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Remembering the dogs aboard the Titanic

For the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking, just about every aspect of the storied liner – from safety issues to class differences among passengers – is being explored, analyzed and celebrated. 

But little attention is being given to another group of Titanic travelers: the dogs that made the voyage.

new exhibit at the Widener University Art Gallery, in Chester, Pa., that opened Tuesday hopes to change that by including stories of the dogs and their owners who sailed on the Titanic, said J. Joseph Edgette, professor emeritus of education and folklorist emeritus at Widener University, who produced and curated the exhibit.

“I wanted to include things that people don’t normally run across,” Edgette said, noting that there were no Titanic-related exhibits that he was aware of that focused on the famed ocean liner’s canine passengers.

“Everybody knows about the iceberg, how the ship went down, and the heroic stories, but it doesn’t go beyond that, yet there are hundreds of other aspects that we need to give attention to,” said Edgette, who based much of his findings on eyewitness accounts of the evacuation, ship’s records and his own research. “Until recently, most scholarship has not covered the dogs.”

Twelve dogs set sail on the Titanic, according to Edgette, although other researchers have come up with differing accounts. Only three survived, he said.

Those that were saved included a baby Pomeranian, owned by Margaret Hays of New York City, who kept the puppy in the cabin with her, Edgette said. When passengers were evacuated, Hays wrapped it in a blanket. Crew members allowed her to get in a lifeboat with the puppy.

Others that lived were Sun Yat-sen, a Pekinese belonging to Henry and Myra Harper (of Harper & Row publishing fame), also of New York City, and a small Pomeranian owned by Elizabeth Rothschild from Watkins Glen, N.Y.

All surviving dogs were small and were kept in the first-class cabins of their owners, Edgette said.

Two of the dogs that perished were owned by William Carter, a coal magnate. Carter’s children were worried about their pets, but their father assured them the dogs were safe and encouraged his children to get in the lifeboats, Edgette said. The family survived, and later received insurance reimbursement from Lloyds of London in the amount of $100 for daughter Lucy’s King Charles spaniel and $200 for son Billy’s Airedale.

Other dogs that died included two Airedales, one named Kitty, owned by John Jacob Astor IV and his wife, and a fox terrier owned by William Dulles, an attorney from Philadelphia.

The exhibit features photos – some authentic, some representative -- of the dogs and their owners. One  photo depicts a group of dogs tied to the rail on the Titanic’s deck, which perished, and another shows crew members walking several dogs.

In addition to the dogs, the exhibit focuses on several Philadelphia-area families who sailed on the Titanic, including the Widener family, for whom Widener University is named. Three Widener family members sailed on the Titanic, but only one survived.

The exhibit also includes displays about the company that built the Titanic, details about the ship, information about the recovery of bodies after the sinking, how local families memorialized members who lost their lives after the tragedy, as well as Titanic’s impact on popular culture.

Free and open to the public, the exhibit runs through May 12.

Correction: In an earlier version of this post, we published several photos from a Widener University Art Gallery exhibit that depict dogs who sailed on the Titanic.

Msnbc.com has learned some images featured on our story and in the exhibit are not authentic, but rather were intended as representations of the breeds on board. Rebecca Warda, collections manager at the gallery, said the exhibit will be updated with signs clearly indicating which images are historically accurate and which are representations.

The photos have been removed from msnbc.com.

One century after the Titanic sank during its maiden voyage, the historic day is being commemorated around the world. NBC's Stephanie Gosk reports.

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