Grand staircase of Titanic? or Olympic?


Jake Peterson

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Mar 11, 2012
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I'm pretty sure the Grand Staircase of the Titanic was the one with the Ornate workpiece of Honor and Glory crowning time. I believe the Olympic didn't have that, and insted, was just a regular clock on the wall.

Hence, why the Titanic was supposed to be grander then then Olympic.
 

Scott Mills

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Jul 10, 2008
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Jake, that's what I've always thought too. In fact in one book (illustrated history?) I saw a picture of a staircase with a plain clock staircase, which was claimed to be Olympic's grand staircase being used to demonstrate what Titanic's rear 1st class stairway looked like.

Over the last few months though I've read in multiple places that there is no extant picture of Titanic's grand staircase.
 

Mike Wipper

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Really? Then what are all those pictures we keep seeing supposed to be of?
Exactly my confusion too! And another point... I'm surprised they would have photos of Olympic's grand staircase but NOT Titanic's? Doesn't it seem a little strange the grander ship wouldn't have photos? And especially with photos of other parts of the ship, why wouldn't they take the amazing grand staircase?
 

Scott Mills

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Yeah, guys I don't know which side is up after encountering the "no pictures of Titanic's grand staircase."

I'm sure that given enough time there is someone here with a strong opinion about it who can clear things up for us plebs. ;)
 
Jan 6, 2005
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Mike: Titanic sailed very soon after her essential completion, and the sinking, of course, cut her service history very short. She would have been photographed to a greater or lesser extent over the next few weeks or months, but it was simply not to be. There were still unfinished areas in the ship when she embarked on her maiden voyage - Imanita Shelley's statement to the American inquiry mentions heat not working and ladies' room fixtures still uninstalled and in their crates (Mrs. Shelley was a Second Class passenger).

Also, given that Titanic was so similar to Olympic, and that interior photography was expensive at the time, there probably wasn't as much motivation as usual to take new ones immediately. Under normal circumstances, no one not intimately familiar with both ships would have ever have known the difference between most photos of Olympic and Titanic - they were, for the most part, mere ad shots and/or builder's records, considered ephemeral, or perhaps in-house information. Only the sinking and the interest of historians make those differences important.

Up until about 11:40 pm on the night of April 14th, 1912, Titanic was considered a ship with thirty-five years of service life ahead of her. There was all the time in the world to take pictures.
 

Jake Peterson

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Up until about 11:40 pm on the night of April 14th, 1912, Titanic was considered a ship with thirty-five years of service life ahead of her. There was all the time in the world to take pictures.
1912+35=1947

considering Olympic was retired and scrapped in 1935, do you think the Titanic would have served well into a WWII time frame?
 
Jan 6, 2005
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Jake: Good question. I think we have to remember that the Depression, and its effect on discretionary travel, was an unforeseen factor when Olympic was launched. It's my belief that that downturn turned Olympic from an older, but still viable, ship to pretty much a liability. She was certainly retired and scrapped sooner than I think was necessary. Since other, more glamorous ships were getting the "carriage trade" business by '35, Olympic could have been re-deployed had she been needed elsewhere, say as an emigrant ship serving the run to Australia, or something. But she wasn't needed, and, sadly, went to the breakers sooner than she needed to have done.

I've never thought any of it made much sense; Cunard's revered Berengaria (built as Imperator and handed over to Britain by the Germans as war reparations), was only two years newer than Olympic. The Cunard Queens, Mary and Elizabeth, were still in the future, and times were so hard that it looked like the future wasn't going to get here for a while; the Queen Mary languished in Clyde for nearly three years, uncompleted, until the British government kicked in some funding.

It seems to me that Olympic could have gone a while longer, but the post-merger Cunard purge of White Star Line stock was pretty quick and pretty ruthless. P.S.: If you want a sense of what Cunard was up to with its liners at this time, click on the link for a little tour of Berengaria's interiors. Her First Class public rooms and extra-cost restaurants were - sorry, but it's true - much more lavish and beautiful than those on the two fully fitted-out Olympic-class ships:

A Tour Through The Berengaria
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Doesn't it seem a little strange the grander ship wouldn't have photos?<<

Actually, the Olympics overall weren't all that "grand" when compared to most of the other liners of the period. In fact, by some reckonings, they were downright pedestrian. This should not be construed as a slam against any of the ships in that class, but seen instead as an inclination to go for restrained good taste. The end result was that these were much more comfortable ships. They avoided the problems of excessive topweight which bedeviled any number of liners which put a LOT of "eye candy" made out of heavy woods, stone and wrought iron as high up as they did.

Regardless of that, the reason that Titanic didn't get a lot of press...until she sank on the first trip out....was because she was the second sister and recieved the usual treatment. Olympic was the star of the show as was typical of the first of the class.
 
Jan 6, 2005
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Jake: I should also mention that changes to immigration law and quotas in the 1920s seriously impacted White Star - and for that matter, Cunard. The dirty little secret of the glamorous superliner biz was that it was the Jacks who paid the bills, not the Roses or Caledon Hockleys. Third Class passengers were the real bread-and-butter of the glory days. With reduced immigration, it was necessary to rely more on Second and First Class business, meaning that a condition of oversupply was probably reached far sooner than it might have been otherwise. There were only so many business and pleasure travelers to go around.
 

Jake Peterson

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Having only studied and read about the hard times America went through in the 1930's, I don't have as good a grasp on what Britain went through during the Depression. Personally, I had always thought the Great Depression had only affected America. Then when I got into Titanic, and started reading about how White Star had to merge with Cunard to try and save face, I guess the other parts of the world were affected somewhat by it as well. Perhaps not to as great as an extent as the U.S. though.
 
Jan 6, 2005
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Jake: The Depression was pretty bad on both sides of the pond. Britain still hadn't recovered fully from WWI when the economic downturn hit. Then, too, Britain was very dependent on export goods for economic health, and the rest of the world wasn't buying. A rash of tariffs and trade barriers enacted by a lot of countries only made matters worse.

Britain dealt with WWI, the Depression and WWII as pretty much one long, wearying slog. The Festival of Britain in 1951 (a World's Fair sort of exposition, held on land at Waterloo Bridge on London's South Bank) was the first light at the end of the tunnel, though there was still some tunnel yet to go through. Even after WWII ended, Britons endured rationing until 1954, largely to avoid balance-of-trade problems. Even that wasn't really the end of rationing; gasoline rationing was re-imposed for a time in '56 in response to the Suez Canal crisis.
 
Jan 6, 2005
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It occurs to me that this may be as good a place as any to introduce a subject that is beginning to concern me.

In recent years, two ways to make new photographs purporting to be from Titanic have emerged: Re-creations of the ship, or parts thereof, and CG rendering. Re-creations of the ship's staircase are now all over the place, and other portions of Titanic are to be found in duplicate, as well; all one needs to do is to visit and photograph them. But something else concerns me much more: Renders have gotten so good that some of them are getting very close to being able to fool me, and I have a quite a bit of experience with photos. One of our members recently posted a very poignant render of something that did not - could not have - happened: Titanic sailing into New York Harbor. It is an absolutely beautiful tribute to Titanic, sort of a way of saying, "I wish this could have been." But - at least at my monitor's resolution - it is SCARY good, so realistic that all it would need is greyscaling to look like an actual 1912 photo. Fortunately, the render's subject matter marks it as fantasy; I don't think there's a way to mis-use this particular render.

But what will be necessary in future, I think, is for future researchers to be extremely wary of new photos popping up. Even after 100 years, it's still entirely possible for a cache of previously undiscovered, genuine Titanic photos to turn up; film of all kinds has a peculiar life of its own ("lost" movies that are 80 to 100 years old are being discovered with fair frequency nowadays). It seems to me that the stage is set for someone to take advantage of that possibility with renders put on film and then somehow convincingly printed or perhaps put on glass negatives, which might be very hard to spot as fakes. I want to be sure that everyone knows - I understand completely that NONE of this is the intent of those who are doing such extraordinary work with CG. But someday, someone with fewer scruples may come along and confound researchers, and I don't think "someday" is far off.
 

Mike Wipper

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Apr 10, 2009
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I hate to be this guy, but we're getting a tad off topic :) It's interesting to read all that's been posted but my question still remains... Is there a photo of the grand staircase of Titanic?

Thanks!
 

Jake Peterson

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Mar 11, 2012
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I gathering from the tone of this thread, that the answer is No. Now that I think about it, the only pictures I've seen of the Grand Staircase were in advertisements, except for artists' renditions of the Grand staircase and the surrounding area.
 

Bob Godfrey

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The straight answer to the question "are there any known photographs of the Titanic's grand staircase?" is: No. Not yet, anyway.

When looking at photos, keep in mind that each ship had two of these 'Grand' staircases - one forward with the famous 'honour and glory' clock surround and another aft with only a simple square frame to the clock.