News from 1910: "Mutiny" on Adriatic


Mark Baber

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In another thread there was a reference to a "mutiny" by Adriatic's firemen in August 1910. What actually occurred, though, looks more like a strike than a mutiny.

Adriatic was scheduled to leave Southampton for New York on 10 August. Two days before sailing day, however, over 100 union firemen walked off the ship as part of a year-long pay dispute. (Exactly what the pay issue was is unclear. In one article, it was said that the men were seeking a 10 shilling ($2.50) a month raise from their current $25 salary ($27.50 for head firemen); in another, it was said that the issue was a $15 monthly disparity between the wages of British and American firemen.) There was also a "minor grievance" that through the Church of England Mission in New York White Star was hiring firemen who were not physically able of working in a stokehold.

The union threatened to strike other White Star ships, and Mauretania as well, if their demands were not met. A large police guard was posted at the White Star dock until 10 August when Adriatic sailed as planned, "to the surprise of the striking firemen, who were confident that the company would be unable to obtain stokers." When the ship left Southampton, the stokehold was manned by office clerks and other shore employees, under the direction of the assistant engineer. After Adriatic passed down the Solent, she stopped off the Isle of Wight, picked up 100 firemen who were waiting there on a tug, discharged the office personnel, and continued on her way. Another 17 stokers joined at Queenstown.

Scheduled to arrive in New York on the afternoon of 18 August, Adriatic in fact arrived late that night. The delay was attributed to the fact that the replacement stokers were unfamiliar with the ship and did not get up the same amount of steam as the regulars. Once in New York, between forty and fifty of the replacements deserted, according to the union treasurer, Thomas Chambers. Chambers told The New York Times that he intended to report the deserters to the U.S. immigration commissioner because their landing in the U.S. was violative of U.S. immigration laws. He also said that "(s)everal of the missing men ... are of the most unsavory reputation" and that the union was prepared to furnish a crew for the return to England if White Star so desired. The Times reported that neither P.A.S. Franklin, vice president of IMM, nor John Lee, White Star's long-time New York general manager, could be reached to comment on Chambers' claims.

Adriatic apparently left New York on 24 August, as scheduled. There appear to be no further articles in The Times about this incident, so I have no information on (a) whether there were, in fact, deserters in New York, (b) who, if anyone, replaced any deserters and (c) whether any of the deserters were ever found. There are also no articles in The Times' index about the strike speading to any other ships or lines.

Source: The New York Times, 9, 10, 11, 19 and 23 August 1910.

MAB
 

Mark Baber

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With the centennial upon us, I've now transcribed The New York Times' reporting of this event. The following articles have appeared elsewhere in recent days; later articles (two, I believe) will appear as they reach the requisite age.

The New York Times, 9 August 1910

ADRIATIC'S FIREMEN STRIKE
---
Vessel Due to Sail To-morrow---Trouble Likely to Spread

---
Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES
---
LONDON, Aug 8---Firemen of the White Star liner Adriatic, numbering over
100, left the ship to-day at Southampton and refused to go back, although
the vessel is due to sail on Wednesday with a full list of passengers.

The men allege that they have not been paid for extra work done and demanded
an additional ten shillings ($2.50) [see below] a month. All the men who came out are
members of the Seamen's and Firemen's Union, a delegate of which said that
doubtless the strike would spread. Firemen, he stated, received $25 per
month and head firemen $27.50.

Nothing is known at Southampton to-night as to the attitude of the company
with regard to the demands of the men.

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*************************
The New York Times, 10 August 1910

SAY ADRIATIC WILL SAIL
---
Officials Confident, but Union Threatens Spread of Strike

---
SOUTHAMPTON, Aug. 9---The officials of the White Star Line announced to-day
that the steamer Adriatic, the firemen of which went on strike yesterday,
would sail for New York at the usual time to-morrow. They said that men to
fill all the vacancies had been obtained.

On the other hand, the Firemen's Union threatens to tie up all the White
Star steamers unless the demands of the Adriatic's men for an increase in
Wages are conceded. The strikers also intimate that the firemen of the
Mauretania of the Cunard Line may go out to-morrow.

The complaint of the striking firemen is that the American firemen who work
alongside them receive $15 a month more than their English co-laborers. A
minor grievance is found in the allegation that the White Star Line, through
the Church of England Mission at New York, ships men who are physically
incapable of working in a stokehold.

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*************************
The New York Times, 11 August 1910

GOT STOKERS BY STRATEGY
---
The Adriatic Picked Up 100 Men Off the Isle of Wight

---
SOUTHAMPTON, Aug. 10---The steamship Adriatic sailed for New York punctually
at noon to-day, to the surprise of the striking firemen, who were confident
that the company would be unable to obtain stokers.

The White Star Line officials used strategy. Office clerks and other shore
employes were put aboard the Adriatic to get up steam, after which the
vessel quietly dropped down the Solent, and picked up 100 firemen who had
been held in waiting off the Isle of Wight. The stokehold complement was
thus made up and the steamer proceeded under normal conditions.

Since the strike began on Monday, when the men demanded an increase of
wages, up to the hour of sailing to-day, the White Star piers were guarded
by a large police force, but there was no trouble.

-30-
*************************
The "[see below]" in the second article was inserted because the board's bad language filter wouldn't allow "50)" followed by a space and the word "a."
 

Mark Baber

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The New York Times, 19 August 1910

FIREMEN DELAY ADRIATIC
---
Arrives with a Scratch Crew, on Which Slow Trip is Blamed

---
The White Star liner Adriatic arrived late last night and anchored at
Quarantine until this morning. She was due yesterday afternoon, but was
delayed through having to take a scratch crew of firemen instead of her
regular hands, who were on strike for higher pay at Southampton, England.

The Adriatic was taken outside the harbor into the Solent by clerks and
other employes of the White Star Line, who shoveled coal into the fires
under the direction of the assistant engineer. One hundred substitute
firemen were taken on board from a tug and the tired office staff were taken
back to shore.

At Queenstown the Captain of the Adriatic shipped seventeen more stokers,
but they were all new to the ship and could not get the same amount of steam
as the regular hands who had been on the ship several voyages.

Among the passengers was James A. Patten. He refused to discuss the
reported sale of his Stock Exchange seat for $70,000, which, it was said,
had been negotiated by wireless. Julius Bache was also a passenger.

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The New York Times, 23 August 1910

ADRIATIC'S CREW DESERTING
---
Forty Firemen Gone, Says Treasurer of Sailors' Union

---
Between forty and fifty of the 120 firemen and oilers of the White Star
liner Adriatic have deserted since her arrival in New York last Friday was
the statement made by Thomas Chambers, Treasurer of the National Sailors'
and Firemen's Union of Great Britain and Ireland last night. Two weeks ago
yesterday the regular firemen went on strike owing to the refusal of the
White Star Line to grant them an increase in wages

Chambers also stated that all were British subjects, and that their landing
here was a violation of the immigration laws. He said that he would bring it
to the attention of Immigration Commissioner Williams this morning. Several
of the missing men, he said, are of most unsavory reputation.

The trouble is the outgrowth of an agitation going on in England for a year,
the firemen demanding more pay and that privileges held by agents of the
Shipping Federation be eliminated from the shipping regulations.

Chambers added that if the White Star Line wanted to ship a crew for the
return trip the union would furnish all the men needed.

An effort was made to get a reply to Chambers's statements from the White
Star Line In New York. Vice President P. S. S. [sic] Franklin of the
International Marine [sic] could not be reached, and General Manager John
Lee, it was said had retired and would not be disturbed. The Adriatic is
scheduled to sail for Southampton at 9:30 A.M. to-morrow morning.

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