Mr. Isaac Lehmann

Isaac Lehmann Saloon Passenger Saved
image: Michael Poirer/US National Archives
Age on Lusitania 36
Ticket number 46158
Cabin number D 48
Traveling with None
Lifeboat 15
Rescued by - Wanderer (Peel 12) - Flying Fish
Occupation Businessman
Citizenship United States
Residence New York, New York, United States
Isaac Lehmann, 36, was a United States citizen from New York, New York, United States. He had three brothers, Diland, Martin, and Henry. Isaac has been reported as a New York buyer of United States Government supplies, an export broker at 24 Stone Street, or an equipment manufacturer on the Lusitania hoping to secure further contracts with Allied countries. His own statement from the Mixed Claims Commission states that he was en route to Paris, France to negotiate a sale of a large quantity of cloth to the French Government for military uniforms. Lehmann's cabin on Lusitania was D-48 and his ticket was 46158. Lehmann survived the sinking of the Lusitania when the ship was torpedoed on 7 May 1915.
  1. Last voyage of the Lusitania
  2. Disaster
  3. In the water
  4. Rescue
  5. Criticisms
  6. Loss of contract
  7. Related pages

Last voyage of the Lusitania

Early in the voyage, Lehmann was disappointed that the ship was traveling so slowly. He asked First Officer Arthur Rowland Jones the reason for the ship's lackluster performance and was told that they were not running all the boilers because "the crew was picked up here and there as they could get them, and they were very scarce over in Liverpool at that time." On the night of 6 May, Lehmann was present at George Kessler's party. Also in attendance were Charles Lauriat, Theodate Pope, Edwin Friend, and Fred and Mabel Pearson. Staff Captain Anderson also made an appearance where Kessler asked Anderson if the passengers were ever going to be drilled for the lifeboats. "That is that Captain's decision" was all Anderson could say. The talk of submarines had so thoroughly unnerved Lehmann that he spent all night, completely dressed, in his stateroom.


The following is his account from the day of the sinking, 7 May 1915:
"As usual, I had luncheon at 1 o'clock in the main dining room, situated on D deck. After luncheon was through - about 1:30 - I went upstairs on A deck to the smoking room and sat by the windown on the English side of the land. We had passed the Irish coast some hours before and were just coming into sight of the English side. "I wrote some letters home, and had just finished writing these letters and some postal cards. During this time I had the pleasure of holding a conversation with the late Dr. Pearson, talking about this wonderful new organ in America, and I was joking with him regarding the late Charles Klein, the American playwright, that Mr. Klein had a wonderful organ as well. In fact, I was told by Mr. Klein that Dr. Pearson and himself were the largest customers of the Aeolian Company of New York. "After they left I was joined by Mr. Medbury, who sat beside me, and we discussed several matters. All of a sudden we heard a noise like the boom of a cannon, and I said to Medbury: 'They have got us at last!' He thought I was joking. My answer was, 'Let's get outside and see if I am joking.' "I rushed through the smoking room to the deck and turned and saw the torpedo making direct for us. The time from the noise of the report until it struck us was less than a minute. I said, 'Let's get away from here; it looks like it is going to strike right under us.' I do not know what became of Mr. Medbury after that. "I went to the other side of the deck to the last lifeboat [#20 on the port side] before the second class came along. Everybody by this time was on deck and boat was still shaking like a leaf from the effect of being hit by the torpedo. When I reached the first lifeboat nobody had made any effort to get it ready for lowering, and I suggest to the different gentlement around there to get it ready. A great many people got in the lifeboat and there were three or four men at each rope to lower the boat, one man standing there with a hatchet in his hand to cut the blocks. One side started lowering the boat and the other did not, and as a result, before anybody knew what had happened, the other fellows let go and the rope broke which held the lifeboat and threw everybody into the sea, the boat finally breaking from the davits itself and dropping into the water. After I had seen this I rushed down the deck to the entrance which is known as the grand entrance and rand down to the D deck to my stateroom, known as D 48, to get a life preserver. When I reached there the boat had commenced already to settle. Somebody certainly had been in my room already and taken my life preserver. I don't know whatever possessed me, but I looked in my dress suit case and got hold of my revolver, as I figured this would come in handy in case there was anybody not doing the proper thing. "I walked up to B deck and met my steward - by the name of [William] Barnes - on the way, and I told him to get me a life preserver. I waited for him to get this and he put it on for me, saying that it would come in handy. I walked out on B deck and met the ship's doctor [James McDermott] and the ship's purser [James McCubbin], who told me that there was not a chance for the boat to go down, that I should remain calm, and said I was foolish to have my life preserver on. However, I did not take very much notice of this outside of the fact I laughed at them and said it was better to be prepared if anything did happen. This was the last I saw of these men. I understand they have been drowned.
Purser McCubbin and Dr. McDermott had been calmly puffing on cigarettes. At this time, water was already surging along the starboard side and flooding onto C deck. He made his way to the Boat Deck, portside. He reached the Boat Deck and saw that lifeboat #16 was gone. He then looked aft to lifeboat #18. Thirty to forty people were sitting in the lifeboat and no one was lowering the boat. With the Lusitania's bows plunging underneath the water, Lehmann demanded of an ax-wielding seaman, "Why aren't you putting this boat into the water? Who has charge of this lifeboat?" "It is the captain's orders not to launch any boats." Furious, Lehmann took out his revolver and waved it in plain sight of everyone.
"My reply was, 'To hell with the Captain! Don't you see the boat is sinking? And the first man that disobeys my orders to launch this boat I shoot to kill.' "I drew my revolver, and the order was then obeyed.
The seaman did not argue any more and swung the ax to release the pin holding the boat.
"The boat was just about being started on its way down when the ship gave an awful lurch... There were about thirty to forty men and women standing on the collapsible boat where I was, and the boat [#18] in receding smashed all these people, who were trying to get into the boat, up against the smoking room, killing pretty much all of they could not move, I being knocked down as well, and hurting my leg severely, but I succeeded in crawling out and was able to hold onto the rails when the water from the funnels commenced pouring over us.
Lehmann saw blood streaming from his injured foot. The crew regained control of lifeboat #18 and were easily lowering it when a man in the boat stood up and shouted, "Don't you drop this boat!" Just then the crew lost control and lifeboat #18 threw its load into the water. Lehmann then grabbed onto a nearby rail, but the water "commenced coming over the smokestack" and washed him "right off the deck and into the ocean." The water probably did not come over the smokestack, but most likely was swirling around the ventilators.
A terrific explosion occurred in the front of the steamer, and then I noted the lifeboat which had killed these people had gone back into its original position. By this time the ship was sinking fast, and this boat finally got away safely. I was then thrown high into the water, free and clear of all wreckage, and I then went down twice with the suction of the steamer, and the second time I came up I was 400 or 500 feet away from the ship. I clung to an oar, and just then I saw the Lusitania take her final plunge. It sounded like a terrible moan.

In the water

His account continues:
"Immediately after she sank there were hundreds of people struggling in the water, praying and crying for help. there was wreckage all around - old chairs, wood, all kinds of smaller items - but taken all in all there was very little large wreckage. The water was not so cold and it was a lovely day, the sun shining and not a ripple on the water. Had the sea been the least bit rough, I do not believe that out of the entire lot that were living at the time she wend down fifty would have been saved, as most of the boats that did get away had no plugs in them, and the collapsible boats that were floating had no oars in them. "The sights in the water around me defy description. Right near me were several men who watched with me for help. We saw, about a mile distant from the wreck what we though was a sailboat, which kept our hopes up, but we soon found out that this must have been the periscope of the submarine which sunk us, watching us.
In the water he found a baby next to him and he and another man lifted the baby onto a steamer chair floating by. The two men managed to keep the baby alive for an hour-and-a-half, but eventually the child succumbed to exposure.


From Lehmann's account:
"Toward 5 o'clock torpedo boats and other boats came to our aid. I managed to keep alive by using my arms and my left leg to keep warm, as toward sundown the water commended to get very cold and I became very numb. I was only picked up - by Chief [sic, First] Officer Jones - about 6:15 in the evening, having been in the water from 2:28, as my watch stopped at that time, almost four hours. "I generally weigh about 200 pounds. I was in the water with all my clothes on, shoes and life preserver, and when I was picked up it took six men to haul me in the boat, I had become so heavy. "After leaving the lifeboat I was transferred [first to the Wanderer (Peel 12), then] to the tender known as the Flying Fox [sic, Flying Fish], and after leaving the scene of the disaster we did not arrive in Queenstown until 11 o'clock that night. We tied up at the Cunard dock, and the arrangement for the reception of the survivors was just as hard and difficult as it was to get saved from the Lusitania.
The reason for the difficulty as that the captain would not let anyone off the boat until he received clearance from the proper authorities. Passengers led by Charles Lauriat overrode the captain's orders, as many people on the boat were in need of immediate medical attention. While in Queenstown, he stayed in the Queen's Hotel and was asked to share a room with three men. Lehmann also received "no attention at all" and "nothing to eat at all." Thus, he thought it best to make his way to London as soon as he could. He took the 1:30 train on Sunday for London, via Kingstown. The boat train reached Holyhead at midnight and London Monday morning at 6:30. By mistake, Isaac's brothers Diland and Martin were named on the Sunday, 9 May 1915 New York Times as also being on board. Contents of a letter Isaac sent to Henry at the latter's address of 39 West 34th Street, New York City was reported on page 4 of The New York Times, Tuesday, 25 May 1915.


Lehmann's thoughts on what went wrong during the sinking:
"In conclusion, [I] would say that on board the steamer when she was sinking there was very little panic; everybody seemed to be resigned, but there was no real direction on the part of the officers or men who had charge of the boats, no one to command hem and no one to give orders. The portholes on the D deck were never closed, which I understand is the work of the stewards - this is one of the causes that the boat went down so quickly. "The greatest life-saving apparatus on the boat was the life preservers. People ran around looking for them, but none could be found. then the lifeboats were so heavy that it took ten men to handle one boat, and those who are not experienced in this work cannot very well get them out. Had a lot of life-rafts been thrown overboard before the sinking of the boat, and had not some of the officers and men in command issued orders not to lower the boats, and had some other members of the ship - who really believed that the steamer would not sink - done something to help, a great many more lives would have been saved."
In the 2 June 1915 New York Times where the above account was printed, the paper also reports that Captain Turner did not launch the boats because he could not slow down the speed of the ship.

Loss of contract

Lehmann was on his way to Paris to negotiate a sale of a large quantity of cloth to the French Government for military uniforms. His injuries detained him in London for some time, and when he was well enough to travel to Paris, the opportunity for negotiating such a contract had passed. Lehmann brought this case to the Mixed Claims Commission. While the court deemed his claim that the Lusitania sinking causing him to lose the contract was speculative, the court still awarded him $6,000.

Related pages

Isaac Lehmann at the Mixed Claims Commission
Contributors: Michael Poirier Judith Tavares References: Hickey, Des and Gus Smith. Seven Days to Disaster. G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1981. Hoehling, A. A. and Mary Hoehling. The Last Voyage of the Lusitania. Madison Books, 1956. Mixed Claims Commission. Docket No. 2217, page 509. The New York Times, Sunday, 9 May 1915. The New York Times, Tuesday, 25 May 1915, page 4. "Used His Revolver on the Lusitania." The New York Times, 2 June 1915. Preston, Diana. Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy. Berkley Books, 2002.

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