Stephen Crane died when he was just 28, on June 5, 1900, but three years earlier many newspapers had reported his death when he was lost at sea after a shipwreck. He was on his way to Cuba to report “undercover” on the revolution—a mission that meant certain imprisonment or even execution if he were captured by the Spanish authorities. One article, relying on an eyewitness account from a survivor, noted that “he died trying to save others” when the SS Commodore sank sixteen miles off the coast of Florida only hours after it had embarked.
After 30 hours at sea on a 10-foot dinghy, Crane and two others were found alive near Daytona Beach. “The wake held at the St. James [Hotel] last night turned into a Jubilee today,” wired one of Crane’s new acquaintances in Jacksonville, who also sent him money since Crane had washed ashore with only the clothes he was wearing. The stories about Crane’s bravery and heroism on the ship and at sea were heralded by the press. “Young New York Writer Astonishes the Sea Dogs by His Courage in the Face of Death,” read one front-page headline.
From the experience came Stephen Crane’s most famous short story, “The Open Boat.” Less known, but just as thrilling, is the factual eyewitness account he wrote for newspapers nor even three days after his rescue. We present “Stephen Crane’s Own Story” as our Story of the Week selection, with an introduction describing his month in Jacksonville leading up to the doomed journey