Ever heard of Margaret Tobin Brown ?
Of course, you have. I'm probably the only person on the face of the Earth who did not recognize that name. But, just in case you don't either, just keep reading to see if any of the following hints helps you 'to know' who she is.
There has been much publicity about Margaret Tobin Brown, but what you've heard about her, read about her, or watched about her are probably myths.
She has been portrayed as a bawdy, eccentric social outcast mainly because of the writings of *Gene Fowler and **Caroline Bancroft who freely amplified, exaggerated, and created their own 'person.'
Just because something is written in a book or published in a newspaper, or found in a best-selling tourist booklet does not mean it is necessarily true. In other words, contemporaneous writing cannot always be trusted. Imagine that !
But, Hollywood screens and a Broadway stage were instrumental in keeping Margaret Tobin Brown's name alive and famous with heavy doses of romance and flamboyance and sensationalism.
The 'tall-tale' goes something like this:
Margaret Tobin Brown was rescued as a baby from the Missisisippi River by Mark Twain. After a storm destroyed her home, described as a shanty, her father built another out of 'scantlings and tin cans.' She grew up to be "high-spirited and bosomy" with very little public school education. She was a tomboy who never learned to read or write, eventually becoming a waitress at the Park Hotel in Hannibal, Missouri.
After overhearing Mark Twain tell of his adventures in the wild West, she decided to to go Leadville, Colorado, carrying the food prepared for her by her mother in a cardboard shoebox.
She found a job in a saloon and married a prospector who hit pay dirt which was worth about $300,000. Her husband went to a local cafe that night to celebrate, so "Margaret" hid the bills in a potbellied stove, fearful it might be lost or stolen.
When her husband came home in the wee morning hours, just a bit intoxicated, he heated the cabin by lighting the stove, thus sending the fortune up the flue and into the Leadville morning sky.
(Nevermind the fact that paper money wasn't used in mining camps until decades later.)
The next part of this 'tall-tale' is probably the most famous and where Margaret Tobin Brown earns the name that most everyone on the planet recognizes. It happens on a boat. A big boat that hits an iceberg.
Yes, Margaret Tobin Brown is "The Unsinkable Molly Brown."
But, Margaret was NEVER called Molly. That name is "Hollywood," and was invented by Richard Morris, who wrote The Unsinkable Molly Brown. He chose "Molly" because he said it was easier to sing. Margaret was known as Maggie as a child and young woman; after that she was called Margaret and later Mrs. J.J. Brown. Never as Molly.
I purchased the book, Molly Brown Unraveling the Myth by Kristen Iversen, back in 1999, long before Steve Jobs introduced us to his iPad, only to put in on a bookshelf where it has collected its fair share of dust.
This year, once again, interest in the Titanic is at an all-time high and that book just called out to me the other day. Plucking it from the shelf where it's been resting for several years, I thumbed through the pages and that wonderful smell of an old book resonated in my nostrils. You know the smell. The one when you walk into an old building that houses old books and that cozy, comfy, almost musty fragrance fills your head . . . making you want to curl up in a corner with with a cup of hot tea and read every book there, never to leave. Don't get me wrong, I love the convenience of reading books on my iPad, but nothing will ever take away the feel of turning those pages with my fingers and that delightful smell of an old book.
OK. So, I haven't put the book down since Thursday. Every word has captivated me.
Kristen Iversen's research originally began in 1991 as part of her Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Denver.
Through letter, journals, court records, newspaper articles, family memoirs, and other authentic documentation, Iversen attempted to accurately reconstruct the life of Margaret Tobin Brown not only to uncover the "real story" but to determine a kind of pattern or order that might suggest why her life was so disguised and diminished. The book opens and closes with Margaret's Titanic experience, written in narrative style, culled with exacting precision from numerous authentic accounts by the survivors themselves --- including Margaret's own written account --- of EXACTLY what happened that night. Despite all the other accomplishments of Margaret's life, her experience in Lifeboat Six the night of April 14, 1912, was not only a turning point or catalyst for subsequent events in her life but to some degree a nightmare from which she never completely recovered. Subsequent chapters in the book trace her life from its beginnings in Hannibal, Missouri, to her important political work in Denver, Colorado, Newport, Rhode Island, and Europe, and finally her death at the Barbizon Hotel in New York City in 1932.
--taken from the Preface of Molly Brown Unraveling the Truth
Notes from Kristen Iversen:
Whenever I talk about the extaraordinary life of Margaret Tobin Brown, the first question I am asked is, "How did the story get so screwd up?"
Anyone who's done any research on "Molly" Brown soon discovers that despite her fame, both now and in the past, almost nothing has been published about her actual life. What does exist is almost wholly myth and fantasy, begun in the 1930's with writers *Gene Fowler, a reporter for the Denver Post who fictionalized the life of Molly Brown in a chapter of his book Timberline, and **Caroline Bancroft, a storyteller and historian who wrote a largely fictionalized booklet titled The Unsinkable Mrs. Brown for Colorado tourists. Fowler's and Bancroft's stories culminated in the 1964 MGM movie The Unsinkable Molly Brown, and nearly everything published or produced about Mrs. Brown since then has been based on this tall tale.
This is just a suggestion, RUN, don't walk to this link:
Molly Brown Unraveling the Myth
and buy the book by Kristen Iversen.
You will certainly not be disappointed if you have ever had the slightest bit of interest in what really happened on April 14, 1912 (100 years ago today) and knowing who Margaret Tobin Brown really was !
There are thirty-eight photographs in this book, including the Titanic survivors in Lifeboat Six taken from the deck of the Carpathia on the morning of April 15, 1912.
This post is dedicated to my youngest daughter, who has been mesmerized with the story of the Titanic since she was about eight years old.
It IS YOUR book !
And yes, you can use my iTunes account to upload "Molly Brown Unraveling the Myth."