The Virginia Newspaper Project examines newspapers covering the sinking of R.M.S. Titanic, April 15, 1912.
Most people know the basic details of the disaster but few have examined the first-hand sources for the vast array of evolving reports, fevered dispatches, and poignant human interest stories that filled columns and columns of newspapers in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, and in the days and weeks to follow. They have not seen how the people of Virginia, the United States, and the world learned of the disaster: through the words and images of the press. Through NEWSPAPERS.
Virginia's newspaper readers have been for generations on the forefront of news coverage. Current papers like, the Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk), the Times Dispatch (Richmond), the Daily Progress (Charlottesville), and the Daily News-Leader (Staunton) all trace their origins well back into the 1800's. Therefore it should come as no surprise that Virginia newspapers more than ably covered the sinking of the Titanic, one of the first truly international news stories.
What made Titanic so newsworthy was not simply the 1,800+ death toll. After all, Mt. Pelee had erupted ten years before, at a loss of over 30,000 lives and, while it was widely reported, it never achieved the same impact on the world's psyche. Rather, the Titanic became a legendary story for other reasons.
The sinking of the Titanic tells a primal tale of man challenging nature and losing: Here was the pinnacle of modern peace time ship building and the mighty liner sinks on her maiden voyage.
On top of
this Titanic had a passenger list that included some of the world's richest and most influential people.
So it is no surprise that her maiden voyage was an auspicious occasion. The passenger list included the likes of Col. John Jacob Astor, J. Bruce Ismay (the ship’s owner and heir to the White Star fortune), Isidor Strauss, Maj. Archibald Butt, Thomas Andrews, and many other of the rich and famous set of the Western world.
Around 11:40 pm on April 14, 1912, the Titanic struck an iceberg and sank within a few hours off the coast of Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Carpathia steamed to the site of the disaster, arriving in time to rescue a relative handful of stunned survivors.
The wide-spread use of the telegraph and photographs, enabled the Titanic tragedy to be quickly and widely - although not always accurately - reported. The Titanic and these emerging technologies presented U. S. newspaper publishers with the opportunity to aggressively pursue and dig into the Titanic tragedy in a way that most newspapers had not attempted before. The Titanic’s sad saga was boundless and a wellspring for a succession of developing story lines, innovative graphic design, scathing editorials, and dramatic photographs. It added up to one of the most poignant and widely reported peace time maritime disasters of the modern age.
Take a voyage through Virginia newspapers – and other states and countries. Follow the links and supporting text and revisit mid-April of 1912, and the maiden voyage of the largest, most luxurious, and "unsinkable" ship ever built; the R.M.S. Titanic.
Headline from the, Times-Dispatch, (Richmond, Va.)