Did you have a relative that was on the Titanic? Who do you know that was booked on the Titanic? A great, great aunt, uncle, grandparent? This is the Titanic famous fables year of remembrance.
Spirit of the Blythe Titanic 24x30 Oil by Gail Ingis Claus
In its innocence, the Titanic was cruising along not realizing it was about to change the lives of twenty-two hundred people. It is one hundred years since the maiden voyage of the Titanic. What is magical about its one hundred years? The14th of April is the date, one hundred years ago, that it sunk. It sunk taking 1523 men, women and children and crew and everyone’s worldly goods with it. No one noticed the iceberg, no one heeded warnings from other ships, no one believed the Titanic could sink.
Only ten percent of an iceberg is above water. If you see six feet, then there is sixty more feet of iceberg beneath the water.
Iceberg above and below
By the time the captain of the Titanic discovered the iceberg, the ship was along side it as it ripped a gash in its hull. The ship’s engineers claimed the Titanic was unsinkable. If a disaster happened, it would be its own lifeboat. It was compartmentalized to contain any water so that most of the ship would be safe from filling with the sea water.
Some, 705 passengers, did escape the watery death, most of them women and children, who watched in horror from their lifeboats, as their husbands and fathers went down with the ship or languished in the Atlantic’s frigid waters until the freezing cold pulled the life from them or they got sucked down with the ship. Distress calls reached the Carpathia. But they were four hours away. When they finally reached the site, it was too late.
According to history, the sinking of this ship robbed the lives of folks who were lower on the pay scale than the wealthy, like those in steerage, restaurant workers, folks who were coming to the USA to find a better life. Since sinking ships know no class, the rich went down with the poor.
It is strange and newsworthy, the wealthy paid hefty sums for their cabins, according to the History Channel’s report on April 10th, sums of $90,000 for a cabin were not unusual.
Would you come to our Titanic Collaboration show?
We would love to have you. Come to Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum on Thursday, April 26, 5-7 P.M. The Titanic Collaboration Art Show will be opening for your viewing pleasure. Free. Please RSVP 203-838-9799 extension 4.
Harrods of London 1909
Fashionable Londoners in front of Harrods, 1909. The trailing skirts and broad-brimmed hats of mid-decade are giving way to narrower dresses and hats with deep crowns. Men wear top hats with formal morning dress or bowlers with lounge suits.
As the sea closed over the Titanic, Lady Cosmo duff Gordon in Boat 1 remarked to her secretary Miss Francatelli, “There is your beautiful nightdress gone.”
A lot more than Miss Francatelli’s nightgown vanished that April night. Even more than the largest liner in the world, her cargo, and the lives of 1502 people.
Never again would men fling a ship into an ice field, heedless of warnings, putting their whole trust in a few thousand tons of steel and rivets. From now on Atlantic liners took ice messages seriously, steered clear, or slowed down. Nobody believed in the “unsinkable ship.”
Nor would icebergs any longer prowl the seas untended. After the Titanic sank, the American and British governments established the International Ice Patrol, and today Coast Guard cutters shepherd errant icebergs that drift toward the steamer lanes. The winter lane itself was shifted further south, as an extra precaution.
It was also the last time a liner put to sea without enough lifeboats. And it was the end of class distinction in filling the boats. Not all the women were off the boats, it was at the end when dozens of women suddenly appeared. The statistics suggest who they were-the Titanic’s casualty list included four of 143 First Class Women (three by choice) . . . 15 of 93 Second Class women . . . and 81 of 179 Third Class women.
Not to mention the children. All 29 First and Second Class children were saved, but only 23 out of 76 steerage children. Neither the chance to be chivalrous nor the fruits of chivalry seemed to go with a Third Class passage.
In covering the Titanic, few reporters bothered to ask the Third Class passengers anything. The New York Times was justly proud of the way it handled the disaster. Yet the famous issue covering the Carpathia’s arrival in New York contained only two interviews with Third Class pasengers. This apparently was par for the course-of 43 survivor accounts in the New York Herald, two again were steerage experiences.
The night was a magnificent confirmation of “Women and children first,” yet somehow the loss rate was higher for Third Class children than First Class men. It was a contrast which would never get by the social consciousness (or news sense) of today’s press.
At the opposite extreme, it was also the last time the special position of First Class was accepted without question. When the Titanic sailed, the New York Times listed the prominent passengers on the front page. After she sank, New New York American broke the news on April 16 with a lead devoted almost entirely to John Jacob Astor. At the end it mentioned that 1800 others were also lost.
There was a wonderful intimacy about this little world of the Edwardian rich. There was no flicker of surprise when they bumped into each other, whether at the Pyramids (a great favorite), the Cowes Regatta, or the springs at Baden-Baden. They seemed to get the same ideas at the same time, and one of these ideas was to make the maiden voyage of the largest ship in the world.
So the Titanic’s trip was more like a reunion than an ocean passage. All First Class were shoulder to shoulder friends with the Captain, Stewards and others as themselves. But the water was the same for all. The sea broke a man’s resistance. The temperature of the water was 28 degrees-well below freezing. To Second Officer Lightoller it felt like “A thousand knives” driven into his body. In water like this, lifebelts did no good.
How anyone survived is questionable. The Titanic marked the end of a general feeling of confidence. Until then men felt they had found the answer to a steady, orderly, civilized life. For 100 years the Western world had been at peace. Technology had steadily improved. The benefits of peace and industry seemed to be filtering satisfactorily through society. The Titanic woke them up. Never again would they be quite so sure of themselves. The “unsinkable ship”, went down taking with it the dream of man’s greatest engineering achievement.
How would you do on a sinking ship? What would you do to survive?
Credit to Walter Lord’s A Night to Remember, ed. 1955, Henry Holt and Company, New York.
Historic Time Periods
Gilded Age America: 1870s to 1890s
Progressive Era America: 1890s to 1920s
Belle Epoque Europe: 1880s to 1910s
Victorian Era: 1837-1901
Edwardian Era: 1901-1914
World War One: 1914-1918
Some interior design history coming . . .
Titanic last dinner
Mrs. Anne Crain puzzled over the cheerful smell of coffee brewing as she lay in her cabin on the Cunarder Carpathia, bound from New York to the Mediterranean. It was nearly 1:00 A.M. on the fourth night out, and by now Mrs. Crain knew the quiet little liner well enough to feel that any sign of activity after midnight was unusual, let alone coffee brewing.
Down the corridor Miss Ann Peterson lay awake in her bunk too. She wondered why the lights were turned on all over the ship-normally the poky Carpathia was shut down by now.
Mr. Howard M. Chapin was more worried than puzzled. He lay in the upper berth of his cabin on A Deck-his face just a few inches below the Boat Deck above. Sometime after midnight a strange sound suddenly woke him up. It was a man kneeling down on the deck directly over his head. The day before, he had noticed a lifeboat tied to a cleat just about there; now he felt sure the man was unfastening the boat and something was wrong.
Nearby, Mrs. Louis M. Ogden awoke to a cold cabin and a speeding ship. Hearing loud noises overhead, she too decided something must be wrong. she shook her sleeping husband. His diagnosis didn’t reassure her-the noise was the crew breaking out the chocks from the lifeboats overhead. He opened the stateroom door and saw a line of stewards carrying blankets and mattresses. Not very reassuring either.
Here and there, all over the ship, the light sleepers listened restlessly to muffled commands, tramping feet, creaking davits. Some wondered about the engines-they were pounding so much harder, so much faster than usual. The mattresses jiggled wildly . . . the washstand tumblers rattled loudly in their brackets . . . the woodwork groaned with the strain. A turn of the faucet produced only cold water-at twist on the heater knob brought no results-the engines seemed to be feeding on every ounce of steam.
Strangest of all was the bitter cold. The Carpathia has left New York on April 11, bound for Gibraltar, Genoa, Naples, Trieste and Fiume. Her 150 First Class passengers pre-Florida era; her 575 steerage passengers were mostly Italians and Slavs returning to their sunny Mediterranean. All of them welcomed the balmy breeze of the Gulf Stream that Sunday afternoon.Toward five o’clock it grew so warm that Mr. Chapin shifted his deck chair to the shade. Now there was an amazing change-the frigid blast that swept through every crack and seam felt like the Arctic.
On the bridge, Captain Arthur H. Rostron wondered whether he had overlooked anything. He had been at sea for 27 years-with Cunard for 17- but this was only his second years a a cunard skipper and only his third month on the Carpathia. The Titanic’s call for help was his first real test.
When the CQD (morse code distress signal) arrived, Rostron had already turned in for the night. Harold Cottam, the Carpathia’s operator, rushed the message to First Officer Dean on the bridge. They both raced down the ladder, through the chart room, and burst into the Captain’s cabin. Rostron-a stickler for discipline even when half-asleep-wondered what the ship was coming to, with people dashing in this way. They were meant to knock. But before he could reprimand them, Dean blurted the news.
Rostron bolted out of bed, ordered the ship turned, and then-after the order was given-double-checked Cottam: “Are you sure it is the Titanic and requires immediate assistance?” “Yes, sir.” “You are absolutely certain?” “Quite certain.” “all right, tell him we are coming along as fast as we can.”
Rostron then rushed into the chart room and worked out the Carpathia’s new course. As he figured and scribbled, he saw the boatswain’s mate pass by, leading a party to scrub down the decks. Rostron told him to forget the decks and prepare the boats for lowering. The mate gaped. Rostron reassured him, “It’s all right; we’re going to another vessel in distress.”
The iceberg, a pedigree
In a few moments the new course was set-North 52 West. The Carpathia was 58 miles away. At 14 knots she would take four hours to get there. Too long.
Many an iceberg has been identified as “the iceberg that sank the Titanic,” but this one has a better pedigree than most. It was photographed near the scene on April 15. The Chief Steward of the German ship Prinz Adelbert took the picture, not because of the Titanic-he hadn’t yet heard-but because a great scar of red paint ran along the berg’s base. It suggested a recent collision with some ship. White Star Vice President Philip A.S. Franklin was sufficiently impressed that he always refused to look at the picture. (Author’s collection)
This year is the centennial of the maiden voyage of the Titanic. Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum, with whom I am affiliated and am art director, is the impetus of this blog. We are running an art show, the theme, “The Titanic.” Since Lockwood is sponsoring the commemoration of its maiden voyage, I researched tales to tell. Last week the blog was about a tenacious amazing survivor, Helen Churchill Candee, this week talks about the nearest ship CQD (SOS) call to come to the aid of the sinking ship. In my research, I found this story in a 1955 book “A Night to Remember,” by author Walter Lord and published by Henry Holt and Company, New York. It is taken from Chapter IX “We’re Going North Like Hell.”
What would you think if you were sailing in balmy waters, suddenly becoming frigid?
To be continued…
Helen Churchill Candee (at center) with 5 other women on horseback led the historic 1913 “Votes for Women” suffrage parade in Washington, D.C.
Titanic survivor, Helen Churchill Candee and her extraordinary life will be celebrated at the Titanic Centennial Commemoration at the Spring opening of the Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum, 295 West Avenue, Norwalk, Connecticut, on the evening of April 21, 2012. In her life, she made important contributions to society and to our country. Please see the invitation to the commemoration below.
Much to my surprise, in addition to known first decorator Elsie de Wolf, Helen Churchill Candee fancied herself a decorator during the same era in the early 20thcentury.
Helen Churchill Candee 1905
The decorators of those years were self-taught and had important, influential connections. Helen had impressive clients that led to her being commissioned by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907 to advise on the purchase of a set of Louis XVI chairs for the First Lady’s dressing room.
She was admired and well-respected as a decorator and historian. Helen’s specialty was antiques and period decoration. She was critical of manufacturers and department stores that sold cheap imitation furniture. She did not approve of upscale decorators like de Wolfe endorsing good quality reproductions of period pieces for modern interiors. Looking back into history, de Wolf was very well connected and worked for the Vanderbilt’s and others of the same ilk. Society was moving away from the cluttered overstuffed rooms of the mid to late 19th century. De Wolf’s interiors were fresh and uncluttered. This room by Helen is cluttered with antiques in the Victoriana style.
Decorated interior by Helen with antiques
Despite her impressive clientele, Helen Candee’s work as a decorator was intermittent. It was through her writing in books and articles on the history of furniture, textiles and art, that she made an impact on early 20th century interiors.
Candee was a strong feminist, as evidenced by her best-selling first book, How Women May Earn a Living (1900). Candee’s first book on home decor was the profusely illustrated Decorative Styles and Periods , published by Frederick A. Stokes, Co. in November 1906. It was well received and quickly became a standard reference on period furnishings and their modern use.
Readers of Decorative Styles and Periods , a deep green cloth-bound volume with an inset portrait of an Empire room on the cover, were treated to the warmly delicate prose that already distinguished Helen Candee as a novelist and journalist. The book was long and thorough, addressing all major trends and designs, but was also full of human interest and historical sidelights that made it as entertaining as it was instructional.
More than any other book she wrote, Helen’s philosophy of design (and living) can be gleaned from Decorative Styles and Periods .
Authenticity was the prime principle of her credo. Candee was a purist in the extreme, insisting on genuine antiques and unswervingly faithful period atmosphere in the arrangement of rooms. The “perfection of the old,” she said, was all-important, adding that the “best is of the past.”
She along with Edith Wharton wrote books on decoration. Helen wrote about period furnishings and tapestries for various magazines.
Based on my recent research, Helen, in her time, was a strong image as a decorator, antiques consultant and writer. I am delighted to make her acquaintance, thanks to Wikipedia. In the twenty years and more that I taught interior design and architectural history and criticism, I had not heard about this woman, Helen Churchill Candee until now, while working on the Titanic’s epic journey.
Helen, who broke her ankle when jumping into the lifeboat, was together with the unsinkable Molly Brown. They rowed and rowed and rowed. Where were they going?
More to come…
Here’s the invitation for April 21, black tie. Buy a table, buy a ticket, bring guests.