THE MAKING OF A SUPERLINER

The RMS TITANIC

In the summer of 1907, English papers were filled with articles on the impending voyages of the Lusitania (owned by the Cunard line), and her soon-to-be completed sister-ship, Mauretania. At this time, Cunard, White Star Line's arch rival, could boast of the largest, fastest, and most beautiful ships to grace the waters. This did not sit well with J. Bruce Ismay, managing director of the White Star Line. So, one evening while at dinner at the Belgravia Mansion of Lord William Pirre, talk resumed as to what would be the next move of the White Star Line. After all, Lord Pirre was responsible for the remarkable success of the Belfast shipbuilders, Harland & Wolff, who built all of the WSL ships.

 

Rumor has it that over cigars and brandy, the two men sat down and sketched plans for two ships grand and unprecedented in size. These ships would be bigger than any British shipyard could build. Comfort and luxury would be concentrated on more than speed. Twin reciprocating engines, the largest in the world, with a small low-pressure turbine, would make these ships capable of undertaking the crossing from Southampton to New York in less than a week. They would be built side by side in the Belfast shipyard. Their sizes would be almost 900 feet long and 220 feet high, and they would have four funnels instead of three. They would be called Olympic and Titanic. In July of 1908, the authorization for construction was given for both of these great liners.

 

Olympic's first ocean crossing was on June 14th, 1911, under the command of Captain Edward J. Smith. She performed flawlessly. She then made several more crossings, but on September 20th, 1911, she collided with the Royal Navy cruiser, HMS Hawke. Both ships sustained serious damage. Captain Smith commanded the Olympic on nine voyages before assuming command of the Titanic in 1912.

 

The departure of Titanic on her maiden voyage on April 10th, 1912, was not as ceremonious as that of her sister-ship, Olympic. However, her first class passenger list was considered to be stunning. Passengers such as John Jacob Astor IV (one of America's wealthiest men), and Benjamin Guggenheim, would be on board.

 

Five days later on April 14th, 1912, Titanic struck an iceberg. Within two hours and forty minutes, she sank beneath the icy waters of the Atlantic. More than 1,500 lives were lost on this tragic morning. The arrogance of mankind during the Edwardian era undoubtedly played a vital role in the sinking of this beautiful, grand ship. The repercussions of the loss of Titanic were both immediate and lasting.

Titanic was 883 feet long (1/6 of a mile), 92 feet wide, and weighed 46,328 tons. She was 104 feet tall from keel to bridge, almost 35 feet of which were below the waterline.  She stood taller above the water than most urban buildings of the time. There were three smoke-stacks to vent smoke from her numerous kitchens and galleys; a fourth dummy stack was added to increase the impression of her gargantuan size. After all, she was the largest movable object ever made by man.

“Not even God himself could sink this ship.” - White Star Line Employee, May 31,1911

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First Class Accommodations aboard the RMS Titanic

First class on Titanic was the ultimate in luxury and you were riding in high style if you boarded with a first class ticket. The first class public rooms on Titanic included a dining saloon, reception room, restaurant, lounge, reading and writing rooms, a smoking room, and the veranda cafes and palm courts. There was also a barber shop. Perhaps the most notable and beautifully crafted interior of the Titanic was the forward Grand Staircase. It was 60 feet high, 16 feet wide, and provided access to seven decks.

Passengers in first class really dined in style. The dining room was the largest ever seen on a ship. The furniture and paneling were intricately carved in fine detail in oak, mahogany and sycamore woods in prominent styles like Queen Anne. There was also an eight-member band that played music.

The more energetic passengers could play deck games (shuffleboard, chess and backgammon were commonly played) or use the gymnasium (equipped with exercise bikes, rowing machines, and an electric camel), a squash court with a viewing deck, the salt-water swimming pool on board, or relax in the Turkish bath. These amenities far surpassed those on other ocean liners of the time.

Mrs. Margaret Brown (the "Unsinkable" Molly Brown) is perhaps the most notable and familiar of first class passengers. She helped load lifeboats before being persuaded to board Lifeboat No. 6. She compelled and encouraged the other women in her lifeboat to continue rowing until help arrived. She continued to be a huge advocate for labor rights, women's rights, childhood literacy, and historical preservation until her death in October of 1932.

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Second Class Accommodations aboard the RMS Titanic

The accommodations in Second-class were scattered over seven decks. Use of the Second Class Grand Stairway or one of three electric elevators were used by passengers. It has been said that traveling in Second-class aboard Titanic was like traveling in First-class on other ships. Second-class cabins could be found on the saloon, upper, middle, and lower decks. They were usually outfitted with two or four berths built into the walls with curtains for privacy.

Eva Hart was only seven years old when she stepped aboard Titanic with her parents, Benjamin and Esther, headed for Canada. From the very beginning, Esther had a premonition about the ship, and refused to sleep at night. She had said that to call a ship unsinkable was, in her mind, flying in the face of God. Esther's worst fears came to light on that fateful night in April. Eva and her mother boarded lifeboat No. 14. She never saw her father again. "The lifeboats were lowered, and my mother put into one, and as my father lifted me up to put me in too, and when I clung to him, he said quietly - Go with mummy and stay close to her like a good girl." - Eva Hart

For years after the sinking of Titanic, Eva had re-occurring nightmares, but refused to talk about them. She finally tells her story in the book called Shadow of the Titanic. Eva Hart passed away at the age of 91 on February 14th, 1996.

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Third Class Accommodations aboard the RMS Titanic

A third-class ticket purchased to board Titanic by many passengers (mostly immigrants) was a chance for a new life in America...a new beginning. The accommodations for 'steerage', as they were often referred to, were considered to be as grand as first or second class when compared to other liners. The White Star Line took pride in accomplishing this feat. The General Room was the heart of the steerage community and many days and nights of excitement and dancing took place here. The cabins in third-class were also heated and had electricity, which was included in the cost of passage. Poor apartments in London still had gas lamps in which a coin-meter was attached and a coin had to be inserted for light. Third-class passengers could dine in the third-class dining room, with food cooked in their own little galley. The food they enjoyed was far superior than what was found on other liners for steerage passengers.

Alma Paulson (Pålsson) was traveling with her four children to meet up with her husband, Nils, who had emigrated to America. He was awaiting her in Chicago, where her two brothers also resided. He had been working as a tram conductor for almost two years when he finally had enough money saved to send home for the purchase of tickets that would bring his family to him. Alma traveled to Southampton where she booked passage to travel aboard Titanic. On the night of April 14th, they arrived on deck too late. Neither Alma, nor her four children, survived the sinking. She is buried in Halifax at Fairview Lawn Cemetery. Nils eventually remarried, but never recovered after losing his entire family.

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