Major Archibald Butt (…yeah, unfortunate last name, right?) was a hero in the Spanish Civil War and a trusted presidential advisor to both Taft and Roosevelt. He called Francis Millet, the painter, “my artist friend who lives with me,” which was a period-appropriate, Ernie and Bert way of saying “gay life partner.”
From all accounts, the pair were pretty flamboyant, beloved throughout Washington, and completely in love. After taking a holiday in Europe, Butt and Millet booked separate staterooms on the Titanic — partly to avoid controversy, and partly to accomodate their insane amount of luggage. And then, on April 12th….well, we all know what happened.
From an article in The Daily:
“After the last lifeboat had been lowered, and the liner was tilting and about to plunge to the bottom of the ocean, Butt was noticed standing to one side on the deck. Millet was not a famous or recognizable man. No one remembered seeing him. But it is unthinkable that he was not near Butt at the end. When there are calamitous accidents or natural disasters that grab the headlines, reporters always seize on tragic stories involving families torn apart — or holding together against great odds. But the experiences of gay people are often written out of the narrative.”
At least, because of their same gender, Butt and Millet weren’t separated like many of the other couples on the ship. But, how terrible to not have been able to show affection towards each other during those last moments? Though, who knows, maybe they did. I hope they did.
The Daily’s article on Butt and Millet is really, really good, if you’re looking for something dreamy and sad to get lost in this Thursday afternoon…