Bell Boys: Uniforms

Raych

Member
May 7, 2019
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Australia
Hi everyone
I have scoured every source I can think of and so far have found nothing, so I was wondering – does anyone know what the bell boys wore on Titanic? There's plenty of information on what seems like every crew division but theirs. I imagine it's similar to the traditional bell boy uniform, but is anyone sure of design, colours, etc? No books I've found have addressed them specifically and everything online seems to be misinformation.
 
May 3, 2005
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169
133
Hi everyone
I have scoured every source I can think of and so far have found nothing, so I was wondering – does anyone know what the bell boys wore on Titanic? There's plenty of information on what seems like every crew division but theirs. I imagine it's similar to the traditional bell boy uniform, but is anyone sure of design, colours, etc? No books I've found have addressed them specifically and everything online seems to be misinformation.
There is a scene in "A Night To Remember" showing a group a group of bellboys but I'm not sure if their uniforms are authentic and of course it's black and white so also uncertain about the colors. I don't remember seeing bellboys in any of the other Titanic movies.
Of course the more serious Titanic experts on these forums will say you can't trust movies for historic authenticity.
 

Athlen

Member
Apr 14, 2012
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Günter Bäbler’s excellent “Guide to the Crew of Titanic” has a photo of two bell boy stewards taken on Olympic circa 1925. They’re wearing dark-colored uniforms with a lot of buttons, but they aren’t wearing caps. The book says “the three bell-boy stewards held themselves at readiness to run messages” so the purser’s clerks wouldn’t have to leave the desk. That’s a little different than what I thought they did. (I thought they did what a bellhop or hotel porter does, such as carrying baggage.) If you didn't know already, running messages to the Marconi room wouldn't have been part of their duties, because the purser's enquiry office and the Marconi room were connected by a pneumatic tube.

The photo is low-resolution in the e-book I have, and it's credited to the author's collection, so I'm not altogether sure I should post it, and it wouldn't be terribly useful if I did -- the only thing you can really tell is that they aren't wearing caps. I found an article about a former Cunard White Star bell-boy steward and lift operator who joined the Mauretania in 1933 at the age of 14 (he's now 99) -- he attended a celebratory lunch in June 2019 aboard the Queen Mary 2, as part of Cunard's celebration of 100 years of sailing from Southampton. The article has a photo of him in 1933; he's wearing a cap, but it's not the usual bellboy cap. The collar is plain (it looks like it may say "White Star" on it) and there are no shoulder straps. That appears to match what's in the book. There's also an undated Cunard White Star ad about their "page boys", and many examples of their modern uniform, which is a bright red. The uniform in the ad and the modern uniform differ from the 1933 one in the collar and shoulder straps.

[Added 2019-07-21 — not strictly about uniforms, but related to these crew] The restaurant employed a “page boy”, 16-year-old Charles Turvey, who had the lowest wages on the ship at £1 10s (£1.50), and who perished like all three bell-boy stewards. Even Bäbler has no information on his duties. However, he matched the anglicized job titles for the galley and restaurant staff to their French equivalents in the “brigade de cuisine” (“kitchen brigade”) system introduced by Escoffier. “Page boy” is possibly equivalent to “garçon de cuisine” (“kitchen boy”), the very lowest-ranking member of the staff — below the kitchen porter and scullions (both often called “dishwashers” in the US). He likely performed various menial prep tasks and assisted others. Or he could’ve run messages, more in keeping with “page”. But I don’t think it’d be both, because such lowly work in the kitchen would likely be incompatible with front-of-house duties. Interestingly, Turvey was of British origin. In keeping with British attitudes of the time, most restaurant employees were exotic “foreigners” (mostly French or Italian) — but not those in a position of trust. The controllers, cashiers, barman and storekeeper were British.

The Cunard White Star ad mentioned above, however, describes the “page boys” as what would be called “bell boys”, but that job title has many forms: bell boy, bell man, or bell hop in the US, or hotel porter in the UK, and, as said, they were messengers on Titanic, not baggage carriers. They also likely circulated announcements, such as the ship’s imminent departure, verbally, as PA systems didn’t exist in 1912. They received £2 monthly. They, like the stewards, would’ve received tips — running a message to a first class passenger would often earn a tip.
 
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