Titanic: 100 Years Later represents the Virginia Newspaper Project’s effort to highlight the potential of newspapers as a source for historical and social research. It offers a gateway to a great human-interest story with cultural significance, enduring appeal, old and new controversy, and excellent, often spectacular newspaper coverage.
In fact, the Titanic disaster can be seen as an event that pushed the newspaper industry to fully grasp and exploit available and developing technologies. Not only to get the story straight but to get it out faster and, if possible, with eye grabbing imagery.
Given that newspapers covered the Titanic from Sydney to New York, to Richmond, VA to London, England, it is easy to see the Titanic as one of the first truly international news events providing readers with gripping daily updates. Newspaper coverage of the sad tragedy at sea serves as a teasing preview that decades later Marshall Mcluhan called the information global village.
The Titanic sank on April 15, 1912, in the North Atlantic Ocean. The disaster reveals the full breadth of humankind’s potential for bravery, self-sacrifice, cowardice and willful negligence. The dramatic and tragic events of one of the greatest peacetime maritime disasters is made even more compelling by the very real questions relating to cause and effect, as well as the tragedy’s enduring aftermath.
But the sinking of the Titanic is more than an isolated historic event. The ship was the product of early 20th century industrial vigor, a definitive sign of western progress that supported a naive confidence in the boundless limits of technology in man's conquest over nature. And in turn, the disaster is often viewed as an example of hubris on a grand scale.
The images themselves represent a sort of social history, 1912 caught in the amber of newsprint. In this context, it is not just what is covered—society, fashion, world events—but how the news is conveyed that reveals a past era's norms of public expression. The Titanic story provided the burgeoning newspaper industry with the perfect jumping off point for in-depth human interest stories, hard core journalism and sensational imagery from photographs to detailed diagrams, all with the purpose of bringing a disaster in the distant North Atlantic to the reader’s living room.
Note: In order to provide equal access to information on our site, we offer text transcriptions of the articles offered here. Due to the age and condition of the original documents, we cannot guarantee that the transcriptions are exact.
The Virginia Newspaper Project, once focused on cataloging and preserving through microfilming newspapers housed throughout the commonwealth has more recently been engaged in digitizing Virginia imprint newspapers published between the years 1836 and 1922. The Library of Virginia was one of six original awardees of the National Digital Newspaper Program, funded in large part by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Library of Congress is the host institution for Chronicling America, the NDNP’s dynamic text searchable database and repository of historical United States imprint newspapers.
We encourage readers to visit Chronicling America to delve deeper into the darker mysteries surrounding the sinking of the Titanic.