We know her as “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” but she was just Maggie Tobin in the 13 years she lived in Hannibal. Her childhood home is a tourist attraction there. And she’s part of the city’s commemoration today of the centennial of the sinking of the Titanic. City visitors bureau spokesman Megan Rapp says the nickname began after she got back to New York on the rescue ship Carpathia. She told a newspaper reporter that her survival was “typical Brown luck. We’re unsinkable.” Rapp says she was known as “The Unsinkable Mrs. Brown,” but she wasn’t called “Molly” until Meredith Willson’s Broadway musical and the subsequent movie. Her family called her “Maggie.”
The little house in Hannibal where she was born and spent the first 13 years of her life is a tourist attraction run by the city. It reopens for the season today. One room in the house is dedicated to her role in the Titanic disaster. A fundraising event for it will be held tonight.
Rapp says stories that Maggie Brown maintained control of panicked passengers in lifeboat number six by pulling a pistol and firing it into the air are only myth. But she did make the women and the two men aboard row as a way to stay warm during the six hours they were on the water before the Carpathia arrived. Aboard the Carpathia, she raised $10,000 for immigrant women whose husbands had died. Rapp says Brown also spoke five languages and served as an interpreter for the women.
Rapp tells more of the Maggie Brown stories in our interview with her.