Facing Slip, c. 1912
Oscar Scott Woody (1868-1912) was one of the 1,514 that perished on the R.M.S. Titanic. Born on April 15, 1868 in Roxboro, North Carolina he later moved to Virginia and became a member of Acacia Lodge, No. 16 in Clifton, Virginia. He served for fifteen years as a Railroad Postal Service Clerk prior to being assigned as a Sea Post Office Clerk. He volunteered for the position on the ‘Titanic’ after the clerk initially assigned to post had been called home as his wife was ill. Woody was one of five postal clerks serving aboard R.M. S. Titanic, two others were American: John S. Marsh (1861-1912) and William L. Gwinn (?-1912), while the other two were British. On board the Titanic the postal clerks received their own private cabins, an unusual luxury for crew, and a considerable salary. Sadly all five postal clerks perished when the ‘Titanic’ sank on April 15, 1912. It was also his 44th birthday.
Woody’s body was later recovered. An entry in the diary of F.H. Lardner, Captain of the Mackay Bennett describes the scene the day they recovered Mr. Woody’s body: “Monday, April 22d. This day we picked up 27 bodies…Everyone had on a lifebelt and (the) bodies floated very high in the water…” The crew of the Mackay Bennett, one of the four ships charted by the White Star Line to recover as many bodies as possible, would recover 306 bodies, of which 116 were buried at sea due to deterioration, including that of Postal Clerk Woody. As part of the recovery each body received a separate number, Woody was assigned number 167, which was stenciled upon a canvas bag into which the personal effects of the individual would be placed after an inventory recorded in a ledger was made.
A number of the items found in his waistcoat pockets were facing slips. Commonly used by postal clerks, facing slips were used in sorting the mail in order to identify a particular batch of mail, the city of destination and/or mode of transportation, and to indicate who was responsible for sorting that bag. Woody placed an assortment of these facing slips as well as other items in his breast pocket, probably in anticipation that he would need them to identify damaged bags. His heroic efforts to save the mail were noted in the 1912 U.S. Postmaster General’s Annual Report: “About a quarter of an hour after the collision the opening or lower room in the sea post office was found to be practically filled with water and the sacks in it adrift. The clerks were seen in the sorting room above, closing sacks and preparing to take on deck all the mails available. The last reports concerning their actions show that they were engaged in this work and in carrying the sacks upon the deck to the last moment.”
Leelia B. Woody (ca. 1880-1963?), Oscar S. Woody’s widow, received bag 167 and retained it and its contents as her only memento of her husband. Despite only having been married for a short time, being married on October 5, 1910 in Washington D.C., she never remarried and kept her husband’s photograph by her side until her death. Prior to her death she passed her mementos of her late husband to V.R. Gill (1901-1987), a member of Perseverance Lodge, No. 208 Indianhead, Maryland, to present to the museum on her behalf.