The Lusitania Resource > People > Saloon (First Class) Passenger List > Commander Joseph Foster Stackhouse

Commander Joseph Foster Stackhouse

Commander J. Foster Stackhouse Saloon Passenger Lost
Commander Stackhouse image:  London Illustrated News, 29 May 1915.  Courtesy Michael Poirier.
Born Joseph Foster Stackhouse c. 1864 Kendal, Westmorland, England, United Kingdom
Died 7 May 1915 (age 41) At sea
Age on Lusitania 41
Ticket number 46075
Cabin number A 34
Traveling with Robert Dearbergh (friend)
Body number 211
Interred Quaker Graveyard, Cork, Ireland
Occupation Explorer
Citizenship British
Residence London, England, United Kingdom
Spouse(s) Florence Richardson Hutchinson (? - 1915, his death)
Commander J. Foster Stackhouse, USN retired, 41, was sailing on the Lusitania to be reunited with his wife and twelve-year-old daughter in London, England and traveling with Robert Dearbergh.  Stackhouse is also said to have sailed in connection with his work on the Belgian Relief Fund Commission.  He was a Quaker and lived at the Lotos Club.

Early life

Joseph Foster Stackhouse was born in Kendal, Westmorland, England around 1864.  By April 1881, when he was 7 years of age, he was  and was living at 7 Castle Park Terrace, Kendal, Westmorland.  By 31 March 1901, Stackhouse was working as a District Advertising Agent for a Railway Company and was living at 5 Park Lea Road, then 28 years of age.  Stackhouse married Florence Richardson Hutchinson.


In 1915, Stackhouse was planning to lead the British Antarctic and Oceanographical Expedition to survey the Antarctic coastline.  He had hoped to purchase from the Hudson Bay Company the Discovery, a ship once belonging to Captain Robert Falcon Scott.  Stackhouse had put down a £1000 deposit on the ship, hoping to be ready by 1916.  An article in the Sunday, 9 May 1915 New York Times said that he had been in the US to raise "funds for an expedition to chart unmapped islands in the Pacific Ocean.  He had succeeded in getting promises of nearly $900,000 for his contemplated work" The explorer also "had a theory that the sinking of the Titanic was due to the iceberg that she struck being held on a submerged rock, and he believed that if surveys and soundings of the paths of navigation could be made it would result in tremendous benefit to the world." While in the United States, Stackhouse had a letter from Sir Edward Grey which he gave to United States Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan. Stackhouse had also met with President Woodrow Wilson, and had dined with Colonel and former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt and ex-President Howard Taft.


The morning of the sailing, Saturday, 1 May 1915, Stackhouse and Robert Dearbergh stopped by the studio of portrait artist Henry R. Rittenberg to pick up a portrait of him that Rittenberg had completed. Stackhouse paid Rittenberg nearly $900,000 for the completed work. Stackhouse showed Rittenberg a letter from daughter, and how she and her mother were looking forward to seeing the portrait after Stackhouse's long absence. Rittenberg had initially planned to send the portrait via another ship, but Stackhouse wanted the portrait wrapped up so he could take it with him aboard the Lusitania. Rittenberg had the portrait wrapped and asked Stackhouse why he was choosing to sail on Lusitania, in light of the warning from the German embassy that the ship would be destroyed. "Oh, the boat is too fast to be torpedoed. They can't get near her," was Stackhouse's reply, "Besides, there are too many Americans on her, and they wouldn't dare." Stackhouse's cabin on the Lusitania was A-34.  Fellow passenger Harold Boulton was convinced that Stackhouse was a British agent on a secret mission.  He was not alone in such sentiments and such rumors persisted. On the day of the disaster, Boulton sat down in the verandah café with Commander Stackhouse for a cup of coffee.  Stackhouse was busy explaining to Boulton "how the Lusitania could never be torpedoed, that the watches had been doubled, and the people were looking out, and they'd see the periscope of the submarine a mile away . . ..  And in the middle of his trying to prove . . . that the Lusitania could not be torpedoed," Stackhouse was interrupted by "two almost simultaneous explosions." Water and debris crashed through the glass roof and the two men ran outside. Lt. Frederic Lassetter then saw Commander Stackhouse, and the Commander told Lassetter to look for his mother Elisabeth.  When Lassetter and his mother returned, they saw Stackhouse give his lifebelt to a little girl and assist with loading the lifeboats.  He was explaining to those he helped that he could not join them because "There are others who must go first." During the Lusitania make her final plunge, Lassetter from his relative safety in the water, saw Commander Stackhouse standing calmly on the stern. Stackhouse's body recovered as #211 and identified by Friday, May 14.  He was buried by relatives in Cork in a Quaker graveyard.  The contents of his pocket and his recovered property were given to his wife Florence on 4 June 1915.   Included was a slip of paper on which he had written, perhaps just moments before the end, "Let mercy be our boast, and shame our only fear." Contributors: Nick Baker 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. The New York Times, Sunday, 9 May 1915. “Fifty New Yorkers Lost in First Cabin.” The New York Times. 9 May 1915. Web. 3 August 2011. <>. Preston, Diana.  Lusitania:  An Epic Tragedy.  Berkley Books, 2002.

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