"Titanic" director James Cameron has stated that Jack Dawson was not based on any historical person. However, though the film's production team did not realize it, one J. Dawson did board the Titanic and died when it sank in 1912. His grave remains in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where many Titanic victims are buried.
Though the J. Dawson grave in Halifax, Nova Scotia draws Titanic fans who leave notes and flowers, the J. stands for Joseph rather than Jack. Joseph Dawson was born in Dublin and was 23 years old when he died in the wreck of the Titanic. He was part of the Titanic's crew, working as a coal trimmer, responsible for evening out the piles of coal that fueled the Titanic's furnaces.
Joseph Dawson joined the White Star Line, which built and owned the Titanic, after a short stint in the British Royal Army Medical Corps. Before leaving the Corps, he was stationed in Netley, just outside the major port of Southhampton. He left the army, in part due to his courtship with Nellie Priest, the sister of a ship's fireman who also worked on the Titanic but survived.
Joseph Dawson, along with the rest of the coal trimmers, missed out on the Titanic's insufficient lifeboats. Recovery crews found his body among many others and buried him along with other Titanic victims in Fairview Lawn Cemetery in Halifax.