Electric system to call stewards


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Rolf Vonk

Guest
Hello there,

I've just read Daniel's great post about the telephone exchangeboard. I immediately had to think at the little bells in the suiterooms to call stewards. As far as I know, this is a totally different system than the phone-system. Interesting as I have never read about suiterooms with an own telephone. It might be that the phone-system is confused with the steward bells what could be the reason for the story about suiterooms with an own telephone. Anyway, I wondered which staterooms where fitted with those steward bells. I know the B and C deck suiterooms were, as the bells are clearly visible in pictures. However does anybody know if the smaller staterooms were fitted with those bells? Perhaps all staterooms?

And how would the stewards have known if they were called by passengers? Was there a kind of electric call-board or a central place with bells like those in old estates?

I hope someone can add more about this. I'm looking forward to your responses!

Rolf.
 

Mark Baber

Moderator
Member
Dec 29, 2000
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White Star's steamers featured steward bells in each cabin from the very beginning. This is from The New York Herald, 30 March 1871, describing the bell system installed on Oceanic I, the first steamer built for Thomas Ismay's White Star Line:

A supply of water, both fresh and salt, in these rooms is constant, and electric bells, connecting with the steward’s department, are above every berth. This innovation is worthy of notice. A patent indicator, like those in hotels, notes the portion of the ship a waiter is required, and his presence is obtained without the least trouble. It is but the touch of your finger, and the loud tingling of the bell beyond summons assistance.

MAB
 
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Rolf Vonk

Guest
Hi Mark,

Thanx for the information! When every room had it's own bell, I presume that there has been a rather comprehensive connection-system between the rooms and the stewards area. Or would this bell-system have been a part of the C deck telephone exchange? That could have been the main centre for every bell aboard.

However, just a sidemark, the supply of fresh and saltwater seems to be a little strange. Where did passengers used the saltwater for? Is that something from more early ships? The Titanic supplied fresh water in her cabins. And for the biggest part of the first class cabins even cold and hot water. Was the saltwater for taking a bath, like they used saltwater in the swimmingpool?

Regards,
Rolf.
 

Dave Hudson

Member
Apr 15, 2011
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When I was on the Queen Mary, the bath tub had five faucets: hot salt water, hot fresh water, cold salt water, cold fresh water, and the shower knob.
Long ago, it was considered healthy to take a salt water bath and rinse of with a fresh water shower. Sort of like mud baths today. I'll bet that in 90, people will be saying "Why would they possibly want to sit in a tub full of mud!?"

I'm not sure about the pool, I've heard some accounts say that it was fresh and others that it was salt. I would go with Gracie's account: "...preparatory for a swim in the six-foot deeptank of salt water, heated to a refreshing temperature."

David
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
The fresh water would certainly be for drinking and I would think rinsing after first washing with salt water. The problem is that a ships capacity for distilling seawater into fresh water is rather limited, and all the more so back in those days when the machinary was nowhere near as efficient as it is today.

They didn't nesseccerily use salt water because they wanted to. They used it frequently because they had to. Fresh water was a precious commodity and not to be wasted.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
Dec 7, 2000
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I'm not 100% sure of this, and I'm just going by what I've read and what I presume from the deck plans. There would have been various rooms, probably the service rooms, as there are several of them in various parts of the deck, where the calls from the bells came. A steward was always posted at night, and during the day, there was always the designated steward. I'm sure the passengers simply pressed the bell/s and perhaps there was a board with lights and cabin numbers. When a passenger pressed the bell, there was probably a ring and the bulb lit up - incase the steward was out and did not hear the ring, so he can still heed the call of the passenger when he returns.

Just my thought.

Daniel.
 
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Rolf Vonk

Guest
Hi all,

David and Michael, I'm surprised to hear the stories about salt water onboard ships. I really believe the pool was saltwater (as Gracie indeed mentioned), but I thought they further only used salt water for machinery etc in those days, however I'm rather shocked (in a positif way) to hear about the salt water in bathrooms. Hmmm, it would of course give a kind of extra dimension to a ship: traveling aboard a floating palace and enjoy taking a bath in the same way as visiting a spa. Really, though I miss the mud I bet this wasn't any worser than a healthy vacation in Karlsbad...

Ok, back to the steward bells. Daniel I've read your points with great interest. I have looked at the deckplans for a possible Bell-centre, but I couldn't suggest any place, untill you told about these servicerooms. It isn't a bad idea at all to propose these were used as Bell-centres. I guess the Bellboys had their duties there, as the call-centre at C deck was operated by the Telephone-operators.

Any suggestions?

Rolf.
 
Dec 7, 2000
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I don't think that there was any such real thing as "bell boys" on Titanic. These duties would have been done by the designated stewards (as we have seen from testimonies of Etches, Crawford, Cunningham), who had about 9 or so cabins to look after. At night, a steward would have been posted to look after larger sections of decks, as demands for water, food, help etc., would have been much lower at night time as most of the passengers were sleeping.

In an emergency situation such as seems to have happened to Titanic one cold night back in mid April 1912, all stewards were required to go back to their designated areas of 9 cabins (it may have been more for some decks - as Crawford was in charge of most of the starboard side of the forward section of B deck).

Of course as we heard, not all stewards returned to their sections. C deck was one that I know. The Minahans were not awakened by a steward, and Mr. Frauenthal wasn't either, being awakened by his brother, actually thought he overslept.
 
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Rolf Vonk

Guest
Hi Daniel,

I understand your point and it seems the most logic way to serve the passengers, but where did they used these Bell-boys for?

Mr A. Barrett
Mr C.H. Harris
Mr W.A. Watson

I really have no clue what their job could have been. The only thing I could think of was something with those steward-bells. Any ideas?

Regards,
Rolf.
 
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Kathy A. Miles

Guest
Hi, hope you don't mind me chiming in. This is just a guess, but could they have used those bell boys to run the lifts? Having read Violet Jessops book, I can't recall her mentioning them at all. But there was another book, and I can't remember which one, where a passenger had talked to one of the boys who was operating a lift. The boy had pointed to some young passengers playing a game on deck and said he wished he could have joined them. The passenger joked he would have offered to take the boy's place for awhile. I don't know if these were the bell boys you are referring to.
 
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Stefan Christiansson

Guest
Actually, according to the crew list the names of the lift stewards were Allen, Carney, King in first class and Pacey in second class.
 
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Stefan Christiansson

Guest
I'm sorry. I didn't realize until know just how old this thread was.
 

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