Encyclopedia Titanica

A case of mistaken identity?

Pictures are not always what they seem

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It is well known that pictures of the Olympic are frequently used to represent the Titanic, but pictures sometimes emerge that are purported to show well-known people on the Titanic. Sometimes they are just suggested as possibilities, other times they are presented with confidence but later disproved, and sometimes it's simply a case of mistaken identity!

"Captain Smith" and "Robert Spedden" on the bridge of the Titanic

Captain Hoskins

If the identification of this endearing image as being of Captain Smith and young Robert Spedden were true it would indeed be a remarkable find. In fact, it is not Captain Smith, the boy isn't Robert Spedden and the ship is not the Titanic.

The photograph was actually taken on the bridge of the Kinfauns Castle and shows its then Captain D. Hoskins with the young Earl of MacDuff who was travelling with his father Prince Arthur of Connaught. The party left for South Africa aboard the Kinfauns Castle on 29 October 1920 and it is assumed that the photograph was taken either at Southampton on departure or on arrival in South Africa.

"Captain Smith" on the deck of the Titanic

This is a well-known photograph by renowned photographer and Titanic cross-channel passenger, Fr Francis Browne. It is frequently stated that the figure is 'believed to be Captain Smith', or sometimes Archibald Butt, but there is no evidence that it is either man. The picture appears to show the Titanic steaming away from Southampton at the start of her maiden voyage when Captain Smith would have been on duty.

Figure on deck

Jacques Futrelle by Titanic's gymnasium

Titanic gymnasium and figure on deck

This figure, snapped by Father Brown standing by Titanic's gymnasium is invariably identified as science fiction writer Jacques Futrelle, but he bears little resemblance to other known photos of the noted author. There is far stronger visual evidence that the person shown is first-class passenger Percival White. But again there is no conclusive proof.

"Captain Smith" at a ship launch, c.1909

'Captain Smith' at a shiplaunch

A 2020 auction catalogue described it as:

"An extremely rare sepia photograph, believed to depict Edward J. Smith at the launch of an unknown liner. He is wearing a mercantile marine cap rather than White Star uniform. Although undated it is thought the photograph was taken around 1909"

There seems to be, as yet, no firm evidence to say who the man is, what ship is being launched, where or when.


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Encyclopedia Titanica (2021) A case of mistaken identity? ( ref: #5594, published 14 April 2021, generated 27th November 2022 05:17:21 AM); URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/a-case-of-mistaken-identity.html