The Lusitania Resource > Primary Documents > Mixed Claims Commission > Docket No. 2040: Henry Sonneborn

Docket No. 2040: Henry Sonneborn

Docket No. 2040. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA on behalf of Estate of Wilhelmina B. Sonneborn, Deceased, Mercantile Trust and Deposit Company of Baltimore, Maryland, Executor of the Estate of Henry B. Sonneborn, Deceased, Louis B. Sonneborn, Philip B. Sonneborn, Carrie Henrietta Schreiber, Herman H. Praetorius, and Estate of Mary Christine Praetorius, Deceased, Claimants, v. GERMANY. PARKER, Umpire, rendered the decision of the Commission. This case is before the Umpire for decision on a certificate of the two National Commissioners[a] certifying their disagreement. It appears from the record that Henry B. Sonneborn, and American national, a bachelor 44 years of age, was lost on the Lusitania. He left surviving him a mother, Wilhelmina B. Sonneborn, two brothers, Philip B. and Louis B. Sonneborn, and two sisters, Carrie Henrietta Schreiber and Mary Christine Praetorius, all American nationals. Some three years prior to his death he had retired from the coal business, which he had been pursuing in Baltimore and which it is alleged yielded him a return of $8,400 per annum, and since had been residing in Paris engaged in cultivating his voice. The inferences from the meager statements contained in the record are that the resources of the decedent were slender and his income small. The property of his estate, both real and personal, inventoried only $13,107.53. He was traveling with his friend Leo M. Schwabacher, also a bachelor, who was also lost on the Lusitania (see Docket No. 2200[b]). These two men seemed to have been fast friends and each named the other a legatee in his will. Provision is made in Schwabacher’s will for the burial of the two friends in the same mausoleum. The body of neither was recovered. Schwabacher seems to have possessed considerable property. The substantial provision made by his will for his friend Sonneborn suggests a possible source of income to the latter, supplementing that from his own slender estate and enabling him, at middle age, to embark on the cultivation of his voice in Paris. However this may be, the record fails to disclose that, with the exception of his sister Mrs. Praetorius and the members of her family, any of the claimants herein were dependent upon the decedent, Henry B. Sonneborn, or, measured by pecuniary standards, have sustained damages by reason of his death. His mother, who at the time of the sinking of the Lusitania was 75 years of age, has since died, but the record does not disclose the date of her death. It would seem, however, that she had an income of her own and left an estate of which her son Philip B. Sonneborn, one of the claimants herein, is administrator. His old mother was not mentioned in the will of the decedent, Henry B. Sonneborn, save that in bequeathing his jewelry, furniture, silver, books, rugs, and other similar personal effects to his friend Leo M. Schwabacher the testator provided that in the event his said friend should not survive him then this bequest should go to his mother. These effects so bequeathed to his mother were inventoried at $1,457.90. The decedent left one policy of life insurance, of $1,000, in which a nephew and a niece were named as beneficiaries. No inference can reasonably be drawn from the record other than that the aged mother of the decedent was not dependent upon him and that he did not contribute to her support. Mrs. Praetorius, a sister of the deceased, survived him. At the time of his death she was 47 years of age. In 1911 her husband had suffered an apoplectic stroke which had left him an incompetent. Thereafter Mrs. Praetorius which her invalid husband and minor son made her home with her old mother, Mrs. Wilhelmina Sonneborn, the decedent contributing $100 per month toward paying the household expenses of his mother’s establishment for the benefit of his sister, Mrs. Praetorius, her invalid husband, and her son. In his will the decedent left in trust the sum of $2,000 for his nephew, Herman H. Praetorius, the income therefrom to be paid him until he reache the age of 25 years, whereupon the principal should be paid him. Mrs. Praetorius died December 15, 1917. The decedent had with him on the Lusitania personal effects, including jewelry, aggregating in value $2,230.50. Applying the rules announced in the Lusitania Opinion and in the other decisions of this Commission to the facts in this case as disclosed by the record herein, the Commission decrees that under the Treaty of Berlin of August 25, 1921, and in accordance with its terms the Government of Germany is obligated to pay to the Government of the United States on behalf of (1) Herman H. Praetorius the sum of two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500.00) with interest thereon at the rate of five per cent per annum from November 1, 1923, and (2) Mercantile Trust and Deposit Company of Baltimore, Maryland, Executor of the Estate of Henry B. Sonneborn, Deceased, the sum of two thousand two hundred thirty dollars fifty cents ($2,230.50) with interest thereon at the rate of five per cent per annum from May 7, 1915; and further decrees that the Government of Germany is not obligated to pay to the Government of the United States any amount on behalf of the other claimants herein. Done at Washington January 7, 1925.


---- [a] Dated December 17, 1924. [b] Post, pages 506-508.

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