|Washington Roebling II memorial at the family plot |
in Riverview Cemetery in Trenton.
Like his father and uncles, Washington was a talented engineer, a skill that came to great use in designing and building high-performance cars. He didn't just make them, though; he drove them, too, to some success. Competing behind the wheel of his custom-designed Roebling Planche racer, he took second place honors at the Vanderbilt Cup Race in 1910.
Washington chose to take the maiden voyage of the Titanic after touring Italy and France with his friend Stephen Weart Blackwell and chauffeur Frank Stanley. Rather than bringing a Mercer to Europe, Washington took a Fiat, which seems kind of like bringing pork roll to Trenton. A Night to Remember, the seminal chronicle of the experiences of upper class Titanic passengers, says little about Washington, other than relating his calm and helpful demeanor in helping women into lifeboats. Those whom he helped said he assured them they'd be all right and possibly even back on the ship by daybreak. If he'd heard about the severity of the damage to the ship, he was well aware that staying on board would lead to certain death, but he followed the gentlemen's code of the day and remained.
One can only wonder what Washington might have achieved with the Mercer Automobile Company had he lived to old age. The few Mercers still around are treasured as specimens of some of the finest auto engineering of the day. Perhaps Trenton would have become a mecca for high-performance racing, or the Mercer would be prized along with the Porsche and Lamborghini.
Incidentally, the Fiat didn't go down with the ship. Stanley had fallen ill in Europe and left a week later, taking the car with him.