Captains of White Star vessels

Scott Mills

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Am I right to assume that the commanders of White Star vessels were not paid sufficiently such that they could afford 1st class passage on Olympic or Titanic? This is interesting to me since the Captain of the Olympic class vessels had to dine with, and interact with 1st class passengers on a rather regular basis. So essentially, while at sea, these men would live as an equal with top of the Edwardian class pyramid.

I am also curious where officers, and in particular commanders of White Star vessels--in Smith's case the commodore of the line--were put when the needed to travel on White Star vessels in a non-command capacity. Be that they were needed to relocate to some other ship or route, or for traveling on their own. I assume in the first case, White Star would surely let them travel free of charge, and in the latter case, it seems likely they might get comped passage in a way similar to airline pilots.

In either case, would they be placed with the passengers, or were their extra cabins in the officers quarters for just this purpose? If they were placed with the passengers, what class would they be allowed to travel in--I assume it would be 2nd, and maybe first? And if they were placed with the officers were they allowed to dine with the 1st class passengers, or would they only be allowed to eat with other officers?
 

Bob Godfrey

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For the Captain of a large ocean liner elevation in the social scale was a perk of the job. And Captain Smith's earning power was more than sufficient to finance 1st Class travel if he chose to do so. Most members of the Titanic's crew would need every penny earned over at least 6 months to buy even the cheapest of 1st Class tickets on the ship, but Smith's salary for little more than a week would suffice.
 

Mark Baber

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So essentially, while at sea, these men would live as an equal with top of the Edwardian class pyramid.
Sometimes on land, too; look here.
in Smith's case the commodore of the line
Smith never held the title of "Commodore;" White Star let that title lapse in 1887, when Hamilton Perry was sacked, and didn't revive it until 1922, when Sir Bertram Hayes was given the title.
Be that they were needed to relocate to some other ship or route
Except on the transpacific service, where the ships didn't regularly visit England, this didn't happen. Anticipated changes in command took place in England and in the event of the death, illness or injury of a commander, the second in charge---chief officer or assistant captain---took command until the ship returned home.
 

Scott Mills

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Sometimes on land, too; look here.Smith never held the title of "Commodore;" White Star let that title lapse in 1887, when Hamilton Perry was sacked, and didn't revive it until 1922, when Sir Bertram Hayes was given the title.Except on the transpacific service, where the ships didn't regularly visit England, this didn't happen. Anticipated changes in command took place in England and in the event of the death, illness or injury of a commander, the second in charge---chief officer or assistant captain---took command until the ship returned home.
Mark,

I certainly wouldn't expect this to be the case for the Captains of the big liners. Really people often crossed because of the familiarity they had with some ship officers.

Plus I imagine the north Atlantic passenger routes were the most important and prestigious. So it would make no sense for someone like Captain Smith to be sent to the trans-pacific (did white star even have ships on this route).

But surely there are routes that dont have stops in the UK besides the trans-pacific. North America to South America, Australia to Asia, Australia to South Africa/or India, North Ameri a to the Mediteranian, etc.

Now I don't know much about White Star in relation to routes like this, but surely some company did these and the North Atlantic routes.

It also seems likely that many "newly minted" Masters would be given commands on these ancillary routes, and they would have to get them there somehow.

Even disregarding that part of the question though, what if an Olympic class Captain wanted to holiday somewhere? Were they given free passage? If so what sort of accommodations? What about the senior deck officers (say through 2nd officer)?
 

Mark Baber

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I certainly wouldn't expect this to be the case for the Captains of the big liners.
Wouldn't expect what to be the case?
Plus I imagine the north Atlantic passenger routes were the most important and prestigious.
That's correct.
So it would make no sense for someone like Captain Smith to be sent to the trans-pacific
Not in 1912, but Smith, like many other well-known White Star commanders, spent time on the Pacific early in his career.
(did white star even have ships on this route).
From 1875 to 1906, White Star ships ran on a San Francisco-Hong Kong route on charter to the Occidental & Oriental Steamship Co. (Although the ships were operated by O&O, the transpacific service was described in White Star promotional material in terms identical to those used to describe its other services.) The ships bore White Star livery, were manned by White Star officers and Chinese crews and flew the O&O house flag.
But surely there are routes that dont have stops in the UK besides the trans-pacific. North America to South America, Australia to Asia, Australia to South Africa/or India,
None of these were White Star routes.
North Ameri a to the Mediteranian
Oops, I overlooked this one. I can't say for certain, but I've never come across any news reports of a commander coming to New York or Boston on one ship to take command of another. Maybe some day I'll have the time to analyze the changes of command on the Mediterranean service ships.
but surely some company did these and the North Atlantic routes.
I imagine so, but you asked, and I answered, about White Star officers. I don't know about any other lines in this regard.
 

Scott Mills

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Wouldn't expect what to be the case?
I was referring to the idea that the captain of a large liner on the transatlantic route being shipped off suddenly to the transpacific, or some other less desirable route.

That's correct.Not in 1912, but Smith, like many other well-known White Star commanders, spent time on the Pacific early in his career. From 1875 to 1906, White Star ships ran on a San Francisco-Hong Kong route on charter to the Occidental & Oriental Steamship Co. (Although the ships were operated by O&O, the transpacific service was described in White Star promotional material in terms identical to those used to describe its other services.) The ships bore White Star livery, were manned by White Star officers and Chinese crews and flew the O&O house flag.None of these were White Star routes.Oops, I overlooked this one. I can't say for certain, but I've never come across any news reports of a commander coming to New York or Boston on one ship to take command of another. Maybe some day I'll have the time to analyze the changes of command on the Mediterranean service ships.I imagine so, but you asked, and I answered, about White Star officers. I don't know about any other lines in this regard.
Very, very interesting! Thank you! Have you ever encountered a news article, or any other primary source for that matter, that mentions a Captain taking a vessel not in a company capacity; for example, for private business, vacation, etc?
 

Mark Baber

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the captain of a large liner on the transatlantic route being shipped off suddenly to the transpacific, or some other less desirable route.
Not often, but it happened. One notable example is that E.J. Smith, who was already established on the North Atlantic run, was assigned to Coptic for one round-trip to New Zealand in 1890; details appear here.
Have you ever encountered a news article, or any other primary source for that matter, that mentions a Captain taking a vessel not in a company capacity; for example, for private business, vacation, etc?
Only after retirement.
 

Scott Mills

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Not often, but it happened. One notable example is that E.J. Smith, who was already established on the North Atlantic run, was assigned to Coptic for one round-trip to New Zealand in 1890; details appear here.Only after retirement.
Thanks for that link! Truly fascinating stuff. I am glad some of this history is still available on the Internet.

As for Captains traveling after retirement, I assume it was first class?
 

Scott Mills

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I recently encountered an article posted in the Olympic part of the forum written in 1911. It reported EJ Smith's promotion to Comodore of White Star Line--perhaps the news paper was interpreting Smith's promotion to senior officer of the line as Comodore.

In any event, it mentioned is salary in dollars going from $5000 to $6000 a year (making him the highest paid captain on the Atlantic).

When adjusted to inflation this is around $135000 annually.
 

Mark Baber

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It reported EJ Smith's promotion to Comodore of White Star Line
That's just wrong; the title "Commodore" was unused by White Star from 1887, when Hamilton Perry was sacked, until 1922, when the title was resurrected for Bertram Hayes.
perhaps the news paper was interpreting Smith's promotion to senior officer of the line as Comodore.
No, Smith had been White Star's senior North Atlantic commander for some years, probably since 1907, when Capt John G. Cameron retired. My reading of that article has always been that the pay raise mentioned (if the story's accurate) reflect the increased size of White Star's top-of-the-line ships with the Olympic class coming along and not any "promotion" or reshuffling of its senior commanders.
 

Scott Mills

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That's just wrong; the title "Commodore" was unused by White Star from 1887, when Hamilton Perry was sacked, until 1922, when the title was resurrected for Bertram Hayes.No, Smith had been White Star's senior North Atlantic commander for some years, probably since 1907, when Capt John G. Cameron retired. My reading of that article has always been that the pay raise mentioned (if the story's accurate) reflect the increased size of White Star's top-of-the-line ships with the Olympic class coming along and not any "promotion" or reshuffling of its senior commanders.
I don't know the source of the article, but I will track down the thread it was in quickly. As to that rank not existing, I believe you! The article was clearly taken from an American paper, so I figured some sort of promotion/pay raise being incorrectly reported.

edit

Here you are, Mark. It is something that you yourself posted! In 2002. :) The thread can be found here: https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/forums/construction-launch-maiden-voyage/3684-june-1911olympicss-maiden-voyage.html. Its an article you took from the New York Times dated June 6 of 1911.

CHANGE IN COMMODORES
---
Capt. Haddock to Head White Star Line at Increased Pay
---
Capt. E. J. Smith, R. N. R., the Commodore of the White Star Line, who
is to command the new mammoth liner Olympic, will retire at the end of
the present year, it is understood, as he will have reached the age
limit. He will be relieved by Capt. H. J. Haddock of the Oceanic, a
naval reserve commander, the only skipper in the Atlantic trade who
wears the mid-Victorian mutton chop whiskers without a beard or
mustache.

The second big liner, the Titanic, which is to enter the New
York-Southampton service toward the end of the year, will be commanded,
it is said, either by Capt. B. H. Hayes of the Adriatic or Capt. Henry
Smith. To mark the advent of the Olympic into the service the pay of
the Commodore of the White Star Line has been increased from $5,000 to
$6,000 a year, which will be the highest pay in the Atlantic trade. The
salary of the Captain of the Titanic will be $5,000 unless he should
happen to be the Commodore of the fleet.

Owing to the fact that the first voyage of the Olympic will be made
while the coronation is taking place, Lord Pirrie, head of Harland &
Wolff's shipyard at Belfast, where she was built, and a number of
invited guests, will cross from Southampton to New York on the second
voyage, arriving here on July 19. The party will stay at the
Ritz-Carlton while the Olympic is here.

The Olympic has been open to the public in Liverpool and Southampton at
a charge of 60 cents each person, the proceeds being handed over to
local charities. The officials of the White Star Line in Liverpool,
when asked for passes for their families had to pay for tickets, it was
said, the same as the ordinary public. On her arrival here the new
leviathan will be open for inspection at 50 cents admission, which will
be given to the charitable organizations in New York City. When the
Oceanic came out in 1899 the same charge was made, and a sum of $10,000
was thus obtained for local charities.

-30-

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10th June 2002, 01:19 AM #3
Mark Baber
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The typography of the original article makes it clear that the word "here" in the last paragraph refers to New York.

The New York Times, 10 June 1911

SEAMEN’S STRIKE BEGINS
---
Olympic Crew Quits and St. Paul Lacks Coal---World Strike May Fall
---
Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES
---
LONDON, June 9---What is regarded in some quarters as the first move in
the international seamen’s strike predicted for this Summer began at
Southampton to-day, when the crew engaged by the White Star Line for the
new Olympic walked off the ship.

The American liner St. Paul, scheduled to sail to-morrow, has no coal in
its bunkers, owing to a strike of Southampton coal porters.

An important pronouncement on behalf of the Seamen’s and Firemen’s Union
is expected on Sunday. According to the labor correspondent of The
London Times, there is good reason to believe that Sunday evening, June
18, has now been provisionally settled upon by the organizers as the
date for the commencement of the international strike.

The seamen’s strike leaders are confident that the signal to cease work
will be acted upon by a sufficiently large number of men at various
ports throughout the world to paralyze the transport trade during the
coronation week.

It is understood, however, that developments which have taken place
within the last few days have materially altered the general situation
and will prove a bitter disappointment to the strike organizers. Much
importance was attached to the necessity of enlisting the support of
various unions covering other branches of the transport trade, and
efforts were made to induce these unions to join with the seamen.

It may be taken as certain that these efforts have failed, and should
the Seamen’s and Firemen’s Union persist in the strike, they will enter
upon it without the support of the Transport Workmen’s Federation. If
the strike is declared, a few dockers and carters may make common cause
with the seamen, but, on the whole, they will be left to fight their own
battles.
---
Officials of the transatlantic lines said they anticipated no trouble
among the coal passers here. The passers are engaged for the round trip
and must complete the trip both ways or suffer arrest.

-30-
 

Scott Mills

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Oh, I knew exactly what article you were referring to Scott. I guess my earlier message didn't make that clear.

;-)
Oh. :) And for the record I wasn't trying to challenge you! Was just adding salary + adjusted inflation as it helps illustrate for us what social class the captain of an Olympic class liner might fall in. And at $6000 a year you could have afforded a first class berth. Obviously one of the more economical ones! It must be strange though moving from Captain with your en suite bath and such to a simple 1st class berth.