This may seem like an odd question, but how were the dishes washed on board the Titanic? Were they done by hand, or was there some sort of machine to do it? Where the dishrooms in the 1st Class galley?
Hi David, I tried researching this one in the Shipbuilder articals I have (John Maxtone-Graham's reprint.) but came up goose eggs. It mentioned all kinds of things for food preperation such as the huge ranges, potato peelers and the like, but the existance of the scullary was mentioned only in passing with no remarks on equipment.
I'd be surprised if there weren't a few machines aboard to do some of the work, but my bet is that most of the dishwashing was done by hand. If somebody knows otherwise, I'd love to hear about it.
Presumably the thirteen scullions listed in the victualling crew members had hands that feel soft as your face. Having worked part time in a restaurant while I was at school, sometimes I was called upon to clean the dishes....very nasty business....I think I would rather take my chances in the stokehold!!
I've done my share of scullary work in the Navy. Even today, on the most advanced nuclear powered warships, most all of it is done by hand. For inserts, baking pans, and anything else where something is going to be baked in, nothing else will work better then the mark I mod 0 muscle and lots of soapy water. Steel wool is a nice freind to have too.
Trays and silverware at least go through a machine, but then nothing gets baked on.
Maybe this might help...?
I remember my great-grandfather telling me his first job in the U.S. (a 17 yr. old Polish immigrant in 1910)was washing dishes in a hotel. All he said was something about "wooden tubs". Now, I admit, I do not know much of anything about the inner workings of a ship, but I understand that these (Olympic class) ships ran somewhat like hotels-hence the G.Grandpa refernce.
Now, in photographs I have seen of turn of the century Domestic, household kitchens, sometimes one will see wooden tubs, or sinks, like laundry tubs. They are affixed to the wall with a faucet over it.
And, along with these fragments of info., I have read that in estates, palaces even, the servants would wash the dinner-ware in wood tubs to hinder the breakage of the fine china, glassware etc. Which makes sense, a sudsey hand, a slip against the porcelain/ stone/ metal sink and...CRASH! there goes the Spode!
I don't know, take it for what it's worth!
"no streaks" yours,
Thanks! That's probably the closest we will get to knowing what was used.
Michael and Sam,
I work in a restaurant and do dishes, thus why I asked. I don't have to do them by hand, but the machine I use is ENOURMOUS!!! It's original to the building, and I think it was Vietnam surplus! And yes, steel wool is one of my best friends!!!(so is ice when dealing with pans!)
Hello! "no streaks" again...
Just something I felt I had to make a little more clear from my above post.
Michael Standart mentioned the permanent nature of Titanic's fixtures. I agree, by what I meant by "tubs" was not the sawed-in-half-barrel sort, rather sinks made of wood that sat on metal (cast-iron?) legs, with metal casings, or rims. Maybe full metal sinks with wood linings...?...
Again, I'm no expert. Sorry for any confusion.
Yes, having had to be a human dishwasher in past jobs, thankless, dirty work it is!
The benefit of wood lining is that it is easier on the china (not much better, though). I would think, though, that if the sinks were lined, that White Star would have used something more modern and advanced. Possibly rubber or a primitive type of polymer?
Hi David, some sort of rubber might be credible, but I can't speak to any sort of polymer/plastic. I don't even know when the stuff was invented. As to wood in the sinks...well...maybe. I've never seen it myself, but in 1912, they may have had other ideas. If they did use it, it must have been a maintainance nightmare. Wood soaked in water constantly won't take that long to rot.
This won't answer the question any better; in fact, it might confuse things.
But I do remember very well in "Ghosts of the Titanic", Pellegrino mentioned something about the Titanic having a very early version of automatic dishwashers. Apparently, the waiters from the A La Carte left their tips in the dishwashers to rinse the buttercream off of them.
I don't know for the life of me where he would come up with a detail like that; maybe his imagination was working overtime.
I don't know about the Titanic but I worked as a steward aboard Cunard and Canadian Pacific Liners in the 1960's. I did a stint as a plate-washer on the Empress of Canada in 1962 and this is how it worked then.
There were two "plate-houses" located in the main galley. One to wash the first class plates (and silver) and one to wash the "tourist-class" plates. The clean plates were stored in hot "presses" (heated metal cupboards with sliding doors),in the galley. When meal times started the pantrymen put food on to the plates and handed them to the waiters who took them in to the dining room. Then when the passengers had finished with them the waiters took the "dirty" plates to the respective plate houses. The plates were dumped on to the shiny metal counter of the platehouse. There was a hole in the counter and one plateman, armed with a scrubbing brush, would sieze the plates and brush any debris down the hole in to a large refuse bin underneath. The plates would then be handed to another plateman who would stack them on to a large tray, or plate rack. The tray was hooked on to a mechanical moving roller which took the plates in to a washing unit (a bit like a small car wash). Jets of red hot water lashed down on to the plates cleaning and then rinsing them. The water jets were enclosed in a kind of shiny metal tent. When they emerged at the other end the plates were clean and usually very hot. They were then sorted and taken back to the presses to be used again.
Remember that this all happens at a frenetic pace. Meal times were very busy and stressful times. The galley would be like Grand Central Station at peak hour. The platemen had to move themselves, wash the plates and get them back in to circulation quickly or else they would soon find themselves in big trouble with the Second Steward. Passengers must never be kept waiting.
I just cannot imagine the plates ever being washed by hand (without creating huge hold-ups) and, having noted Kritina Johnston's comments with regard to "Ghosts of the Titanic" above, I think it is possible Titanic had this form of mechanical washing machine, or something like it,
I thought I would contribute a bit of my knowledge with this thread.
My late grandfather was a Chef and he served with the British Merchant Marine for almost 50 years.
During that period, there was only one way to keep all domestic appliances clean, and that was to use elbow grease. In other word's it was all done by hand.
In hindsight, (and I might need to be corrected here) but according to my late grandfather, there were only three liners known to have the proper machinery and facilities installed for dishwashing that could cope with the demand for everyday use. Those three are the Normandie, Queen Mary and Queen Elizaberth.
Otherwise I support Micheal H. Standart policy because even I have checked the Shipbuilder, and cannot gave or even come up with a satisfactory answer for Titanic.This is indeed a mystery with
a question mark.
Hope you don't mind me offering a few more thoughts on this subject. I am new to the "Titanica" (what a brilliant site) and I have quickly learned that when you start probing you find as many questions as you do answers.
I think it is important to distinguish between the plate-stewards and the scullions. The scullions were members of the galley staff under the direct supervision of the Chef. They would wash all the kitchen utensils like pots, pans, trays and ladles. Some of these utensils were huge and contained some serious "gunge". These utensils were, in my experience, washed entirely by hand in a scullery room.
The crockery, plates and silver were an entirely different matter. They were cleaned by plate-stewards (plate-men)in the plate-rooms. The plate stewards were managed by the senior stewards, not by the chef.
There is more than one way of washing plates, other than by hand. One old passenger ferry I was on used a primitive (but very effective) pulley and chain method. A huge circular wire basket was filled with crockery and then dipped into a vat of hot soapy water. It was then dipped in to a second vat of clear water to rinse off. The advantage of using these contraptions is that the very hot water dries off the plates without the need for towelling.
Getting back to the Titanic, I note from the crew list that there were 13 scullions (plus two in the A La Carte Restaurant). There is no indication whether the 13 scullions are designated to work in the first class, second class, or third class areas and I wonder whether there were separate galleys for the different classes or was there just one galley, providing for the three classes.
With regard to the plate stewards there were seven designated to work in the first class area, four in the second class area (one missed the ship)and so there were actually three. But there are no plate stewards designated to work in the
third class area. This leaves me with the poser "who washed the third class plates" and perhaps a second question, "why were there so many first class plate stewards." Is it possible, just possible, that the first class crockery was considered too delicate to be entrusted to a machine, or was it considered to be beneath the dignity of those fine people to have their dishes cleaned other than by hand.
PS (Also two plate stewards in the A La Carte Restaurant).
"...I have quickly learned that when you start probing, you find as many questions as you do answers.
Boy, you got that right!
I've done scullary work when I was in Navy boot camp, and it's one very nasty job. Anything that wasn't table service, we cleaned. That included inserts from the line, pot, pans, baking trays, the large utensils. Ended up doing it on ship a couple of years later. Same work, for the galley of an aircraft carrier, and only two blokes on each of two shifts. Thirteen people to help would have been a dream come true.
On the plates used for 1st, I doubt that anyone using them would have much cared if they were cleaned by hand, machine, or witchcraft so long as the job got done. The question wasn't beneath their dignity, it was beneath their notice.\
Yes, on reflection I agree that the last thing the first class passengers would have been concerned with was what was happening “below stairs”, although they would have been most offended, of course, not to have been invited on a tour of the bridge.
In posing the question I was thinking of the tremendous leap in imagination that researchers must have to make when trying to place themselves within the psychological framework of 1912. Stewards were expected to be totally fawning and obsequious in their dealings with first class passengers. This must be harder for citizens of the US to comprehend because they were not burdened with the culture of the rigid British class system.
I remember reading a stewards training manual (circa 1955) which “teaches” a steward how to respond to a passengers request for tea. It went something like this.
Passenger. “Steward, I would like some tea please”.
Steward. “Yes sir, certainly sir, what kind of tea would you like sir, Indian, Chinese, or Ceylon”?
Cringe-making or what? And this is after the class system has been shaken up by two world wars. The mind boggles to think what relations were like between the stewards and first class passengers on the Titanic.
But getting back to the washing up. I realize that we will probably never get to the bottom of it all but I think it is nice that people are focussing on what happened to these people who did the menial jobs on board. There were, after all, at least 28 people whose full time job on the Titanic, was washing up, in one form or another.
Thanks so much for your help, I love to hear from liner crew. I agree, washing dishes by hand is laughable when there are 300+ people all wanting food NOW! The restaurant that I work in only serves about 40, but it's insane even with a dishwasher. I would say that the pulley method you mentioned is the most likely explanation.
"Is it possible, just possible, that the first class crockery was considered too delicate to be entrusted to a machine, or was it considered to be beneath the dignity of those fine people to have their dishes cleaned other than by hand."
I doubt it. Wouldn't it sound better to say, "The dishes in the 1st Class Dining Saloon of the new White Star liner Titanic are washed using only the most advanced and technologically superior methods"? Kinda like how White Star got away with linoleum in the Grand Staircase because it was "the latest thing."