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REVEALED: Gay Love Story Between Two Male Titanic Passengers!

You’ll have to read it in unimpressive 2-D (take that, James Cameron!), but this tale of possible queer love aboard the Titanic brings far more flutters to our heart than Rose and Jack’s story ever did.

Francis D. Millet and Major Archibald Butt (gotta love the name) were very close friends who both went down with the ship that fateful night 100 years ago.

Millet and Butt (an aide-de-camp to President Taft—see photo at right)  probably didn’t consider themselves “gay” as we understand the term—and were booked in separate rooms—but LGBT historian James Gifford over at OutHistory.org dredged up some intriguing details on the couple, including the text of a plaque on a Washington, DC, memorial honoring their enduring friendship:

No Damon and Pythias friendship could have been closer than the friendship of Major Butt and Millet,’ said Mr. [Richard B.] Watrous [Secretary of the American Civic Association]. ‘The two kept quarters together and were inseparable when both were in Washington. They lived near the Metropolitan Club, Butt being, as is well known, a bachelor and Mr. Millet’s family being quartered at his home in England… Among all of us who knew of the close friendship of Major Butt and Mr. Millet there has been the tensest of feeling since the news of disaster to the Titanic reached us.

Gifford also writes that Taft was devastated at the loss of Butt, taking it as if his son had died. He didn’t find any letters between Millet and Butt, but there are love letters  from Millet to writer Charles Warren Stoddard.

“My dear old Boy, I miss you more than you do me and gaum [pine] constantly—after dark. Why should one go and the other stay. It is rough on the one who remains.”

Other parts of their correspondence indicate Millet had a hot-and-steamy sexual relationship with Stoddard in Venice nearly 37 years before his death in the freezing Atlantic.


By:           Evan Mulvihill
On:           Apr 16, 2012
Tagged: , , , , ,

  • 22 Comments
    • Jen
      Jen

      Big deal.

      Apr 16, 2012 at 11:58 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Ben
      Ben

      Cute deal.

      Apr 16, 2012 at 12:14 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Marie Cohn
      Marie Cohn

      Taft was a bearchaser’s dream man!

      Apr 16, 2012 at 12:17 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Brett
      Brett

      Major Archibald Butt and Francis D. Millet… I wonder which one bottomed. (bad and immature pun but I just had to)

      Apr 16, 2012 at 12:18 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • nineinchnail
      nineinchnail

      Sick and tired of hearing about anything to do with the Titanic. It sank 100 years ago so its time to forget.

      Apr 16, 2012 at 1:08 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Ted B. (Charging Rhino)
      Ted B. (Charging Rhino)

      It couldn’t have been THAT much of a secret in Washington society-circles, the fountain in the Ellipse just south of the White House in named in-memorium to BOTH of them; the Butt-Millet fountain.

      And they entertained at their home everyone who counted in DC for years decades before their deaths including several Presidents, Senators and Members of Congress, ambassadors and important movers and shakers…and the intellectual and literary set. They also sponsored and mentored many up-and-comers who went on to important roles in government and diplomatic circles….including memorably one kilt-wearing future British Ambassador to the United States.

      Apr 16, 2012 at 1:09 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • christopher di crapito
      christopher di crapito

      @nineinchnail: That is the most insensitive and asshole-ish comment I’ve read in a long time! Time to forget? Are you serious? You obviously do not have the slightest conception of what this tragedy meant and still means to a whole lot of people. Sick and tired of hearing about it? Then go elsewhere, you unbelievable idiot!

      Apr 16, 2012 at 1:36 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Alexi3
      Alexi3

      No, it is not time to forget. That is the problem for many people, they forget or never bother to learn about history. You don’t exist in isolation, you know. As to wheather these two men were gay or not; I don’t know but I agree probably not in the 21st Century sense of the word. You must understand that in the 19th and early 20th Centuries same sex “friendships”, that from our perspective look quite intense, could exist without anyone raising an eyebrow. The vocabulary that was used in letters of the time looks sexual to us but that may not have been the case and most people of this period would not have interpreted them as such. So, it is possible they might have been love letters hidden quite plainly in sight within the writing style of the day or they could have just been close friends in the Platonic sense.

      Apr 16, 2012 at 3:24 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Michael Bedwell
      Michael Bedwell

      @Ted B. (Charging Rhino):

      Sorry, but even with it’s Damon & Pythias-referenced inscription, the fountain [done by the same sculptor as that of Lincoln in the Memorial], represents, for certain, no more than the known FRIENDSHIP of a full-time DC resident [Butt] and one part-time [Millet], who sometimes shared a home [originally Millet AND a number of other men rented rooms from Butt, and later Butt, Millet, AND a third man, Blanton Winship, shared another house], were famous locally, and died on the Titanic [along with 1,512 others who were surely not their lovers]. There are numerous shared Titanic memorials around the world with no indication most of the honorees were also lovers. In fact, there’s another memorial to Butt ALONE in Washington National Cathedral, and a cenotaph for him in Arlington National Cemetery. Note even the fountain inscription identifies Millet’s “HOME” was in England, just as contemporaneous obituaries listed it, where his wife and three surviving of four children waited.

      As the linked article notes, at least four historians [at least two of which are gay including Jonathan Ned Katz who devoted an entire chapter to some of Millet's early same-sex relationships in his 2001 book, “Love Stories” which is devoted to revealing male relationships in 19th and early 20th century America] have WANTED to prove that they were lovers but have been unable to find A SINGLE piece of evidence. “Gifford concludes that the documents suggest to him that Butt did have a sexual interest in men, but that he and his friend, the painter Frank Millet, who also died on the Titanic, were not lovers.” All that hot air INTERPRETATION of the alleged gay-relationship significance of their hosting various VIPS that they knew from their careers [no less than Mark Twain was Millet's witness at his 1879 wedding in Paris] comes from the purple pen of Richard Davenport-Hines, who as the article notes, emphasis mine: “in a March 2012 article for The Daily, refers to Butt and Millet (WITHOUT CITING SOURCES) as lovers, but his simultaneously published book, Voyagers of the Titanic (William Morrow, 2012) MAKES NO SIMILAR CLAIM.” Translation: someone eager to promote his book apparently got a little reckless with the facts.

      The only consensus of most historians is that Millet was surely at least bisexual, and Butt likely a repressed homosexual. In addition to Millet’s family, and simultaneous home in England and a painters cottage in Massachusetts, he was 19 years older than Butt. True, many married men have always carried on with other men, and some of them have been nearly two-decades apart in age, but just because they were close and both likely gay/Bi doesn’t automatically mean anythng more just as all of us gay are not lovers with all of the gays we know/have lived with.

      Hines’ portrait of them traveling to, around, and from Europe together as lovers paints over several facts in addition to the mere existence of Mrs. Millet, their children, multiple homes, etc. According to gay Titanic historian Hugh Brewster [also mentioned in the OutHistory article], in his book, “Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage,” while Millet used Butt’s house as “more or less a permanent base” for his many world travels, it had only been during the last few years that Millet had become one of Butt’s boarders. “[H]e led more or less the life of a wanderer.” Millet’s wife had been with him for at least part of the month he’d just spent in Rome where he was the head of the American Academy, and had spent the last week there mostly “paying court” to Academy financier J. Pierpont Morgan before the Millets spent two days together in Paris. For his long overdue vacation that Millet had convinced him to take, Butt had traveled with him to Rome, too, but, then, went, BY HIMSELF, to Berlin, Paris, and, finally, England where he had a brother. Thus, he took the boat train from London to Southampton, where he boarded the Titanic as a first class passenger while Millet boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg, France, with a second class ticket. [Whether before leaving American or after, apparently Butt’s second class ticket was upgraded to first through his connections with the President. There’s no evidence I’ve seen that Millet was sneaking into Butt’s more luxurious cabin at night.] Mrs. Millet had returned by train to Russell House, their stone manse in Broadway, England. Butt was returning to Washington for his job as an aide to the President and Millet to work on the design for the Lincoln Memorial, to be followed by scheduled trips to New York and Wisconsin.

      Katz also noted in his 2001 book that survivors remembered Millet “encouraging Italian women and children into the lifeboats” IN DIRECT CONTRADICTION to Hines’ inexplicable assertion that “no one remembered seeing” him during the time leading up to the sinking. With just a little Googling, I discovered that survivor Archibald Gracie gave evidence to the US Senate inquiry that after the ship struck the iceberg, he saw both Butt and Millet in the Smoking Room in the company of two other men. Perhaps one of those men was William Baird Silvey whose wife survived, and a contemporaneous newspaper account noted: “… her husband, with Maj. Butt, and F. D. Millet were left standing together when the last boat left the ship.” Another account recalls, “both men were last seen giving up their life preservers to women passengers, shortly before the ship sank in the icy Atlantic waters.”And another: “Mrs. Henry B. Harris, said in an interview about Major Butt: ‘I saw Major Butt just before they put me into a collapsible raft with ever so many women from the steerage. Mr. Millet’s little smile, which played on his lips all through the voyage, had gone, but when I was put in the boat I saw him wave his hand to a woman in another boat’.” Given Hines got these documented facts about Butt and Millet so wrong, why should we accept his UNdocumented claims?

      Unlike Butt, Millet’s body was recovered by the crew of the MacKay Bennett who recorded: “MALE – ESTIMATED AGE, 65 – HAIR, GREY CLOTHING – Light overcoat; black pants; grey jacket; evening dress EFFECTS – Gold watch and chain; “F.D.M.” on watch; glasses; two gold studs; silver tablet bottle; £2 10s in gold; 8s in silver; pocketbook.” He was buried in East Bridgewater, MA, near where he was born and his painters cottage. His wife died in May 1932 in Winchester, Gloucestershire, England.

      Hine’s phatasmagorical March article in “The Daily” which started this most recent discussion, also slights Millet’s career, both as a reporter and artist. He was, in fact, far more accomplished than Butt. Related to coverage for several newspapers the Russian-Turkish War, he was decorated by Russia and Rumania “for bravery under fire and services to the wounded. Millet’s literary talents led him to publish accounts of his travels and, besides writing short stories and essays, he translated Tolstoy’s ‘Sebastopol’.” His murals can be found in a number of public buildings, and his paintings in the collections of NY’s Metropolitan Museum, and the Tate. He was superintendent of decoration at the glorious World’s Colombian Exhibition in Chicago in 1893, and was an organizer of the American Federation of the Arts for the National Academy and, as previously noted, the American Academy in Rome.

      In sum, gay history has been my passion for decades, about which I’ve frequently commented on Queerty, and am constantly encouraging others to read up on both our heroes and what’s been discovered about average LGBTs. But while it’s wrong when nongays try to ignore or even erase our history, it’s just as wrong when gays, or the gay-friendly, simply make it up. Thank you.

      Apr 16, 2012 at 3:45 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Bipolar Bear
      Bipolar Bear

      I can understand people feeling Titanic overkill (although I’ve yet to see anyone openly admitting to ‘Holocaust fatigue’) – but these bits of gay history being unearthed are very important. So little is known about what life was really like for everyday men like us in eras past.

      In New Zealand, there’s a great writer called Chris Brickell who has written two books now delving into our country’s history, which admittedly is a very young one, to find out the truth behind these hidden lives.

      If you’re interested in this kind of thing, I’d encourage you to go check out his website: http://www.brickell.co.nz/

      Apr 16, 2012 at 3:46 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • EvonCook
      EvonCook

      @nineinchnail: Hope you are forgotten more quickly.

      Apr 16, 2012 at 3:51 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • nineinchnail
      nineinchnail

      Obviously I dont belong here. I dont get all caught up in a drama. The point I was trying to make was that no one alive today personally knew anyone on that ship and to see people crying for people they never knew is ridiculous. Yes it was awful but its hardly newsworthy.

      Apr 16, 2012 at 4:11 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • EvonCook
      EvonCook

      @Michael Bedwell: Well, wondering if you don’t sound a little like the cigarette industry denying health risks, or the republicans denying global warming, or Monsanto defending genetically engineering or the oil industry defending fracking. It is always “there is no definitive proof.” Maybe not, but the writing in most cases is certainly on the wall, and when we have had so many centuries of fanatical suppression, such whitewashing of history and documentation, and such a mean-spirited and hate-filled interpretations of history dominated by the self-righteous and insecure heterosexuals, I think we can give a little slack and accept the likely possibility that there was even far more homosexuality than we have suggestion of in former times. Maybe they weren’t gay protesters or homo campaigners, but an awful lot of men deeply enjoyed each others company and that more than likely included each other’s bodies in many cases. It could have been accepted as a phase or another kind of love and relationship altogether, not at all so separate, assimilated or polarized as our present day sexuality seems to be defined. Curious concept how they might write such passionate love letters and never cross to the flesh, while today we are all flesh and release with few ever taking the time to put affection eloquently or ruminate on the beauty of boyhood and the glory of manly love.

      Apr 16, 2012 at 4:17 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mykey
      Mykey

      @nineinchnail: what a douche!!!

      Apr 16, 2012 at 4:19 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Pitou
      Pitou

      @nineinchnail: Pretty sure the only person crying about anything here is you..?
      Being forgotten in history is exactly the reason stories like this should be told and told again.. LGBT’s should NOT be forgotten in our world history.. it’s about time we were included.

      But you’re right on one count.. You quite certainly shouldn’t be here.. obviously not your scene sweets.

      Apr 16, 2012 at 4:39 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Michael Bedwell
      Michael Bedwell

      @EvonCook:

      OF COURSE, “there was even far more homosexuality than we have suggestion of in former times”—and NOTHING I wrote suggested the contrary. Having paid my dues, as both a writer and speaker on gay history, and a gay activist, I don’t need any such puerile horsehit thrown at me as in your hyperbolic analogies to the cigarette industry, et al. Had you taken a course in “Reading for Comprehension” you would have gotten that I stated clearly that the conclusion that they were NOT lovers is shared by GAY historians—not just some Erase the Gays hack of the Antigay Industry, or historical revisionists like Scott Lively [The Nazis were gay, therefore, being gay is evil.]

      Katz, et al., firmly believe that Millet “crossed the flesh,” as you put it with at least some of the men he wrote passionately, and WANTED to find proof that he and Butt were more than just friends. Millet frequently wrote to Charles Warren Stoddard with whom he shared an attic room and bed with for a time in Venice, and wrote that he wanted to live with again. Thirty-one of his letters to Stoddard, between May 10, 1875 and January 3, 1900 which was several years after his marriage, can be read at:
      http://www.outhistory.org/wiki/Letters_of_Frank_Millet_to_Charles_Warren_Stoddard:_May_10,_1875_-_January_3,_1900

      But NO SUCH LETTERS have been found between him and Butt. NO ONE’s “whitewashing” their history. Hines has, rather, lavender-washed it, and your verbally jacking off on it.

      Apr 16, 2012 at 5:21 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jeffbelli
      jeffbelli

      Gday Chris, iam right with you on this…………….jeff@christopher di crapito:

      Apr 16, 2012 at 5:58 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • James
      James

      @nineinchnail: An unpopular comment to be sure, but no indication that you should not be here, or should not feel perfectly justified in making your thoughts known. While I have had an interest in the Titanic tragedy almost my entire life, I certainly don’t expect everyone to be swept up by it. I think the reaction to your comment is way harsh, and just though I would offer some rational support to someone who, although of a different view in this instance, most certainly does belong. To the rest of us – is there no room for alternate views? Really?

      Apr 16, 2012 at 6:16 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • BlogShag
      BlogShag

      YAWN. Gee what a “shock”

      Apr 17, 2012 at 3:00 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • claudeinalbany
      claudeinalbany

      I transcribed the sometimes passionate letters from Millet to Stoddard. They went well beyond the “normal” letter-writing conventions of the time when letters between men started with “My dear….”.

      It is a pity that letters from Stoddard to Millet do not exist. One theory is that Lily Millet, Frank’s wife, destroyed them after his death. In his correspondence with Stoddard, Millet does at least once mention a letter he received from Stoddard, so there had to be some.

      One interesting letter that somehow did survive is from Millet to his mentor, sometimes benefactor and close long-term friend Charles Francis Adams Jr. In it he describes Stoddard leaving Venice where they lived together and how thunderstruck he was about losing his “chum.”

      All the letters, plus much more info about Butt, Millet and Stoddard are at http://www.outhistory.org/wiki/Letters_of_Frank_Millet_to_Charles_Warren_Stoddard:_May_10,_1875_-_January_3,_1900

      Apr 17, 2012 at 10:49 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • cam
      cam

      Why would the author assume that they ”
      probably didn’t consider themselves “gay” as we understand the term”.

      When there is an obvious love letter between one of them and a different person.

      He obviously was acting on those feelings. Just because somebody was from a different time doesn’t make them stupid or unaware of their own feelings. It just means they needed to behave differently.

      Apr 17, 2012 at 11:29 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • christopher_di_crapito
      christopher_di_crapito

      @James: Nobody’s expecting anybody to be swept up in anything. But to come here and tell us that it’s “time to forget” is quite another story! The poster clearly has no conception of what this tragedy means to a lot of people. Nobody told him how he should feel or that he has no right to his opinion. On the contrary, he is telling us who we should feel and/or behave. Telling people to forget about something that is important to them is wrong anyway you look at it. There is no justification for that. Now do you understand?

      Apr 17, 2012 at 7:00 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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