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By Stanley Bowling
What are some of the elements of a great novel? Maybe a hero that saves the day, a rescue from an impending tragedy, a pair of star-crossed lovers on a honeymoon of doom, a lost love, a new romance, or a fairy tale? Sometimes what may sound like a novel’s story line really are just pieces of history that, once put together, tell a more fantastic story than what the imagination could have dreamed up.
Such is the story of Mary Eloise Hughes and Robert W. Daniel. In the March 21, 1923, issue of the Dayton Daily News, there is a story about their divorce, and the article calls Robert a “heroic husband.” What makes it so poignant is that Robert rescued Mary during the sinking of the RMS Titanic in April, 1912. Mary was on her honeymoon at the time with her new husband, Lucien Smith (who did not survive). As often seems to happen in romantic plots, something more than just a rescue arises from the tragedy, and soon there was a friendship. To add even more depth to the story, Mary was pregnant with Lucien’s child. Mary and Robert fell in love and married, but were divorced less than 7 years later.
Perhaps it was a sign of things to come that Robert Daniel was no stranger to tragedy. Robert was a guest at the Carlton Hotel in London in 1911 when it went up in a blaze. He was responsible for saving another man’s life during the fire, and he was rescued after standing on a window ledge for nearly 40 minutes (in fact, it was a fire that was witnessed by Winston Churchill when he was just a Member of Parliament).
This may have been the end of their fairy tale, but it does not have to be the end of the story. Consider all the interactions with history that play into it. Think about social structure between the World Wars, where a judge grants a divorce, but prohibits either party from being married again for six months, or five years! A whole other study can grow out of that, on how society and judges looked at divorce and laws that governed remarriage, disparate treatment between males and females, judicial moral dictates, and the concept of women having a position of independent power (women’s suffrage was only three years old by 1923).
It is amazing how small events tie into larger events, tragic events, or even world-changing events. All of that is documented in ProQuest’s historical databases, from national newspapers (such as The New York Times) to small regional newspapers (such as the Dayton Daily News, which will make its ProQuest debut this week).
You can read more about Robert Daniel in the April 19, 1912, issue of the Minneapolis Morning Tribune, or Indianapolis Star, and see the wedding notice for Mary and Lucien in the Courier-Journal of February 10, 1912, or even see a picture of the honeymooners in The New York Times.
While a novel conveniently lays out all its storied chapters in an orderly way, it's more exciting to create your own story from facts, by just following the historical ties that are preserved by ProQuest.
Did you know that we preserve excitement, romance, and thrills?