William H. Harbeck

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William H. Harbeck

Birthdate: (48)
Birthplace: Toledo, Lucas, OH, USA
Death: April 15, 1912 (48)
Atlantic Ocean
Immediate Family:

Son of John s Harbeck and Margaret Milligan
Husband of Catherine Harbeck
Father of John S. Harbeck; Stanley Harbeck and john s Harbeck

Occupation: cinematographer
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About William H. Harbeck

Mr William H. Harbeck

  • Age: 44 years
  • Last Residence: in Toledo United States
  • Occupation: Cinematographer
  • 2nd Class passenger
  • First Embarked: Southampton on Wednesday 10th April 1912
  • Ticket No. 248746 , £13
  • Destination: Montreal Québéc Canada
  • Died in the sinking.
  • Body recovered by: Mackay-Bennett (No. 35)
  • Buried: Toledo United States

Mr William Harbeck, 44, was born in Toledo, Ohio. He earned his reputation in 1906 filming the aftermath of the earthquake in San Fransisco and, having worked for the Selig Polyscope Company, was hired by the Canadian Pacific Railway's Department of Colonization "to put Western Canada on the motion picture screen in a scenic, industrial and comic form." Harbeck turned out 13 one-reelers for the C.P.R., promotional shorts and travelogues that were designed to show Canada at its best and attract Europeans to Canada. The films had been so successful that the C.P.R. had renewed his two year contract, and in the spring of 1912 had sent him to Paris to study with Leon Gaumont, the trailblazing French filmmaker who first mastered the outdoor location shoot.

His next project was to have been a film on the Yukon and Alaska. He left Seattle in January of 1912 and sailed for Europe on February 27, visiting London, Brussels, Paris and Berlin, disposing of the various films he had taken with him and taking other films while there for later presentation in the American theatres. Harbeck wrote a letter to his wife from Berlin on 1 April saying that he had completed his business and was returning by way of Amsterdam to London and would be sailing home on the Titanic on April 10. He asked his wife to forward his mail to the Hotel Cadillac in New York.

Harbeck had possibly been engaged by the White Star Line to film the maiden voyage. He was supposed later to have been taken off the Titanic by a tug at Sandy Hook in order to film Titanic's arrival at the dock. He boarded the vessel at Southampton (ticket number 248746, £13).

One of Harbeck's first feature films, "The Ship's Husband", was a light comedy about a matrimonial mix-up on board a ferry that ran between Vancouver, Seattle and Victoria. Life may have imitated art on Titanic. Although Harbeck was married and had two teenaged sons, the woman travelling with him on Titanic was not his wife, Catherine, but Henriette Yrois [1], a 24-year old model Harbeck had met in Paris. During the trip, Lawrence Beesley tells us that Harbeck watched his "wife" Henriette play solitaire throughout most of the voyage.

Both Harbeck and Yrois died in the sinking. When Harbeck's body was recovered, (#35) it was found clutching a purse which was later identified as being Yrois' [2], and he was identified by his membership card in the Moving Picture and Projecting Machine Operators Union.

When Catherine Harbeck came from Toledo to claim the body in Halifax she was almost turned away as an imposter because authorities told her Mrs Harbeck had drowned with her husband. Mrs Harbeck took the body back to Toledo and buried it in an unmarked grave [2].

His business partner, Mrs Katherine George of Seattle, put in a claim for $41,000 for the films that were lost with Harbeck (including the "Pendleton Roundup Pictures," which she valued at $25,000.) Two motion picture cameras ("Jury's Kine Popular") and equipment also figured in Mrs George's list at $11,000. Mrs Harbeck put in a claim for $50,000 apparently for 100,000 feet of lost motion picture films.


1.A woman named "Mrs Brownie Harbeck" identified the owner of the purse that was found on Harbeck's body. She spelled Yvois with a "V". Harbeck's son was upset when Brownie wrote to Halifax about his father's personal effects. He said that Brownie was not a relative at all. If Brownie Harbeck was not a relative then her identity remains an enigma. Perhaps she was another mistress or even another wife? 2. Ticehurst (1996) lists a stone for William Harbeck at Woodlawn Cemetery, Woodlawn, Ohio (Section 39, Lot 114)

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William H. Harbeck's Timeline

September 1863
Toledo, Lucas, OH, USA
April 27, 1887
Age 23
Toledo, Lucas, OH, USA
February 23, 1892
Age 28
Toledo, Lucas, Ohio, United States
April 15, 1912
Age 48
Atlantic Ocean