Joseph Dawson was a trimmer of the Titanic. He died in the sinking. Without knowing about him, James Cameron invented a character named Jack Dawson for his 1997 film Titanic, who has many similarities with the trimmer.
Joseph was the son of Patrick and Catherine "Kate" Dawson.
He appears on the 1901 census with his parents and sister Maggie, living in Lower Rutland Street, 49, Dublin. That was the poorest region of Dublin, with only 2 rooms.
He moved to Southampton to look for work. He signed-on the Adriatic on July 24th, 1911. At his first time at sea, he discovered there was a strict separation of crew members, like the passenger classes. As a trimmer, he was at the very bottom of the ladder.
In fall 1911, Joseph signed-on the Majestic. During the coal strike of early 1912, the Majestic's coal was taken away to supply the Titanic. Joseph also signed-on the Titanic, his last time at sea was 7 months ago. He signed-on as a trimmer with his own signature, indicating he must have had education.
Joseph was off-duty when the ship hit the iceberg. When he woke up, he took his coat and went to the deck. He left the sinking ship by swimming in the water, where he died of hypothermia. His body stayed afloat long enough to be recovered by the Mackay-Bennett (#227) and brought to Halifax. Nobody claimed his body, so he was buried in Fairview Lawn Cemetery on May 8th, 1912.
Jack Dawson is a fictional character portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio. He has many similarities to Joseph, but Cameron claimed he had never heard of Joseph when writing his blockbuster.
Jack Dawson wins his tickets for the Titanic in a game of poker, and together with his friend Fabrizio de Rossi, he runs aboard Titanic in the last second. Aboard, he and Fabrizio befriend Tommy Ryan, and he later meets Rose DeWitt Bukater, whom he falls in love with. He stays on the ship as it sinks, and after that, he and Rose find a door in the water, which only has enough strength to hold one of them, so Jack decides to stay in the cold water. While here, he makes Rose promise that she will survive the cold water and live to have children and die an old woman, warm in her bed, asking her to never let go of that promise. A few hours later, a lifeboat returns to collect survivors from the water only to discover that most of them have frozen to death. As Rose spots the lifeboat nearby, she tries to wake Jack, only to discover that he has frozen to death holding her hand. Heartbroken, she forces his frozen hand from hers and lets his body sink, but not before promising him one more time to never let go. She then succeeds at getting into the lifeboat and goes on to live a long life, thanks to Jack's sacrifice. It is later explained that no record was ever found of Jack.
At the end of the film, there is a sequence where Rose, once again seventeen-years-old, walks through ship once more and enters the Grand Staircase. There she finds Jack waiting for her at the top of the stairs. They embrace as those around them, all of whom died in the sinking, applaud.