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Was this the real life Titanic love story?

The untold story of the romance between stonemason and tycoon's wife
Mar 19, 2014
  • History
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A real life love story between a first class passenger of the Titanic and a man from a lower class has been uncovered involving one of the ill-fated liner's most well known passengers.

Emilio Portaluppi paid £12, 14s, 9d, for a second class ticket, while Madeleine Talmage Astor, wife of tycoon John Jacob Astor, was in first class on a £247, 10s, 9d ticket. Portaluppi, who died aged 93 in 1974, was always a gentleman and never revealed the true extent of his association with Mrs Astor even after surviving the disaster, but evidence from interviews he gave in his later life have come up with a connection between the two.

A documentary to be aired on the Italian version of the History Channel will tell the story of 37 of the country's citizens who were on board - only three survived.

He had a crush on Mrs Astor, according to, and it was through her and her husband that he not just came to be on Titanic, but actually travelled first class as a guest of the Astors.

His story mirrors much of James Cameron's depiction of Jack Dawson in the 1997 film and is thought to be one of the starting points for the movie.
Like Dawson, Portaluppi was a passenger on the ship through a stroke of luck and he was invited to join first class passengers for dinner on the night that Titanic hit the iceberg.
He was a well-respected stonemason having worked on the reliefs of the New York Stock Exchange Building and was considered to have an extraordinary talent.
He had been to Italy to visit his family and was returning to Milford, New Hampshire. He had originally been booked onto one of the White Star line's other ships, Oceanic II.
However, he received a telegram from the Astors inviting him to join them on Titanic as they returned from a holiday in Egypt.
They, it appears, wanted him to use his skills on statues outside their Newport villa.
Claudio Bossi author of a book entitled Titanic, told Discovery News 'Only in the last years of his life, when he returned to Italy, he told the tale of his Titanic journey to local journalists.'
Portaluppi's survival is shrowded in mystery as his own account of events changed with different tellings.
He did not talk about the disaster until late in his life, but the exact circumstances are unknown.

That he was on lifeboat number 14 when he was picked up by Carpathia is all we know for certain.
After being awoken by the noise of the iceberg or an explosion in the engine room, he went on deck.
One version Portaluppi gave was that he jumped into the sea and swam to a large piece of floating ice, keeping afloat until he was picked up by one of the lifeboats.
Another, less likely account, was that he went to get into a boat that was half full but fell into the water and swam for two hours until he was plucked from the sea.
In his claim for $25,000 compensation against the ship's owners, he said: 'I was in the water of the Atlantic Ocean for upward of two hours, suffering excruciating pain of body and agony of mind, and have been and will be caused great pain and suffering.'
It was also claimed at the time of the sinking that he had clambered into a lifeboat dressed as a woman. Indeed, when Carpathia sent a list of survivors his name was put down as 'Mrs Portaluppi'.
After surviving Titanic he went on to become a soldier in the Italian Army during World War I and married for a second time despite never divorcing his first wife.
Mrs Astor re-married during World War One, losing the fortune that she inherited from her husband