It is hard to believe that April 15 marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the R. M. S. Titanic. The ship was unlike anything the world had ever seen. To put her magnificence in perspective, it was equivalent to six city blocks in length, as wide as a four-lane highway and as tall as an 11-story building. The interior had nothing but the finest materials known at that time. No expense was spared.
If you were lucky (or wealthy) enough to be one of the 739 first-class passengers, your experience was likened to staying at The Ritz or someone’s great house, complete with the grandest of staircases. The first-class dossier included the likes of Astor, Guggenheim, Strauss, Brown, Duff-Gordon, Thayer, Rothes, Candee and Stead—all names of high society who wanted to be a part of the great ship’s maiden voyage. Interestingly enough, J. P. Morgan, Henry Clay Frick andWilliam Henry Vanderbilt had all planned to be on board but changed their plans at the last minute.
The first-class cabins were in the Empire style, while other first-class and second-class areas reflected the Victorian and Renaissance styles. The first-class facilities also offered a swimming pool, library, gymnasium, squash court, Turkish bath and phone service. The Verandah Café, Café Parisien and Formal dining room served—in Russian-service style— the finest cuisine of the day.
To give some idea of how they stocked the state-of-the-art refrigeration system, here is a short list: 7,500 pounds of bacon, 40,000 eggs, 40,000 bottles of beer and stout. Eight thousand tumblers and 12,000 dinner plates accounted for just some of the china, crystal and silver kept on board for table service.
The third-class accommodations also were better than what was considered common for the day. The gathering room had pine paneling and teak furniture. Crowded facilities by our standards (think college dorm), the hundreds of immigrants on board were more than happy to endure them with the hope of beginning a new life across the Atlantic.
It’s no surprise that we remain fascinated today with that moment in history. Maybe it’s our way of memorializing those who perished on that fateful day.
*There are several events planned to commemorate the Titanic Centennial in St. Louis. Visit titanic2012stl.com for more information.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF TITANIC: AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY