If today were 1912 instead of 2015.


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Jack Dawson

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Hi everyone, I know this is probably something that is discussed all the time, or annoys some of you when it is brought up. What's worse than 'theoretical' situations on a Titanic website, right? I hope you're all okay with the idea of this thread - the premise is that it is 1912 instead of 2015, and the question is what would you do?


Let me start out by saying that I looked at what little information I could find on average ticket prices for Titanic's sailing, and fed them into calculators designed to adjust for inflation. It seems very hard to find an average for ticket prices, which as I understand it is because the tickets were often booked through agents of the White Star Line and included boat trains to Queenstown or Southampton. A bigger problem I ran into is that some of the stated ticket prices are in British Pounds, while others are given in US Dollars. Through the inflation calculators I found, 30 dollars would be about 700 dollars today which seems too cheap. Now starting with the same figure of 30 pounds, I was given 3,000 pounds as the modern worth. I have no idea how accurate the calculators are, but it told me that the modern 3,000 pounds is the equivalent of about 4 thousand dollars. So maybe I don't know what I am trying to calculate.

The 30 dollar/pound base figure seemed to be an average I found for a 3rd Class passage on Titanic. If it truly was the equivalent to 3-4 thousand dollars/pounds the calculators inferred, then it looks like I would strictly be traveling 3rd Class. Even then such a ticket cost would be a hardship for me. It definitely puts things into perspective when we consider how many steerage passengers were one-way immigrants who sold their homes (if they were fortunate enough to own one) and even some of their belongings in order to afford passage to America.

How would you fare if you found yourself in 1912? There would definitely be no First Class suite or even Second Class cabin in my cards if the calculations are correct! That means I could only appreciate the areas of the ship open to me; the luxuries of First Class (the swimming pool, Turkish Baths, dining saloons and smoking room, and of course grand staircase) would be luxuries only for those who could afford them. So much for wanting to explore the Titanic in person via time travel!
 
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Jack Dawson

Guest
Hi Christophe, that sounds very interesting.

It really illustrates the differences between someone traveling for pleasure, for business; and for a new chance to start over. I think those passengers in Third Class who had families with them were pretty brave and optimistic to take such a gamble that their futures would be better. It's easy to see why they had to sell so many of their possessions just for a ticket.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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Tables showing the affects of price inflation relate to the average price of goods, not the costs of labour (ie wages). That's why the use of such tables suggests that the 'modern' cost of a ticket for the Titanic would be surprisingly cheap. Standard inflation would suggest an increase of around 60x in pounds sterling. But that's the rate of increase for the price of goods, like foodstuffs, clothing or furniture. The price of labour, like the wages of a ship's crew, have gone up by 300x - five times as much. Here's an example: If you want to compare the cost of having your house painted today with what the same job cost in 1912, you'd need to multiply the cost of the paint and other materials used by 60, but the painter's wages by 300. And that make a huge difference!
 
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Jack Dawson

Guest
Hello sir, very sharp observation that is. The calculators are only accounting for once facet of a 1912 ticket price, so it would probably be very much out of my reach if I were to find myself in 1912. From what I hear the wages of 1912 were pretty small, in contrast to some of the work done to earn it. I'm sure those stokers weren't feeding boilers because they enjoyed the work.

After considering the situations of 1912, it is pretty amazing (optimistic even) that White Star Line felt the need to add the First Class suites into the mix! Does anyone have any estimates on what that accommodation would be in today's value?
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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It's easy to check what a 1st Class suite would cost today by checking the Cunard website to see what it actually does cost today!

As for the impact on the earning power of the ticket price for 3rd Class passengers (typically around £8) there is again no simple answer. In the UK a working class man in 1912 would generally be earning somewhere in the region of £1 per week or less, so a 3rd Class ticket would cost two or three months' wages. Allowing for the fact that he wouldn't have a great deal to spare having paid his general living expenses, he could probably save enough over the course of a year to buy his ticket. But the same man with a family to support from the same wage might need several years to save enough to buy a ticket for the whole family. Which is why, of course, a father often went first to take advantage of higher wages in the US, but would still need to work and save hard for perhaps years to bring the family over later.
 
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Jack Dawson

Guest
Hi sir, that is very true! I have been reading period books relating to those traveling Third Class on steamers of the day; it's pretty interesting. I can see why Titanic (and Olympic) were considered to have very nice steerage accommodations; it was basic by today's standards, but it was clean and they had more service than some of the other lines and ships offered to their Third cabins.
 

Steve Dunham

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May 28, 2015
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To answer your question, I think that a lot of people on this forum would sell everything to buy a ticket and sail on the Titanic. Either that or be the lone passenger on the Californian.
 

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