Jealousy of Captain Smith ?

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ScottyBK

Member
Hi all, I was wondering how jealous the other Captains of the era were of Capt. Smith? He was after all the "millionaire's captain" and rubbed elbows with the elites of finance and entertainment, made top dollar, and was a celebrity in his own right. I'd imagine a guy like Stanley Lord sailing some rusty old slowpoke barnacle barge like the Californian would have to be at least a little jealous I'd assume.

After all, Smith is eating filet mignon and sipping French wine with JP Morgan and JJ Astor etc. and meanwhile Lord is tucking into beans and biscuits in some crummy canteen. Smith even had his own personal bathtub. One has to wonder if the White Star line treating him like a rockstar for all those years kind of went to his head and made him a little too cocky? Certainly seems possible at least.
 
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Kiku

Member
Certainly puts a whole lot meaning into the words 'Tramp Steamer'...
 
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ScottyBK

Member
I also wonder how much of Smith's success and promotions were based on his looks? You have to admit that if Central Casting was looking for a guy to play the captain of a big ship. E.J. Smith would be your first choice. He has the long gray beard, the corncob pipe, tall, spiffy uniform, etc. Pretty easy to imagine him at dinner tucking into his 2nd helping of filet mignon while JJ Astor and Guggenheim listen to his old pirate stories and other salty tales of the sea.
 
Arun Vajpey

Arun Vajpey

Member
Being the Captain of a large luxury liner did not necessarily mean that life was a bed of roses. It meant that he had to be more socially and perhaps politically aware of the idiosyncrasies at least some of the rich First Class passengers, some of whom might have had contacts within the IMM. Smith might have played the part expected of him but we don't know if he really enjoyed the role of the so-called "millionaire's Captain" he was given.

There must have been Captains who actively resented pampering their rich passengers, especially if they had come up though the ranks. I have read that William Turner, who was the Captain of the Lusitania was one such and seldom, if ever, socialized with his passengers. Although it is now believed that the presumption that Staff Captain James Anderson was employed to relieve Turner of the social side of things was incorrect, on board the Lusitania he appears to have performed just that function. Far from things like filet mignon, I have read that Captain Turner preferred simpler British food like Cottage Pie. Not asure whether the alleged quote "a bunch of chattering monkeys" attributed to Turner with reference to First Class passengers was true.
 
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Seumas

Seumas

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Hi all, I was wondering how jealous the other Captains of the era were of Capt. Smith? He was after all the "millionaire's captain" and rubbed elbows with the elites of finance and entertainment, made top dollar, and was a celebrity in his own right. I'd imagine a guy like Stanley Lord sailing some rusty old slowpoke barnacle barge like the Californian would have to be at least a little jealous I'd assume.

After all, Smith is eating filet mignon and sipping French wine with JP Morgan and JJ Astor etc. and meanwhile Lord is tucking into beans and biscuits in some crummy canteen. Smith even had his own personal bathtub. One has to wonder if the White Star line treating him like a rockstar for all those years kind of went to his head and made him a little too cocky? Certainly seems possible at least.
I doubt there is any evidence of other captains being jealous of Edward Smith. On the contrary, after his death quite a few spoke warmly of him, and that included men from other companies.

I also disagree with the description of the Californian as a "rusty old slowpoke barnacle barge". For a freighter (with cabins for a few dozen passengers I should add) she had quite smart lines and also was slightly larger (6,220 gt with most of her contemporaries being about 4,000-5000 gt) and faster (13knts when many contemporaries were doing well to get 9 or 10 knts) than most freighters in the British merchant service of 1912.

Leyland Line was also part of the same parent company, IMM, as the White Star Line. There would have been certain standards to keep up.
 
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Dr. Ajmal Dar

Dr. Ajmal Dar

Member
Hi all, I was wondering how jealous the other Captains of the era were of Capt. Smith? He was after all the "millionaire's captain" and rubbed elbows with the elites of finance and entertainment, made top dollar, and was a celebrity in his own right. I'd imagine a guy like Stanley Lord sailing some rusty old slowpoke barnacle barge like the Californian would have to be at least a little jealous I'd assume.

After all, Smith is eating filet mignon and sipping French wine with JP Morgan and JJ Astor etc. and meanwhile Lord is tucking into beans and biscuits in some crummy canteen. Smith even had his own personal bathtub. One has to wonder if the White Star line treating him like a rockstar for all those years kind of went to his head and made him a little too cocky? Certainly seems possible at least.
Smith ran the Titanic according to established recommendations of the day.

He took the safer Southerly route. He was caught out by a combination of factors: moonless night/black berg/haze falling before the look-outs sighted the berg. I doubt he was Cocky on that fateful voyage. More likely, just unlucky.
 
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Sam Brannigan

Sam Brannigan

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Smith's long career is a study in cream rising (alas curdling horribly at the end).

A blend of dependability, loyalty, the face "fitting", seamanship, affability and authority saw him rise to the top. One unusual thing about the Merchant Navy back then, in terms of employment systems, was its (vitally necessary) meritocratic nature - no aristocrats and the like were parachuted into the upper ranks. The great captains invariably rose from humble beginnings and the very nature of their working environment would ensure respect from their juniors and peers would be unquestioned as they proved themselves.

In saying that, I bet there were a few envious thoughts about Smith's salary...
 
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Arun Vajpey

Arun Vajpey

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I tried to put myself in Captain Smith's shoes and decided that I definitely did not want to be in it - and not because of the Titanic disaster. IMO, being the Captain of a ship habitually occupied by rich and influential people would have been too stressful. Although one cannot generalize, many plutocrats of those days were likely spoilt, arrogant and used to having their own way. Being nominally in charge of such people and occasionally be expected to socialize with them would not have been something to look forward to.
 
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Jay Ashby

Jay Ashby

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I was reading about Captain Stanley Lord who is usually portrayed in the various Titanic films as being middle aged and sometimes a bit grumpy and was surprised to discover how young he was at the time of the Titanic sinking. He was only 34 years old at the time. Apparently he was very distressed at the way in which he was portrayed in 'A Night to Remember' - he was presented as being nearer 50 years of age and cosily tucked up in his bunk wearing a pair of warm pyjamas. In fact at the time of the disaster he was fully dressed in his uniform and was asleep in the chart room.
 
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Stephen Carey

Stephen Carey

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Different passenger companies did it in different ways,though most required the senior officers to hobnob with the passengers. Cunard for instance (according to an engineer of the company) didn't even consider the 2nd Engineer (same rank as 1st Mate/Chief Officer) to be a senior officer. P&O on the other hand was different again, with even the 3rd Engineer having his own table in 1st and 2nd class. Nowadays I would think it's obligatory for the Master and others to mix to a certain extent with passengers.
In my day (60s to 80s) you joined a passenger company for the social life. To me the pay, conditions and leave were well behind the tanker, bulker and general cargo trades, so if you didn't like passengers, you knew where to go for better money and faster promotion!
 
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ScottyBK

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Back then, "insider trading" was not illegal and I'd imagine Captain Smith could've made a ton of dough by getting stock tips & inside info from Astor and the other millionaires. Heck, a big use of the wireless aboard ship was to place stock purchase orders and other things of that nature.

So that would be a major advatnage of being the "Millionaire's Captain."
 
Seumas

Seumas

Member
Back then, "insider trading" was not illegal and I'd imagine Captain Smith could've made a ton of dough by getting stock tips & inside info from Astor and the other millionaires. Heck, a big use of the wireless aboard ship was to place stock purchase orders and other things of that nature.

So that would be a major advatnage of being the "Millionaire's Captain."
But do you have any evidence of Smith doing such a thing ?

I have extreme doubts that was ever the case and the WSL would simply never have allowed a senior employee to neglect their job and use the ship's radio to play the stock market.

For the record, Edward Smith left an estate that today would be valued at around £335,600 - quite typical of someone who was a member of the upper middle class.
 
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Arun Vajpey

Arun Vajpey

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I'd imagine Captain Smith could've made a ton of dough by getting stock tips & inside info from Astor and the other millionaires
I doubt if Smith did any such thing on board. If he wanted investment tips, he could easily consult with relevant experts while on dry land in his own private time. Other Captains, even those who mastered smaller ships like the Californian could have done the same thing if they were so inclined.

While on duty on board a ship, I expect Captain Smith and others indulged in what they were supposed to do - take charge of running of the ship. Of course, there would have been instances where the circumstances overcame the standing orders and the Titanic colliding with the iceberg was one of them. That did not mean that the Captain was playing stocks and shares using the ship's wireless or spend time hobnobbing with the inflential passnegers except for brief things like the pre-arranged dinner party for him by the Wideners.
 
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Dan Parkes

Dan Parkes

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For the record, Edward Smith left an estate that today would be valued at around £335,600 - quite typical of someone who was a member of the upper middle class.
I am curious how you came to that figure, Seumas. According to my notes, he left £3,186, 4s, 6d, which based on the Bank of England inflation calculator would equal £254,083.86 in 2021 (the calculator uses Consumer Price Index inflation data). But I might have that wrong!
 
Arun Vajpey

Arun Vajpey

Member
Edward Smith left an estate that today would be valued at around £335,600

According to my notes, he left £3,186, 4s, 6d, which based on the Bank of England inflation calculator would equal £254,083.86 in 2021

Dan, can it be that your lower figure reflected Smith's liquid assets only? He might have owned other property not so easily redeemable for cash. I would have thought his "estate" would include all of it.
 
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