Mr. Thomas James Silva

Thomas Silva Saloon Passenger Lost
Thomas Silva Image:  US National Archives/Michael Poirier.
Born Thomas James Silva 29 July 1888 Savannah, Georgia, United States
Died 7 May 1915 (age 26) At sea
Age on Lusitania 26
Ticket number 46159
Cabin number D 21
Traveling with none
Body number Not identified
Citizenship United States
Occupation Cotton broker
Residence Thomasville, Georgia and Temple, Texas, United States
Other name(s) none
Spouse(s) Ethel Dekle (1909 - 1915, his death)
Thomas Silva, 26, of Thomasville, Georgia and Temple, Texas, United States was a cotton broker for the Cotton Exchange in Savannah, Georgia.  He was on his way to Bremen, Germany, by way of the Lusitania on business, and almost did not make the trip because his passport was expired.  He was unable to fix this problem while in New York, so he went to Washington, D.C., personally to resolve this situation.  His passport finally ready, he sailed aboard Lusitania's last voyage.  Silva was lost in the disaster, his last moments aboard the ship were reported by Charles Thomas Jeffery of Kenosha, Wisconsin.  Silva's body may have been recovered (#146) but was never identified.
  1. Family
  2. Career
  3. Lusitania
  4. Postscript
  5. Related pages
  6. Links of interest


Thomas Silva was born into American southern nobility on 29 July 1888 and raised in Savannah, Georgia.  He had two sisters, Margaret and Mary, and a brother named Frank.  His father, a naturalized US citizen from Ottoman Turkey, had died some time before Thomas's voyage on the Lusitania, and his mother had remarried to W.H. Teasdale.  Thomas Silva married Ethel Dekle of Thomasville, Georgia, also a southern blue-blood, in 1909 when they were both 20 years old.  They lived together in Thomasville. Two children were born to Thomas and Ethel Silva.  Frank Robertson "Bobby" Silva was born around 1911, and Bettina was born in 1913.


Silva's work was in the cotton industry.  He started work with the Espy Cotton Company in Savannah in 1905.  Upon Thomas's relocation to Thomasville, he continued to be associated with W.W. Espy, but then left the Espy Company to work for E.T. Robertson & Son of Bremen.  Silva was also associated with Parrish and Company of Temple, Texas, and his passport application even recorded his residence as Temple, Texas.  His work often had him going to Britain and Germany, and knowing people in both places and loving both cultures, he may have not felt himself strongly aligned with either side of the Great War.


Silva's final trip aboard Lusitania would be his third trip to Bremen.  In addition to Germany and England, Silva would also be visiting Portugal, Norway, France, Spain, Sweden, Italy, and Switzerland.  Ethel would not accompany him on this crossing, as she kept busy raising their two children.  Furthermore, Silva's passport had expired, and he was unable to remedy the problem in Brooklyn, New York, and without a valid passport, he would not be able to board.  Determined to make this crossing, Silva took a train down to Washington, DC, and finally had his passport problems worked out on 30 April 1915, the day before Lusitania sailed. William Ray & Company of New York, and Mr. Steinhauser booked Silva a $250 stateroom aboard Lusitania at the minimum price. Silva's cabin would be D 21.  Aboard Lusitania, Silva wrote to his wife back home, assuring her that the passage would be safe, destroyers would escort Lusitania to Liverpool, and that he would be home with her and the children in three months. During the voyage, Silva became acquainted with Charles T. JefferyAllen Barnes, and James Brooks, mostly people who sat at the same table for their meals and some people they met in the smoking room.  Jeffery described Silva as "unusually likeable" and a "personality . . . that appealed to those who became acquainted with him." On 7 May, the day of the disaster, Jeffery met up with Silva around 1:30 p.m. in the smoking room.  Silva and two others were sitting there when they all noticed the ship make a sharp turn.  Curious, the men went out to the verandah cafe just aft of the smoking room and saw an arc in Lusitania's wake.  Jeffery commented to Silva that the captain had probably seen "something," that something being understood as a submarine and perhaps Captain Turner was taking evasive action.  As the ship resumed her normal course, Silva and Jeffery returned to the smoking room and chatted for a bit.  Jeffery, who had had a late breakfast, decided to go down to the dining saloon to grab something "light."  Silva said that he was not hungry and remained in the smoking room, reading.  Jeffery returned a half-hour later and saw Silva was still reading.  They resumed conversation, but ten minutes in, the torpedo struck. Feeling the shock and the explosion, Silva and Jeffery ran back out to the verandah cafe to see what had happened.  From the direction of the sound, they deduced that the torpedo must have struck the starboard side.  Soon afterwards, many people rushed out onto the deck, separating Silva and Jeffery.  Jeffery did not see Silva again and deduced that, if Silva had stayed on the starboard side of the ship, Silva may have been caught by the motion of the ship rolling over in her final moments. In Queenstown, Jeffery was unable to find Silva, or find anyone who had seen him.  James Brooks and Allen Barnes had also inquired about Silva. Meanwhile, in Georgia, the Silva family was frantic to find out what had happened to Thomas.  Thomas's family sent out a flurry of telegrams and letters to Cunard and Mr. Steinhauser, only to receive word that Thomas's name did not appear on the list of survivors.  Mayor J.B. Watters of Temple, Texas appealed to Texas Governor James E. Ferguson to interest Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan to demand all information concerning the fate of Thomas Silva. A description of Thomas was received in Queenstown to identify his body, noting the elk's head tattoo that he had on his left arm and the Greek band on his right arm.  No such body was identified, but body #146 was found with an unfinished letter on Lusitania stationary in his pocket, the body identified as American. After one and a half months, the Silva and Dekle families were able to contact Charles T. Jeffery, who related Silva's last known whereabouts to them.


According to "Passport to Perdition," Ethel Dekle Silva never remarried. However, in her claim against Germany in the Mixed Claims Commission, she is said to have married Dr. Frank A. Strobel, of Thomasville, Georgia, an American national, on 23 April 1921. Ethel taught piano lessons and died in 1977, just shy of her 88th birthday. Bobby Silva graduated magna cum laude from Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Kentucky and became a civil engineer.  He had a son named Tom in memory of his father.  Bobby died from a heart attack in the late 1980s when he was in his seventies, just after he and Tom had returned from a golf game. Bettina's married name is Callaway, and was interviewed by Senan Molony in 2006 for his article on Thomas Silva, "Passport to Perdition."

Related pages

Thomas Silva at the Mixed Claims Commission

Links of Interest

Passport to Perdition
Contributors: Senan Molony, Ireland Michael Poirier, USA References: Mixed Claims Commission. Docket 1330. Page 496. Molony, Senan (2007).  "Passport to Perdition"  Encyclopedia Titanica.  <>

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