Mr. Charles Francis Williamson

Charles Francis Williamson, an American national living in Paris, France, 40 years of age, was a passenger on and was lost with the Lusitania. He was traveling with Millie Baker, whose ticket he had paid for and who was also lost. Williamson's ticket number was 46059, and he stayed in cabin number B-34, facing Millie Baker's stateroom, B-38. Williamson was known to be a close personal friend of Alfred Vanderbilt, also on Lusitania's last voyage.  With Millie Baker, Williamson was acquainted with George Kessler, Edgar Gorer, and Thomas Slidell.  What happened to Williamson and Baker during the sinking is not known. Charles was the son of Henry W. Williamson and the brother of Ellen Williamson Hodges and Harry A. Williamson, his siblings then 50 and 35 years of age respectively. Charles also had a nephew, John Baseman Williamson, from a deceased brother, Eugene L. Williamson. In 1901, Charles persuaded his father Henry to retire from the office of Clerk of the Circuit Court of Allegany County, Maryland. Charles provided for his father, making regular contributions amounting to about $700 per year that was sufficient to meet the father’s modest needs. Charles had also been greatly devoted to his sister, Ellen, as her husband had long been ill and died in 1916, not long after Charles. Charles had not only contributed substantial amounts to his sister’s funds but promised to take care of and support her in case of her husband's death. Charles Williamson also played a role in the greatest scandal of fellow Lusitania passenger Alfred Vanderbilt's life. Williamson was described as the "agent" of Mrs. Mary Agnes O'Brien Ruiz, with whom Vanderbilt had been conducting an affair. When things soured between the lovers in 1914, Mrs. Ruiz committed suicide in her London hotel room. Williamson, who was renting her Paris residence, hurried to London, dismissed her servants, took charge of her affairs, and supervised the disposal of her possessions. He gave a deposition at the inquest, the details of which were sealed by the court. The verdict was that Mrs. Ruiz committed "suicide while of unsound mind." Prior to his trip on the Lusitania, Williamson had been spending most of his time in Paris engaged in business as an art dealer, connoisseur, and commissionaire. He lived in apparent affluence and associated with people of wealth, whom he numbered among his clients. In the autumn of 1914, Williamson shipped to New York for sale numerous paintings, tapestries, articles of furniture, and furnishings, which were later appraised at $92,125.00. Williamson's ability to borrow large sums of money on his unsecured notes from George J. Gould, Alfred Vanderbilt, and other men of great wealth led people to believe that Williamson was a man of substantial means. After his death it was revealed that his estate was not sufficient to pay his debts, leading family to claim that Williamson had secretly stored valuable property somewhere outside of Paris to prevent its falling into the hands of the German forces then approaching that city. There is no evidence that any property was ever stored by Williamson. The alternative explanation is that Williamson himself was a less-than-honest man in his finances.  Researchers have speculated that Williamson was a charlatan or even a blackmailer of the wealthy (bringing the nature of his friendship with Vanderbilt into question), perhaps doing so to find ways of supporting his father and sister. After Charles' death, the care for their aged father fell principally on his sister Ellen, who in order to support herself and father took on a job in a government department in Washington, D.C.

Media portrayal

Charles Williamson's possible shady deals provided inspiration for his characterization as a villain in Max Allan Collins' novel, The Lusitania Murders.

Related pages

Charles Williamson at the Mixed Claims Commission

Links of interest

Encyclopedia Titanica: Lest We Forget - Part 2
Contributors: Jim Kalafus References: Kalafus, Jim and Michael Poirier (2005) Lest We Forget Part 2:  As the Lusitania Went Down ET Research. <> Mixed Claims Commission, Docket Nos. 218 and 529.

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