God himself couldn't sink this ship


Mark Baber

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Jul 4, 2000
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In 1910 White Star (via the New York Times) relayed the following information

Hello, George---

Any chance you have the date this appeared? I haven't come across this yet, and I'd like to add it to my already-too-large collection of NYT photocopies.
 
Mar 20, 2000
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George,

I agree with you that White Star's efforts to drum up public faith in the safety of its ships was deliberately misleading. It was pure sensationalism, perfectly in keeping with the cheap "yellow press" mentality of the emergent popular or tabloid press.

The point Parks makes about the naivete of this publicity campaign is also certainly true. While not nefarious, it was hyperbolic and erroneous. And so I have to wonder. How was this acceptable in a technological field of such import? We're not talking about the lurid advertisement or promotional copy of a music hall or circus troupe but that of a shipping company with the responsibility of providing safe transportation for the public.

The WSL's claim of veritable invincibility was audacious and patently absurd and ought to have been exposed as such by the engineering journals and scientists of the day. As it was, with the press adding their own flourishes, Olympic/Titanic were permitted to loom in public consciousness as "absolutely" - not just "practically" -unsinkable.

Randy
 

George Behe

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Dec 11, 1999
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Hi, Mark!

>Any chance you have the date this appeared?

I'll be happy to send it to you privately, old chap. (The reason my website is coy about posting exact dates of sources etc. is that I have seen at least two other websites that contain pirated copies of my web articles that are presented verbatim without any acknowledgement of where they came from. The only way I can prove that I am the original author of those articles is if I can produce a list of my article's sources -- something that thieves who steal my work cannot do.)

Hi, Randy!

Thanks very much for your observations on the unsinkability question.

>How was this acceptable in a technological field >of such import? We're not talking about the lurid >advertisement or promotional copy of a music hall >or circus troupe but that of a shipping company >with the responsibility of providing safe >transportation for the public.

That's an excellent question, old chap, and I suspect it would be a very productive field of investigation for someone who has an interest in the history of advertising in general. What other key industries might have yielded to the temptation of overstepping the bounds of reality in their advertising campaigns?

"Unbreakable, unburnable, uncrashable, unsinkable -- but not unFUBAR-able." :)

All my best,

George
 
Oct 28, 2000
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It is said that people in the 20th and 21st centuries are among the least sophisticated every birthed on this planet. A person of the 16th century would have looked at an advertisement and said, "Of course Joe the wagonmaker says his wagons are the best. Would you expect him to say they were junk? Why should I believe what Joe says about his wagons?"

People in 1912 wanted to be reassured for their safety on a long sea voyage. White Star obliged their desires.

With regard to Olympic...which survived without loss of passenger lives at least three incidents...the White Star advertising was 100% correct. It is only Titanic...a technologically indistinguisable duplicate...that a sigularly unique problem developed that was not envisioned by anyone involved in the advertisement-- the White Star Line or the people reading it.

The advertising of White Star lines was correct with regard to the majority of mishaps to which ships are vulnerable. Today's advertising is hardly as truthful to the point of being deceitful.

I just learned from TV that my sex life will improve if I purchase a certain make and model car. At my age, I highly doubt the veracity of such a suggestion, but that's the message carefuly crafted and presented by Joe the automaker.

However is any auto buyer really going to be happier sexually with a large automobile payment? Is a car "sexy?" (If so, which are the sexual parts?) Was anyone less endanged by sailing on Titanic than say a one-compartment ship of say the 1870s or 1880s vintage? Somehow, the 1912-vintage puffery seems a lot closer to reality than what is put before our eyes today.

White Star advertising was not all that far from the mark within the context of 1912 technology and business customs & standards. Umbrage over claims of safety for Olympic/Titanic come mostly from people who view the sinking from the safe vantage point of 90-odd years difference in time and with the perfect vision of hindsight regarding one particular incident. The overall record of Olympic and Titanic in passenger service shows that on an incident-by-incident basis the claims of safety were at least 75% correct.

Britannic being a war casualty cannot be included in this discussion.

Now, what kind of car was that...???
 
Mar 20, 2000
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David G. Brown wrote: "...Umbrage over claims of safety for Olympic/Titanic come mostly from people who view the sinking from the safe vantage point of 90-odd years difference in time and with the perfect vision of hindsight regarding one particular incident..."

I would counter that those who lost their loved ones in 1912 took some considerable umbrage. The vehement wording in many of the survivors' damage suits shows that they also took more than a bit of umbrage.

"...The overall record of Olympic and Titanic in passenger service shows that on an incident-by-incident basis the claims of safety were at least 75% correct. .."

Again hardly a consolation to those mourning the 1500 people who perished in one particularly memorable "incident."

I reiterate that advertisements for entertainment and merchandise, then as now, are quite another thing entirely from advertisements for travel safety and reliability, where the lives of consumers (however naive) are actually at stake.

Randy
 
Jul 9, 2000
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George Behe asked "What other key industries might have yielded to the temptation of overstepping the bounds of reality in their advertising campaigns?"

It might be better to ask which ones haven't, and I'll wager the list is a damned short one. Just turn on the telly and you'll get a bellyful of advertising bovine caca every ten to fifteen minutes. (My curmudgeonly side strikes again!)
 
Mar 20, 2000
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I think some of our esteemed friends are missing the point. A toilet-paper manufacturer claiming its product is "squeezably soft" is not quite the same as a shipping concern declaring that its vessels are unsinkable.
 
Sep 20, 2000
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Steven (going way back): Thanks very much for that further information on the generalized tendency to claim "sink-proof" construction in the shipping industry. The fact that Cunard did it -- in 1905 and later -- alludes strongly to a prevailing trend.

After all, how many others would counter, "Well, our ships aren't actually UNSINKABLE, but they are mighty good."? ;^)

Cheers,
John
 
Aug 29, 2000
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A full page article appeared in the March 30th 1912 edition of the Sunday Home Companion all about the new invincibility of the modern steamship- how the dangers of weather and ice are things of the past, etc.-this illustrated with a 4-stacker steaming full-tilt at night. Ironic.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Doesn't surprise me. And has anything really changed? Take a look at any ad these days all of which include pills which will magically cure overweight, underweight, baldness, lack of energy, and a bad sex life for little or no effort.

Seems adverts for cruises tend to promise the glories of exotic ports (While failing to mention the pitfalls of Montezuma's Revenge if you drink the water or getting mugged in the wrong part of town.) and sunny calm days at sea, even at the hight of the hurricane season.

And has anyone noticed that for cruise ships, safety issues are never discussed for any reason? Can't have the passengers knowing that the watertight sectioning is typically signifigently inferior to the Titanic, can we?

The Mark I remote (A brick!) for switching off the telly looks better and better every day!
 

Erik Wood

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Aug 24, 2000
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This discussion has gone in about 7 different directions and I am not sure what to comment on.

To me (this is soley my opinion) if one can't figure out the reality of a situation when reading a newspaper then perhaps one should go back to school. Again, this is me having the knowledge that there is no such thing as a unburnable or unsinkable ship. Advertisements are intended to mislead you into buying or using there product, there are worded to remove claim from themselves (that is why you always hear all that legal mumbo jumbo). It occurs to me that had Titanic survived that night the unsinkablilty claim would have been seriously up graded (with the help of White Star). To claim that White Star duped passengers into a ship that was unsafe (and that White Star knew the ship was unsafe) is sort of a stretch. Did White Star use misleading advertisements to get less intelligent people to board there ships, of course the same way car dealers sell cars, and anybody sells anything.

Was the ship unsafe, for the era, no it was probably one of the safest ships to be on. The fact that she sank is what gives us this debate. Recall something that I posted earlier that fits here:

quote:

"Newspapers and other media outlets (IMO) are in the business of making money, they do this by reporting what they hear, and what they think is important and what will catch headlines, very rarely is this accompanied by any indepth research on the subject they are reporting. This example of a ship being unburnable or unsinkable is a perfect example."

That seems to be appropriate with the addition that the people placing adds are in the business of making money did White Star lie by saying that the ship was practically unsinkable by todays twisted standard, yes. Should White Star be held responsible for advertisements is made claiming a ship was practically unsinkable?? In my opinion no. They stated what they believed. Had Titanic not sunk, none of us would think differently. Remember that the loss of Titanic changed ship construction forever, not to mention how passenger evcuations are handled.​
 
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My bottom-line opinion on this whole deal, if anyone cares to know: The ship wasn't unsafe. The manner in which it was navigated was. Whether God had an influential hand in any of it is unknowable to us mortals.

Parks
 
T

Tom Pappas

Guest
Yo, George!

You said:
quote:

...I don't believe the Titanic unsinkability myth would ever have existed in the first place if White Star publicity material and personnel had not used that word...
You are closer to the sources than I, and therefore would have a better view of who said what first, but isn't Shipbuilder's complicity in perpetuating the myth undeniable? Would White Star have even mentioned unsinkability if an "unbiased" observer hadn't done so first? Were other lines hyping that aspect of their ships?

On the other hand, there was that fourth funnel, deliberately designed in to impress the public...

Best regards,

Tom​
 
T

Tom Pappas

Guest
Hello, Tracy -

What boggles my mind is the amount of media hype that people believe today! The important thing to remember is that advertising (and political campaigns and TV and movie programming) is mostly aimed at the middle of the I.Q. distribution curve, because that's where the greatest number of prospects is found. It's Operations Analysis run amok!
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Hi Tom,

Are you calling the Shipbuilder unbiased? All they did was copy White Star's publicity. Check out some of the Belfast News Letters from 1910-11 as well. Also the 1911 White Star publicity booklet, which has become so famous -- much of that reads similarly.

Best regards.

Mark.
 
T

Tom Pappas

Guest
Hello, Mark

Well, I did enclosed the adjective in quotes, to indicate that I doubt it. But was Shipbuilder's description of the ship's compartmenting copied verbatim from publicity, or derived from H & W technical papers? The timing is important, too.

Best regards,

Tom

p.s. It occurred to me that a modern corporate lawyer on White Star's payroll would insist that the phraseology be changed to Sink Resistant!
 

Erik Wood

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Aug 24, 2000
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Tom said: p.s. It occurred to me that a modern corporate lawyer on White Star's payroll would insist that the phraseology be changed to Sink Resistant!

Or not say the ship was resistant to anything unless it could be proven (which only could happen if they tried to sink a ship).
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Hi,

Tom wrote:But was Shipbuilder's description of the ship's compartmenting copied verbatim from publicity, or derived from H & W technical papers? The timing is important, too.

I wouldn't know. I will also need to check the claim as regards the watertight doors, etc. However, when reading White Star's 1911 publicity book for the two new ships, and the Shipbuilder in summer 1911 describing the first class rooms, plus the Belfast papers, they all sound remarkably similar. I'd *guess* that a publicity draft was supplied to the magazine and papers, but I really wouldn't know.

When researching Britannic, I noticed much the same thing. Shipbuilder in March 1914 echoed WS, as did the press.

Best regards,

Mark.
 

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