leadville

Molly BrownIt’s strange…how often society prefers old money to new money. Maybe these days it’s not as common, but in the late 1800s, it was a little bit more common. That was the world Margaret Tobin grew up in. Who is Margaret Tobin, you might ask. Well, we didn’t really remember her as Margaret Tobin, but rather as Molly Brown…or more likely as The Unsinkable Molly Brown. That’s because on this day April 15, 1912, Molly Brown not only survived the sinking of the Titanic, but she heroically saved other people in the water, and kept the people in the lifeboat calm with her stories of life in the west.

Molly was born the daughter of an impoverished ditch-digger. As a teenager, Molly went West to join her brother, who was working in the booming silver mining town of Leadville, Colorado. While there, the manager of a local silver mine, James J Brown, noticed her, and they fell in love. The couple married in 1886, and a short time later, James Brown discovered a large deposit of gold. They quickly became very wealthy. They moved to Denver, and tried unsuccessfully to take what should have been their rightful place in society, but the high society of the time…old money, just weren’t prepared to let these unstart, new money people with little social grooming into their ranks. Apparently Molly was a little too flamboyant for the stuffy, old money high society people. She was a little too much for her husband too, because they soon separated, and with her estranged husband’s financial support, Molly was able to live comfortably…for a time anyway…until most of the money ran out.

Molly left Denver and decided to travel. The Eastern elite, didn’t seem to mind Molly’s flamboyance, and soon accepted her as one of them. Socially prominent eastern families like the Astors and Vanderbilts prized her frank western manners and her thrilling stories of frontier life. It was her friendship with these people that brought her to the Titanic, on that fateful trip, but it was Molly herself and her heroic ways that brought her fame, even though Der Untergang der Titanicshe obviously wasn’t the only woman who survived the sinking. After the ship hit an iceberg and began to sink, Brown was tossed into a lifeboat. She took command of the little boat and helped rescue a drowning sailor and other victims. To keep spirits up, she regaled the anxious survivors with stories of her life in the Old West. One the newspapers heard of her heroics, she gained national fame. She was dubbed “the unsinkable Mrs. Brown” and she became an international heroine. Before very long though, the money ran out, and she faded into obscurity, dying a woman of modest means in New York City in 1932. It was the Broadway musical that would revive her claim to fame, and change her title to The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

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