The Titanic Historical Society

TITANIC Past and Present

Part Two

by Edward S. Kamuda
Additional text and editing by Karen Kamuda, Paul Louden-Brown

As Titanic was getting underway, she passed the American liner, S. S. New York moored at the quay, the smaller ship began straining at her lines drawn by the invisible suction from the Titanic's three mammoth propellers, driven by a power plant capable of 55,000 horsepower. Abruptly, loud reports shattered the lighthearted mood. The three-inch steel hawsers securing New York to her moorings snapped, recoiling through the air landing within a few feet of startled onlookers. New York's stern swung out towards the passing White Star liner. Captain Edward J. Smith, Titanic's master who was retiring after completion of this voyage, immediately ordered the port propeller reversed.

Crew members rigged collision mats and an uneasy hush fell upon the spectators. The quick action of Captain Smith and the prompt attention of the tugboats prevented the Titanic's maiden voyage ending at Southampton.

Smith was a popular and well-liked commander among passengers and crew; in fact he was so admired he was nicknamed; the "Millionaire's Captain" or "E.J."

Other than a collision involving Olympic with HMS Hawke less than a year before, Smith had an unblemished record. Because of the incident at Southampton, Titanic was behind schedule.

Illustration of grand staircaseAcross the Channel, the Mallets, enroute to Montreal and Mr and Mrs Joseph Laroche and their two daughters emigrating to Haiti, arrived at Cherbourg's Gare Maritime at 4:00 pm, their luggage was taken from the train and brought to the quay. Nomadic and Traffic were White Star's tenders. Traffic transported luggage and third class passengers. The two families boarded Nomadic at 5:30 PM and waited with a number of first class passengers who complained of the inconvenient delay. The liner finally appeared on the horizon anchoring about 6:30 PM off Grande Rade near Fort de l'Ouest in the outer harbor. Traffic moored alongside, twenty-two cross-channel passengers disembarked while mail and additional goods were taken aboard. Nomadic brought 274 first and second class passengers, including Margaret Tobin Brown, Mrs and Mrs John Jacob Astor, the Mallets and Laroches. The unloading did not take more than twenty minutes. A crowd of onlookers assembled on the jetty admired Titanic's beautiful silhouette, her rows of sidelights glowing against the evening sky; she had not spent more than two hours in the French port.

The next morning, first class passenger Henry Forbes Julian wrote a third letter to his wife, it was his last:

"ON BOARD R.M.S. Titanic,

"11th April, 1912.

"We do not arrive at Queenstown until about noon, which gives me an opportunity of writing again. I had a good night and was very comfortable. The ship is so steady that it is almost the same as being on land. More than half the officers and stewards on board are familiar faces to me, as they are taken from the Adriatic and Oceanic. The two deck stewards remembered me quite well, and allotted me a chair in a select part of the deck. This is a brilliant morning and quite warm. . . . I think if you could only have reached the ship safely you would have been all right, for there are practically no draughts. Revolving doors are much in use, which prevent any through currents of air. In the smoking-room there is a big fireplace, which makes it cozy. The other rooms also have fireplaces, but have imitation fires heated by electricity; they are poor things compared with the real article. . . . The bands are unusually good. . . . I will feel happy with the thought that you are taking care of yourself at Redholme."

On Thursday, April 11, Titanic dropped anchor late morning off Queenstown, Ireland. The tenders Ireland and America brought more passengers, picked up mail and a few people got off including Father Frank Browne, an amateur photographer who took snapshots of shipboard activity during his one day voyage.

One family who boarded at Queenstown practically unnoticed was Margaret Rice with her five children; Albert, 10; George, 9; Eric, 7; Arthur, 4; and Eugene age 2, from Athlone, County Westmeath who were emigrating to America, to join Mr Rice who found employment in Spokane, Washington.

Painting of Titanic at midnightAs she weighed anchor for the last time and headed out into the Atlantic the 2,200 passengers and crew prepared themselves for the journey to New York. In terms of numbers on board this was hardly a record sailing; Titanic could carry a maximum of 3,500. Many passengers preferred to sail during the summer months especially wealthy first class passengers who did not like to travel out of season.

On the North Atlantic there were defined sea lanes or tracks which all passenger liners followed. The northern track, taken during the months of August to December was approximately 200 miles shorter than the southern track taken during the months of January to July.

The winter of 1911-1912 in the Arctic had been very mild; ice floes had drifted to the Gulf Stream further south then anyone could remember and the number of icebergs was larger than normal.

This was of no consideration to Titanic's passengers as they watched the green hills of Ireland fade into the distance; in a few days the new liner would be entering the steamship lanes off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.

Life for her first class was a wonderful experience. Like turning the pages of the "Illustrated London News" or a similar American publication emphasizing "Who's Who," Titanic reflected Edwardian society in miniature perfectly. A number of prominent American and British celebrities added glamour and even a little scandal to the rarefied atmosphere. John Jacob Astor with his new bride, Madeleine, was the great grandson of a wealthy fur trader. Through shrewd business dealings he turned an inheritance into a fortune estimated at $87 million. At age 46 he remarried a young woman of eighteen who was younger than his son; the divorce and remarriage scandalized New York society. Benjamin Guggenheim was another millionaire on board. His family made their money in the mining and smelting business but he preferred the life of a playboy and was traveling with his mistress. George Widener was accompanied by his wife and son. Widener was heir to a large fortune; his father, P. A. B. Widener, coincidentally, was a director of the International Mercantile Marine Company, parent company of the White Star Line. Mr and Mrs Isidor Straus, owners of W. H. Macy's department store; Mr and Mrs Henry B. Harris (a Broadway producer); Frank D. Millet, the American painter and President William Howard Taft's military aide, Major Archibald Butt, enroute to Washington with a message from Pope Pius X.

Notable British passengers included; The Countess of Rothes; William T. Stead, editor of the "Review of Reviews;" metallurgist Henry Forbes Julian, Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon and his wife Lucile, a successful ladies' fashion designer for London and New York society.

One important name was missing from pages of the White Star liner's first class passenger list. J. Pierpont Morgan had booked passage but at the last moment canceled. Claiming to have been unwell, a reporter later tracked him down to a hotel in the French spa town of Aix-les-Bains near the Swiss border. Despite the loss of the Titanic and having just celebrated his 75th birthday, Morgan seemed to be enjoying the invigorating climate along with his mistress.

Sunday, April 14th, dawned with the promise of another glorious day of bright sunshine, a calm sea and mild weather. Most passengers were settled into their shipboard routine. Besides a bracing stroll on deck there were plenty of distractions to keep passengers occupied in her splendid interiors. After breakfast in the dining saloon a Church of England service was held presided over by Captain Smith.

Most passengers did not seem to notice that the lifeboat drill that morning had been canceled. In 1912 there were no mandatory rules for lifeboat rehearsals or crew musters. The British Board of Trade's regulations were outdated, failing to keep pace with the ever increasing size of passenger liners. Lifeboat capacities were based on a liner's gross . . .

Titanic Eyewitness My Story

Frank Goldsmith was a nine-year-old boy emigrating from England to Detroit with his father and mother. Also traveling with the family was 16-year-old Alfred Rush and Thomas Theobald, a fellow worker with Mr. Goldsmith. Booking third class passage on the new Titanic, they all were looking forward to starting over in the United States. When Titanic struck an iceberg, the order of women and children first into the lifeboats meant Frank’s father, Tom Theobald, and even Alfred Rush stayed behind and lost their lives in the sinking leaving Frank with only his mother to pick up the pieces and start over.

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The Titanic Commutator Issues shown here contain articles and real life accounts that relate to this article. Each is available as either a reprint or in-print issue from our Museum Shop.

Titanic Commutator 127

Titanic Commutator - Issue # 127 Olympic and Titanic at Belfast March 1912. Finishing touches are made on Titanic in preparation for her first voyage as Olympic is led into drydock for repair. Painting by Harley Crossley.
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Titanic Commutator 112

Titanic Commutator - Issue # 112 For those who wanted to dine in an exclusive setting, where meals were served on fine china and silverplate, was for the select few.
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Titanic Commutator#125
Titanic Commutator - Issue # 125 Cover painting by Harley Crossley shows Olympic leaving the White Star Dock at Southampton. People standing on the pier gazed in awe at the giant four funneled White Star liner towering over them.
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Titanic Commutator#142
Titanic Commutator - Issue # 142 contains photographs including many survivors collected over the previous 35 years for the Titanic Historical Society. Many articles and one on Titanic's log. The painting of Titanic on the cover is by Stuart Williamson.
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