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Feb 1, 2023

The book Dead Wake, The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by New York Times best-selling author Erik Larson is a gripping account of the sinking of the British transatlantic luxury liner the Lusitania during World War 1.  Theodate Pope, the architect and owner of what is now the Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington, Connecticut, who was a passenger on the Lusitania. Why did she sail on a British ship when Britain was at war? The ship was hit by a German submarine torpedo and sank within an hour. Why wasn’t Pope in a lifeboat? Why did she jump from the ship into the water? And how did Pope survive and what were the after effects?


In this episode, author and historian Mary Donohue interviews Melanie Bourbeau, Senior Curator at the Hill-Stead Museum. Bourbeau shares Pope’s first-hand accounts of the sinking and its aftermath from Pope’s letters, telegrams, diaries, and newspaper accounts, many of which are in the museum’s archives.

After the war, it was revealed that the passenger ship was carrying 4 million rounds of machine-gun ammunition and other war time battlefront materials.

Was the ship a legitimate target during wartime? This is an argument that continues today.  It certainly encouraged the United States to enter World War 1 though not immediately.


Read more about Theodate Pope Riddle in Bourbeau’s article published in Connecticut Explored at

And listen to the accompanying Grating the Nutmeg podcast at


Visit Hill-Stead Museum:


And read more about her family and home, now the Hill-Stead Museum from Connecticut Explored at:


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This episode of Grating the Nutmeg was produced by  Mary Donohue. She may be reached at


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