A mystery about Titanic's mast flags


Jul 22, 2001
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kent uk
I have a copy of a postcard in which Titanic is dockside with a US flag on her. The postcard says.." Titanic at Southampton two days before departure." Hope this helps. Em
 
Oct 11, 2004
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hi everyone,

anyone here know what flags titanic was flying when she was on her way to NY because I have heared what flags she had but I forgot so I need some to tell me again.

[Moderator's Note: This message, originally posted as a separate thread, has been moved to this pre-existing thread addressing the same subject, and this thread and several similar ones have been moved to this new subtopic. MAB]
 

Heather Lee

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Oct 14, 2018
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Jason,
the foremast depicted the country of destination, and in this case it was the USA. Ken Marschall depicts this accurately in his paintings. The main mast was reserved for the White Star burgee.
I will look further into this tonight when I can be in front of my books and Ken's paintings to see if perhaps the trip to Cherbourg would have found Titanic flying the France flag and from France to Ireland the Irish colors. It's been a long time since I researched the flag placement on the Titanic's foremast.

Dan
Dan, did you ever find out which flag she was flying on her way to France and Ireland? I would like to know if she flew those countries' flags, and what flag she would be flying on the stern? Thank you.
 

Dave Gittins

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Mar 16, 2000
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I haven't found a photo that proves what flag she flew on the way to France. My guess is that it was the US flag, as that was her ultimate destination. She definitely didn't fly an Irish flag, because in 1912 there was no Irish flag. Ireland was all part of the UK. On the stern she flew the British blue ensign, because Captain Smith and at least ten of his crew were members of the Royal Naval Reserve. (The rule on that has varied over the years).
 

Jim Currie

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Apr 16, 2008
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NewtonMearns, Glasgow, Scotland.
What you might be seeing is the International Code of Signals letter "Y" which, when flown by itself means "I am carrying mails". RMS?
I am Carrying Mails.jpg
 

William Oakes

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Mar 6, 2020
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While the ship was of British registry, and had a British crew, she was owned by the IMM and JP Morgan, an American, who financed the building of the 3 Olympic class liners.
I'm not saying that he ever exercised his power, but I feel certain that had he wanted to, Morgan could have had Old Glory flying from any mast that he wanted.
 

Tim Gerard

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Feb 26, 2019
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I think this is one of Francis Browne's photos, and it does look like the American Flag flying from the forward mast, the resolution isn't good enough to see individual stars in the field of blue.
 

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Bob_Read

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The American flag on the foremast had 46 stars. Another two stars would be added on July 4, 1912.
 

Bookem311

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Nov 28, 2020
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What might the "Merchant Jack" be?

Diane, the dressing overall was done on Good Friday, April 5th. That is an old custom that is done on festive occasions. One story is that it was done on Titanic by way of putting on a show instead of opening the ship for public inspection as was often done.

I'm damned if I can see the US flag in any photos and I've got quite a few. For me, photos beat speculation any day. I wouldn't trust Ken Marschall's drawings. I've got one of his showing Lusitania wearing the Union Flag. That was illegal because the Union Flag was reserved for the Royal Navy and the Royal Yacht.

No one in this thread said anyone should use Marschall's paintings as proof. They were simply stating why he (properly) paints the flag he does. I'm not sure why you have such a hard-on for the guy and are so bitter about the Stars and Stripes being flown, but it is not speculation, it is 100% historically accurate. Not for nothing, but contemporary maritime practices, witnesses, photographs, articles, and modern experts deserve credence over your personal insecurities and obvious disgust for the reality of the flag situation on the Titanic.
 
Nov 14, 2005
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No one in this thread said anyone should use Marschall's paintings as proof. They were simply stating why he (properly) paints the flag he does. I'm not sure why you have such a hard-on for the guy and are so bitter about the Stars and Stripes being flown, but it is not speculation, it is 100% historically accurate. Not for nothing, but contemporary maritime practices, witnesses, photographs, articles, and modern experts deserve credence over your personal insecurities and obvious disgust for the reality of the flag situation on the Titanic.
You know you can simply disagree and say why you do. No need to throw personal insults especially when they are un-founded.
 

B-rad

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Jul 1, 2015
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Tacoma, WA
This is the only two mentions of flags being flown on foremasts that I could currently find. IDK if any of these really help. The source are 'A Trip to the Orient' (1907) and 'The Railway Conductor' (1909).

other.png
 

Jim Currie

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Apr 16, 2008
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NewtonMearns, Glasgow, Scotland.
This is the only two mentions of flags being flown on foremasts that I could currently find. IDK if any of these really help. The source are 'A Trip to the Orient' (1907) and 'The Railway Conductor' (1909).

View attachment 74551
They are describing a "courtesy" flag. It was the practice in many ships to fly a smaller version of the nation the ship was visiting...always at the foremast. Again, always at the foremast truck - at departure time, passenger liners usually displayed the national flag of the country of destination. Company House Flags were usually flown on a pole extension and always at the truck of the mainmast. The extension was to take the flag above the truck and prevent it fouling the stays and being ripped. Here are two photographs of Titanic. In the first, there is not a flag at the foremast but you can see the house flag and the ensign at the stern. In the second, you can clearly see all three flags and a blow-up of the one on the foremast shows it to be "Old Glory".
Flags.jpg
Flags again.jpg
 

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