Titanic International Society mourns the passing of one of its co-founders and its sole historian, John P. Eaton, on Friday, January 29, 2021 at age 94 after a brief illness.
“Jack,” as he preferred to be called, first became entranced by Titanic’s story at age 20, upon seeing artist Harper Goff’s painting of the sinking liner in the July 1946 issue of Esquire magazine. It was the start of a lifelong, passionate interest that would take him to three continents researching Titanic’s story.
Jack was co-author with TIS President Charles Haas of five highly regarded books: Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy, Titanic: Destination Disaster, Falling Star: Misadventures of White Star Line Ships, Titanic: The Exhibition and Titanic: A Journey Through Time.
Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy featured Eaton and Haas’s many remarkable Titanic research discoveries, including first publication of the ship’s cargo stowage plan, cargo manifest, ticketing list, details of post-sinking lawsuits, the first full account of Halifax’s post-disaster role, the most detailed deck plans and a comprehensive passenger list, accompanied by an authoritative 50,000-word text. By its third edition (2011), it came to include more than 1,000 photographs, and some called it “The Titanic Bible.” Jack was a frequent contributor to the Society’s quarterly journal, Voyage, most notably with his unique column “Titanic-Related Ships,” which profiled the histories of dozens of vessels having direct connections to Titanic’s story.
He and Haas were invited to the National Geographic Society’s Washington headquarters to identify portions of the wreck seen in Robert Ballard’s first photographs in 1985, and in January 1988 they traveled to Sydney, Australia to assist with the design and content of a proposed Titanicexhibition in that city’s new maritime museum. On June 11, 1993, at age 67, Jack became the most senior person then to make the perilous 12,500-foot dive to Titanic’s wreck. He was co-historian on the Titanic Research and Recovery Expeditions of 1993, 1996 and 1998, participated in a live broadcast via satellite from the wreck site in 1998, and was featured in innumerable television and radio programs about the lost liner. In March 2009, he and Haas were honored with South Street Seaport Museum’s prestigious “Silver Riband Award” for “their outstanding research on RMS Titanic and the White Star Line; for their lifetime of dedication to the history of the Titanic and for enhancing and extending our understanding of the great ocean liners.” He was a featured lecturer during the 2012 Titanic Memorial Cruise.
At this writing, plans for a commemoration and celebration of Jack’s well-lived life have not been finalized, and the Society will keep his many worldwide friends informed through our social media platforms: website http://www.titanicinternationalsociety.org, our Facebook page, and our Instagram and Twitter accounts. We plan a memorial edition of Voyage to be published this spring, and welcome TIS members’ memories and stories about Jack over the years. Contributions in MS Word may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject line “Eaton tribute,” or postally mailed to the address below, with the envelope marked “Eaton Tribute.”
In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory will be gratefully received by Titanic International Society, P.O. Box 416, Midland Park, NJ 07432-0416 USA, or by one’s favorite charity, especially those preserving ocean liner history or supporting classical music.
About Titanic International Society
Titanic International Society is a non-profit historical organization based in New Jersey that was founded in 1989 to preserve and perpetuate the memory and history of the Royal Mail Ship Titanic, and those who sailed aboard her maiden and last voyage. Through the pages of our quarterly, fully-illustrated journal, Voyage, as well as through frequent membership activities, Titanic International Society disseminates the latest research about the Titanic and her legacy along with research and history of the great liners of the Past. With members invited to “get involved”, Titanic International Society is known as the history group that listens, and one which encourages robust discussion on the Titanic and her people.
Since our founding in 1989, the Titanic International Society has been active with several events and activities. We have had conventions in New York City; Newark, New Jersey; Memphis, Tennessee; Baltimore, Maryland; St. Petersburg, Florida; Montreal and Ottawa, Canada; Philadephia; Newport, Rhode Island; and Mystic, Connecticut. Titanic International Society has also coordinated special membership meetings and gatherings and other events such as cruises. In 1996, members and trustees took part in the cruise to the wreck site to witness the first attempt to bring up the Big Piece of Titanic’s hull.
For us, history is alive, and since its 1989 founding, the Society has been active in preserving and disseminating Titanic history. Among our projects: • Identifying six previously unidentified Titanic victims buried in Halifax and causing their names to be inscribed on their gravestones. • Presenting a plaque to Ellis Island remembering Titanic’s passengers, who never passed through the immigration station there. • Providing all on-board historical programs during the 1996 Titanic Research and Recovery Expedition Cruise. • Sponsoring a symposium, “The Science of Titanic”, featuring experts on sonar, wreck site microbiology and marine engineering. • Providing gravestones and poignant dedication services for third class Titanic passengers Kate Buckley and Oscar Palmquist, Sea Post officer John Starr March; and surviving able-bodied seaman Robert John Hopkins. • Offering lectures during the 2012 Titanic Memorial Cruise that retraced the ship’s path across the ocean. • Presenting a plaque to the National Postal Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, commemorating Titanic’s postal workers. • Providing historical information to dozens of television programs, magazine and newspaper stories. • Rediscovering and arranging for the public display of the Titanic Musicians’ Memorial Plaque after a nearly 50-year disappearance.
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