable crime grew one of the most famous trials in American history and a landmark case in forensic crime detection. Both more

Castro visits the United States

Four months after leading a successful revolution in Cuba, Fidel Castro visits the United States. The visit was marked by tensions between Castro and the American government. On January 1, 1959, Castro’s revolutionary forces overthrew the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. From more