James Camerons 1997 Titanic: Its Overall Effects

Addendum to my earlier post. Some examples of recent iceberg casualties in which the vessel sank include the Marine Transport which struck ice on 22 April 1991 some 16km off of Cape Race, and the Finn Polaris which struck a berg on 11 August 1991 and sank the next day.

Interestingly, after the crew of the Marine Transport was rescued, they were immidiately arrested for drug smuggling.

Michael H. Standart
Hello Ben,

I entirely agree with you that Prohibition and the Titanic were on different scales: that was kind of my point, after all. But their respective impacts can and ought to be compared, if only to determine which was more significant culturally and/or historically. Other than that, I find it hard to disagree with you.

Also, on rereading the fifth paragraph of my last posting I realize I may not have made my meaning clear. The gist of my remarks were directed towards Randy's appraisement of the Titanic as a personally "powerful event TO ME." It is that personal importance that it can have to some, as opposed to nationally or globally like other events like Lincoln's death, that I was thinking of.
AN APOLOGY TO RANDY: This is in response to a posting you made some days ago. I was not directing that comment about seeking another field if one cannot handle criticism at you personally, and I would like to apologise up front for the ambiguity in my posting which (after I re-read it) DID make it seem as if it was directed at you. I post these things rather late in the day and sometimes they are not as well articulated as they should be. I do not agree with you on the subject of the posting, but I respect the quality of the work you have done on Lucile and your knowledge of fashion and design history, and I am really sorry about the inadvertant put-down. If I could I would rework that posting, but as it is now too late I figure that a posted apology is better than nothing. Take care.

I did take the remark as a slight but we've had other more positive discussions here on the board and via email and I know from these that you are fair-mainded and so I took that into account before feeling too bruised. I hope you and Jason do know, as I was saying to Ing in an above post,that I do agree that there are other weightier topics to be looked at in the lexicon of 20th century history than Titanic. My argument is that the Titanic ought not to be excluded from inclusion among the most compelling and extraordinary events of the period.

Each of you have made very good points. You know none of us are really wrong here. These are only opinions. So I respect all you've shared absolutely. It's just that none of your arguments are persuasive enough (to me) to justify the story of Titanic being demeaned as some kind of mild interruption in people's lives. It had a profound public effect, even taking into consideration the press hype, and so to say, as Jason has, that it really didn't seriously concern anybody is insupportable. What 1912 newspapers and magazines have you all been looking at? That's not meant to be snipey, btw. When we put things in print that would be funny spoken, they come off seeming ******. I think Phil's foul language meter will catch that - I hope.

All my best,

Maureen dear heart,

Thank you so much for what you wrote. You are too sweet. Now where have you been? My email box has not had many entries from you lately. I'm glad you're back with us. Your posts are missed and so are you!

Much love,

i think the most interesting thing that has come out of this conversation (so far) is the various ways in which people interpret a historical event. what makes something history to one does not make it so for others, and thats a fascinating lesson we all have learned. this is just my own personal belief, but i think you can measure somethings historical impact or importance is the affect it had on people. a good example of this to me is the Columbine high school shootings. i think someday people willwant to sit down, and look at this event and study it. because it is representative of a sad trend where highschool age kids are feeling increasingly more violent, and this event is about as good as an example as you can find of this. and i say it has historical signifigance by my own pre-noted criteria. the affects it has had here in the united states has been nothing short of astounding. this is one event that woke people up, and sort of made us all unite as a country. titanic is much the same. i would think the impact it had on the people of its time is how you measure its historical place. just my thought, most like they are wrong as usual. but i compliment everyone for making theyre views knows in such well presented fashions. agree or disagree, you all are to be commended for your knowledge and passion levels..god bless
Well, it looks like this argument is winding down. Or rather it's seemed like we have been beating the proverbial dead horse for the last day or more. Randy's arguments have been unpersuasive to me, though to paraphrase my position as being "that it really didnt't seriously concern anybody" is inaccurate. It did concern quite a few people - where did I say anything different? - it just didn't have the massive universal impact that has been claimed for it, to the extent of profoundly affecting the psyche of the contemporary generation. And I cannot accept that an effort to accurately assess Titanic's impact in its world is "demeaning" to her. In history one must let the chips fall where they may; and reality isn't demeaning to anyone or anything.
Thanks Randy. Can't leave you and Shelley alone for too long. She may run away with you!

Happy Valentines Day Randy! BTW, I have been under the weather lately, but still have the things I promised you and will send them in a week or two. I also have been actively checking on that other stuff for you as well.

And thanks to Jason as well. I behave better when I lurk, but I appreciate your kind words to me.

Miss Mo,

Get better and come on back. I know what you mean by under the weather. I just got over a horrible case of hives! I look like I've been through a blender!

And Jason,

Have you read Wyn Craig Wade's "Titanic: End of a Dream?" (NY: Rawson Wade Inc, 1980). It's one of my favorite books on the Titanic as much for Wade's intelligent style as for his unique angle.

Much of what he says in his epilogue bears out what I've been trying to say here - though he makes his point far more eloquently - but he backs up a lot of what you, Ing, & Jim have been saying, too.

Here are a few excerpts:

(pp 318-319) "...There could be no doubt that things had changed, that something had passed by; but it would take many years to know what and how much. In retrospect, we can see that with the foundering of the Titanic an era had passed that had been spawned by the Second Industrial Revolution - an age of stolid complacency and effulgent materialism. Gone was the national stability that had been maintained by a rigid structure of social caste. Gone was the optimism and smug self-assurance that had been sustained by a dream that technology would materialize heaven on earth. Technology would not restore Eden. Instead, the trials and tribulations of mankind would always be. It was bitter fruit, this loss of innocence, this painful reacquaintance with human limitations. And as Anglo-Americans grappled with it, cetainty gave way to doubt; optimism hardened into vigilance..."

(p 319) "...Whether fortunately or not, the meaning of the disaster would not yet have to be pondered to its fullest, for the intervention of war spared the English-speaking world from a complete integration of the Titanic...Three years later, the Lusitania went down - another British ship carrying Americans. The rage that had barely been contained over the Titanic erupted with a vengeance. This time it was no "Act of God" but an act of "godless Huns," and Britain and America forgot their differences as they rallied against a common enemy. They also forgot the Titanic..."

(p 319) "...Consequently the meaning of the disaster has been bequeathed to the latter half of the century where we are far enough to gain a perspective on it, yet close enough to see its relevance to the world of today..."

Wade believes - and makes quite a convincing argument - that the women's movement as well as the black civil rights movement was directly impacted by the disaster. The former was hindered (the "women & children only" rule causing widespread controversy ashore), the latter furthered (through folklore and literature).

(pp 316) "...What the Titanic disaster revealed (re: suffrage)is that, when it came to the issue of men bearing the burden of physical risk, male chivalry - or chauvinism - was endorsed equally by the sexes. The issue still provides knotty problems for feminists today..."

(pp 316-317) "...Although the thrust of women's emancipation was blunted by the disaster, the consciousness of American blacks was raised by it...Given their skein of problems, one wonders what possible significance the loss of the Titanic would have held for blacks. The black intelligentsia ignored it... In the ghettoes, however, black response to the disaster was one of enthusiasm - cautious enthusiasm, certainly, but as heartfelt as the burden of their oppression. Just as black heavyweight Jack Johnson had recently trounced the "Great White Hope" in the person of Jim Jeffries, so had inexorable fate sent the white man's "practically unsinkable" ship to the bottom of the sea. Symbollically the millionaires' lily-white liner was Jeffries on a colossal scale: The Anglo-American Dream had gone down far more dramatically than the Great White Hope, revealing the myth of white superiority and its fallible epicenter, technology, in the most blatant and embarrassing way imaginable..."

Wade goes on to document a number of folksongs and one poem which proved "a milestone in underground black literature" called the "Titanic Toast" which survives today in more than fifteen versions. Wade says that the influence of the "Titanic Toast" represented "a seminal stage in black pride and is a portent of the true course of black freedom in the 20th century."

Wade elsewhere makes good cases for the Titanic's direct influence on the advancement in communications via the New York Times' rise to prominence owing to its exceptional coverage of the Titanic, RCA's formation by David Sarnoff who had risen to the fore through his pivotal role in reporting the first news of the disaster, and the emergence of Marconi's wireless as a viable media which eventually led to the invention of modern radio and TV. (Owing to the phenomenal rise in Marconi stock, the company, within three days of the sinking, effected a merger with Western Union for an almost total monopoly of the world's wireless communication)

Of course, Wyn Craig Wade touches as well on the valid points, stressed here by Jason, James, & Inger, of modern "obsessive concern with the disaster's mundane mysteries, a romantic glorification of the Titanic's hyperbole, and a near-religious appreciation of her mystique... (p 319)"

Whatever our differences on the issue of the Titanic's historical value, perhaps we can all agree on Wade's poignant evaluation of her undeniable mystique, something to which we have each surely fallen prey:

(p 321) "...When the Dream ended in a nightmare, the material world lost its credibility and for a moment in passing time, myth became reality. The Titanic's mystique is therefore a poetic realm, in which her maiden voyage expresses the blind justice of Greek Tragedy and the allegorical warning of the medieval morality play. Here, the Titanic is an eternal symbol: She was, is, and will be. She was the Titans' struggle against Jove, the Babylonians' ziggurat to heaven. She was Lucifer's fall from Grace, the "Night Sea-crossing" of the medieval alchemists, and the moment of truth realized too late by the tragic hero whose aspirations led him fatally beyond his limitations. She is not mere history, but a parable to the effect that the mighty of each age must fall. In a word, she is Hubris..."

(p 322) "...As long as this self-same Hubris is with us, the Titanic will continue to be not just a haunting memory of the recurrent past but a portent of things to come: a Western apocolypse, perhaps, wherein the world, as Western man has known and shaped it, is undermined from within, not overcome from without; and ends not in holocaust but with a quiet slip into oblivion..."

RANDY: You had asked which 1912 newspapers I have been reading. Lately, the Denver Post coverage- which combined some of the most eye-poppingly cheesy graphics and photomontages in journalistic history with some fairly good reporting- and some copies of the Sphere which I received last Christmas. I have read all of the NY Herald coverage (save for 23 April, which I have never been able to track down) and am in the process of finding the Amarillo papers to see what, if anything, original they might have come up with. It has been slow going this last year or so because the Titanic papers are so darned expensive now that I have to control my impulse-buy tendencies and only pick up THE most striking examples (which, of course are also the most costly) when I can afford them.

I have seen some of the Denver papers. You are so right, what tabloids some of them were! But the coverage on Molly was extensive and very enthralling. You are onto a gold mine with mags like the Sphere. I was in St. Louis doing research some years back and spent glorious days looking through the Sphere. Also Chicago has an almost complete run of the Tatler which carried some interesting Titanic stuff but I was not there looking for that - just pix of Lucile and her dresses and there were so many I couldn't decide which ones to copy!

You say you've read much of the NY Herald coverage. Do you happen to have a copy of Edith Rosenbaum's account, given I think on the 19th? I've been working on her story lately and in an interview in Women's Wear Daily (for which she worked) she said she'd signed a contract to give an exclusive story to the Herald and so could not give much info yet.

I'll send you more info by email.


RANDY: I am in my Texas residence, and my personal library is in NY. I will not be back that way until May so cannot immediately check, but if Edith Russell DID give an interview on that date and in that issue it should not be too hard to find once I return to my accursed home state. NY is a necessary evil in my life, but fortunately I only have to spend 5 1/2 months there at a time so it is (just)tolerable. The only thing I miss about the place is my reference library. And decent Italian food. What I'll TRY to do is see if anyone I know is doing work at the NY Public Library- maybe, possibly, they could help but as we would say in the Bronx "Don't hold your breath 'til you hear from them." JUST HAD A THOUGHT- Steven Goldman, the vintage newspaper dealer, put out an inexpensive but impressive volume of reprinted Titanic newspapers. There are many Heralds in it (including coverage of the near collision with the New York) and it is not too hard to track down. You could check that one out. Also, if you contact Mr. Goldman, his catalogues are just amazing.