Scope and Content
Title: Culver (William B.) Memorial Scrapbook of the Shipwreck of the Ville du Havre,
Date (inclusive): 1873-1874
Collection number: Mss169
Extent: 0.3 linear ft.
University of the Pacific. Library. Holt-Atherton Department of Special Collections
Shelf location: For current information on the location of these
materials, please consult the library's online catalog.
Collection is open for research.
[Identification of item], Culver (William B.) Memorial Scrapbook of the Shipwreck of the
Ville du Havre, Mss169, Holt-Atherton Department of Special Collections, University of
the Pacific Library
On November 22, 1873 at 2:00 a.m. the steamship Ville Du Havre (formerly named Napoleon
III) of the French Atlantic line, running between New York and Le Havre, collided with
the British ship Loch Erne, travelling from London to New York. Of the approximately 226
crew and passengers, only around 87 were saved. According to newspaper accounts the Ville
Du Havre spotted the lights of the Loch Erne through the fog with minutes to spare.A
Second Lieutenant and the Captain tried to turn the ship in time but they received a full
hit at mid-ship. The Ville sank in twelve minutes drowning many passengers in their
cabins. A mast fell, hitting a craft filled with those who made it to the deck and
killing many more. The captain had a first lieutenant swim to the Loch Erne for help, and
although the latter had also been badly damaged and had drifted half a mile away, she
sent over three craft to pick up survivors.
The Chicago papers emphasized the 11 Chicagoans killed in the wreck. It is of interest
that Mrs. H.G. (Anne) Spafford travelled with her four children, another child in her
care (William B. Culver) and a nanny. Mrs. Spafford was the only one to survive in her
party. Wm. B Culver was the twelve year old son of B.F. Culver, President of the Lincoln
Park Commissioners. The boy was being escorted by Mrs. Spafford on his way to school for
a few years in Germany. He was to be placed under the charge of his grandfather, the
Reverend William Barry. Barry was formerly of Chicago, and once Secretary of the
Scope and Content
The scrapbook, inscribed "Wm. B Culver" on the cover, is probably a memorial to Culver,
created by a family member. Newspaper clippings in the scrapbook report varying accounts
of the event, provide the names of survivors and those who died, speculate on the cause
of the collision and whether the crew had acted appropriately to avoid the hit. The
accounts also report on prominent figures who died in the collision, including Judge
Rufus W. Peckham of Albany, New York (1810-1873) and Collodion, a caricaturist.