Exactly one hundred years ago, the RMS Titanic was powering across the Atlanic on its maiden voyage towards New York City. From the moment in 1908 that the White Star Line announced the construction of the Titanic, and her less famous sister ship, the Olympic, to the weeks and months following the 1912 disaster, the Titanic regularly made headlines. Ohio newspapers reveal how the public marveled as its record-breaking size and unparalleled luxury and reacted to its shocking end.
The construction of the Titanic began March 31, 1909 and work on the landmark ship continued for the next three years. On December 30, 1909, the Marion Daily Mirror published images of what the final ship would look like and commented upon both the significance of the Titanic and the Olympic: “Their launching will signalize a most important era in marine achievement, for they will be by all odds the largest vessels in the world” (1909-12-30, p. 1, col. 3). The Titanic was “a floating palace,” according to the Mount Vernon Democratic Banner (1912-04-19, p. 2, col. 3).
Several Ohioans were on board the Titanic when it steamed out of Southampton, England on April 10, 1912 bound for New York City. Only two days later, the ship believed by some to be “unsinkable”, collided with an iceberg in the northern Atlantic Ocean. The leviathan sunk a few hours later, taking at least 1500 lives with it. Following the maritime disaster, newspapers were filled with news of the Titanic, as more information became available.
Although there were Ohioans on board the Titanic as it took its maiden voyage, the Ohio
Historical Society has no direct representation of their experience in the collection. Archival and Library materials include a few books, including one published shortly after the fateful voyage, as well as a temperance poster that compares the number of deaths in the Titanic crash to the number of deaths caused by alcohol. The Ohio Historical Society worked with COSI in 2005 to provide supplemental objects for the traveling Titanic exhibit. The Society chose everyday items like clothing, toys, and toiletries to illustrate what life was like on board the historic ship before the fateful events of April 14, 1912.
An April 23, 1912 front page headline from the Mount Vernon Democratic Banner reads, “Hear of Negligence in the Probing Regarding Titanic Disaster” (p. 1, col. 1, URL). As the general public and government officials tried to make sense of the tragedy, accusations of neglect on the part of the ship’s captain, its crew and the White Star Line itself were made. Was the captain trying to break a speed record and going too fast for the dangerous waters? Did the crew ignore warnings of icebergs from nearby ships (Mount Vernon Democratic Banner, 1912-04-26, p. 1, col. 1)? Did the White Star Line not equip the ship with enough lifeboats (Perrysburg Journal, 1912-04-26, p. 2, col. 1)? Some assigned some blame for the enormity of the loss of human life to nearby ships, such as the Californian, which was closer to the Titanic than it claimed and could have helped save more lives (Perrysburg Journal, 1912-05-03, p. 2, col. 3). The U.S. Senate spent several weeks investigating the tragedy (Mount Vernon Democratic Banner, 1912-04-30, p. 7, col. 1 or Perrysburg Journal, 1912-05-31, p. 6, cols. 1-2). The final report assigned blame, praised heroes and made recommendations for future voyages that would put life and safety above luxury and speed (Washington Times, 1912-05-28, p. 1, cols. 3-5).
Interested in learning more about the Titanic from the first- and second-hand reports contained in historic newspapers? Visit Chronicling America, a free keyword-searchable newspaper database hosted by the Library of Congress, and start searching! For search tips, check out http://www.loc.gov/rr/news/topics/titanic.html and http://www.loc.gov/rr/news/topics/titanicsinking.html.
And keep checking back here for more Titanic related blogging as the anniversary of the famous voyage unfolds!