Color painting of the R.M.S. Titanic at sea.
The Library of Virginia >> Exhibitions >> R.M.S. Titanic: Ninety Years Later

Introduction

Newspaper Coverage

Inaccurate or Misleading Reporting

Headline Coverage

Editorial Cartoons

High Society on the High Seas

Man vs. Nature…
Nature Wins

Aftermath and Inquiry

References


The greatest source of pathos in the Titanic tragedy was its eminent avoidability.

If she had only proceeded more slowly.

If she had only taken the Southerly route, avoiding the icebergs.

If only the watch had had a pair of binoculars (Clinch Valley News, Tazewell, VA, April 26, 1912).

If only the order to abandon ship had come more quickly.

If only the Californian had not ignored her distress calls and flares.

So many ifs that could have saved hundreds of lives. But there was a fundamental reason that all of the "ifs" worked against the Titanic, simply that Western society thought that man had conquered nature.

The Titanic was the largest ship afloat. She was billed as unsinkable. With her thick hull, powerful engines, and water tight doors, she was supposed to take on whatever nature handed out and make it to port on time. Everyone from Captain Smith, to Bruce Ismay, to John Jacob Astor believed this. Why else would so many wealthy, powerful, and influential people have filled the hold and safes of the Titanic with cars and riches and come aboard, many knowing they were to take a more treacherous route.

One could make the claim that the sinking of the Titanic ended an age of technological innocence. Man's trust in science and machines was dealt a heavy blow by nature on the morning the Titanic sank into the Atlantic . John Thayer's quote bear's repeating; "...to my mind the world of today awoke April 15, 1912".

To quote, again, from the introduction; the sinking of the Titanic:

"...although caused by an iceberg was also man-made, the result of the state of mind--grandiose, avaricious, and self-confident--of the...magnates and engineer who conceived and built the ship."

Industry believed it had beaten the unbeatable. The following images will not only highlight the magnitude of the tragedy in both human and material loss, but also demonstrate how quickly the press decried human efforts to beat the barriers of nature.

"Unsinkable", Safety Apparatus of the Titanic; Daily Mail, London, England, April 16, 1912

Titanic Was Ripped Open in Her Crash With Iceberg, Baltimore Morning Sun, April 17, 1912

Late Officers of the Titanic and Her Rudder, Baltimore Morning Sun, April 16, 1912

Few Dollars Might Have Saved Vessel and Human Freight, The Times-Dispatch (Richmond, VA), April 24, 1912

1,500 People Were Not Drowned; They Were Foully Murdered, The Times-Dispatch (Richmond, VA), April 21, 1912

Awful Sacrifice of Life to Modern Mania for Speed, The Times-Dispatch (Richmond, VA), April 20, 1912. Includes sketches of the Titanic as she went down, drawn by survivor, L.D. Skidmore.

Daring Dangers to Make Record Time on Maiden Trip, Titanic Goes to Her Doom, Virginian-Pilot and the Norfolk Landmark (Norfolk, VA), April 19, 1912

Ismay Ordered "Speed", Knowing that Danger Lurked Ahead, Times-Dispatch (Richmond, VA), April 21, 1912

Assured Until the Last Titanic Couldn't Sink, Los Angeles Times, April 21, 1912

Says Passengers Knew They Were Among Bergs, Los Angeles Times, April 21, 1912