Q Syndicate...Apr 11, 2012
I have to give fellow Q Syndicate cartoonist Dave Brousseau the hat tip for bringing this story to my attention.
Archibald Butt and Francis Millet were real people. Butt was chief military aide to President Theodore Roosevelt, continuing in the post under President William Howard Taft. He was born in Augusta, Georgia, and was a veteran of the Spanish-American War. Millet had been a drummer boy in the Civil War, and later a surgical assistant. The two also shared experience in journalism, Butt with the Louisville Courier Journal and then a chain of southern newspapers, and Millet with the Boston Courier, New York Herald, London Daily News, and London Graphic reporting news of the Turko-Russian War.
Millet turned his attention to art, painting murals and helping found the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He invented an early form of spray paint. Unlike Butt, Millet married and had children, but in his sojourns in Europe, he has been romantically linked to travel journalist Charles Warren Stoddard.
In my cartoon, the two are described as "life partners," although that term is a creation of a much later era. Major Butt described their relationship more discreetly, according to the Daily article:
“Millet, my artist friend who lives with me” was Butt’s designation for his companion. (Their only recorded quarrel was over Millet’s choice of decoration for their home. Butt complained that the wallpaper, crammed with red and pink roses, from buds to full-blown flowers, made him feel giddy.)
Major Butt was reportedly greatly distressed by the enmity that developed between Roosevelt and Taft to the point where it adversely affected his health, and took the occasion to accompany his artist friend Millet on a trip to Europe in 1912. They headed back to America as first-class passengers on the ill-fated Titanic on April 10, 1912. Butt boarded at Southhampton; Millet joined him at Cherbourg.
As the ship went down, they were both reported to have been seen helping women into the lifeboats, giving their life jackets to the ladies.
There is a fountain dedicated in 1913 to the memory of Archibald Butt and Francis Millet in Washington D.C. at the Ellipse on Executive Avenue.