NY Times mystery article April 15th 1912


Jeff Marion

Member
Mar 30, 2007
10
0
71
One of the most famous stories of the sinking of Titanic involves the New York Times managing editor Carr Van Anda. While other newspapers waited for concrete facts, believing the liner to be unsinkable, Van Anda went on a hunch, and was the first in the World to report that Titanic had sunk. Yet this legendary article cannot be found in the NY Times microfilm holdings, and the NY Times archival department itself does not have it.

As the story goes, it was early in the morning on April 15th, 1912, and the next day’s paper had already been pressed when the first AP bulletin came in, saying that Titanic was sending distress calls.

Van Anda quickly scrapped what had been the lead story for April 15th and replaced it with the following headline:

"NEW LINER TITANIC HITS AN ICEBERG; SINKING BY THE BOW AT MIDNIGHT; WOMEN PUT OFF IN LIFE BOATS; LAST WIRELESS AT 12:27 A.M. BLURRED"

This famous, front page headline can be found in every NY Times microfilm holding for April 15th, 1912. Yet, it does not say Titanic actually sunk, only that it was sinking. Later, as the story goes, at 3:30AM Van Anda released a second April 15th edition of the paper, the “city edition”, and it was in this edition that Van Anda reported the Titanic had actually sunk. He went on a hunch with this article, thus scooping the World.

Yet, this “city edition” paper for April 15th, 1912, the first to actually report Titanic had sunk, seems to be a mystery, and cannot be found in the NY Times microfilm holdings. The only NY Times edition recorded for April 15th is the headline listed above.

So where is this famous headline- the first to report Titanic had actually sunk?

Though this famous story is widely referenced, the actual headline is always left out. In Meyer Berger’s famous book “The Story of the New York Times : 1851 — 1951”, he relates this story, but makes no mention as to the actual text of the article, or the headline, only that it was a “city edition” for April 15th, and the first to report Titanic had sunk.

Could it be that this second “city edition” released on the 15th was never saved or recorded? That the famous article, referenced in countless Titanic books, is actually a mystery, and only exists in some private collection, or perhaps was never saved at all?

For such a well known story, that the NY Times was the first to report Titanic had sunk, it seems odd that the actual article is so difficult to find. I’ve even contacted the NY Times archives and they have no knowledge of a “city edition” paper for April 15th, 1912.

I’m wondering if anyone here might have any knowledge about this they might be able to share.
 
Dec 29, 2006
735
11
123
Witney
I had always understood that the first newspaper to state, clearly and unambiguously, that the Titanic had sunk was The Times which, on 16 April 1912, printed the words "TITANIC SUNK - TERRIBLE LOSS OF LIFE FEARED". At that time, other papers were reporting that the damaged vessel was under tow, and that her passengers had been safely transferred to RMS Olympic, etc. etc. The Times reports, which were published before the Carpathia had reached New York, were surprisingly accurate, especially so when one remembers that, in those first few days, many other newspapers were inventing stories in the absence of any real information.
 

Jeff Marion

Member
Mar 30, 2007
10
0
71
Here is the text from the Meyer Berger book, Pg. 197, Chapter 18, describing the early morning hours of April 15th, 1912:

"While editors on other morning sheets were figuring cautious heads about 'rumors' of harm to the Titanic, and hedging even on known facts, The Times news chief wrote a bold four-line three-column front-page head:

NEW LINER TITANIC HITS AN ICEBERG; SINKING BY THE BOW AT MIDNIGHT; WOMEN PUT OFF IN LIFEBOATS; LAST WIRELESS AT 12:27 A.M. BLURRED

A heavily leaden two-column front-page box headed: 'Latest News from the Sinking Ship,' told most of the story as it had come through in bulletin form.

The calls to Halifax and Montreal had brought additional information, and the story appeared under a three-column head. It told, among other things, what capacity for survivors each of the potential rescue ships had. More mathematics.

The last edition, sent to press at 3:30 A.M., reported flatly that the great Titanic had gone down. All day Monday, and even into Monday night, the White Star Line withheld official confirmation of what Van Anda had deduced- only to concede at last, with heavy heart, that he had been right."

So, it would seem, at least according to this author, that the scoop by Van Anda definitely was published in an April 15th edition.
 
Dec 29, 2006
735
11
123
Witney
On 16th April 1912 The Times printed a list of "Earlier News from New York", which reveals that wireless reports of the sinking had appeared at various times on 15th April. Clearly, this information would have been too late for the morning edition of The New York Times (which was presumably the "main" edition that was placed in the archives). However, it the paper had brought out a LATER edition on that same day, it is quite clear that news of the sinking had reached New York, and that the New York Times would have had sufficient information to publish the story.

On a footnote, some of the early reports had been sent by the Olympic, and it seems unfair to suggest that the White Star line had deliberately withheld news of the disaster.
 
Dec 2, 2000
58,614
692
483
Easley South Carolina
>>and it seems unfair to suggest that the White Star line had deliberately withheld news of the disaster.<<

Especially since they weren't in a position to do any such thing. Don't forget that communications technology was very much in it's infancy back then. They didn't have voice radios, cellphones, satillite TV, or the internet. They had primitive telephones, telegraphs, and wireless radio which they could only send modulated pulses in Morse Code. That was it. The first anybody heard about it was over the wireless and what followed after that was a nice study in the usual mishmash of confusion, misunderstanding, and misinformation. That all and sundry could listen in and even transmit...and some did as it was all unregulated...didn't help matters much.

Be that as it may, Carr Van Anda had the information before White Star did because the guy on the wireless was able to listen in and sort things out.
 
Dec 29, 2006
735
11
123
Witney
My point is that news of the sinking was coming from ships at sea within hours of the sinking. One of these vessels was the White Star liner Olympic, which was in wireless communication with the Carpathia and initially reported that "the number of survivors from the Titanic was 868". Although incorrect, this inflated figure indicated a death toll of well over 1,300.

I am of course referring specifically to the information that was being sent from White Star officials who were afloat at the time - those ashore, such as the WS Vice-President (who proclaimed that the passengers were "in no great danger") clearly had little idea of what had taken place.

Having said that, I believe that on 16 April the White Star line announced officially that the Titanic had sunk, with great loss of life - this message being sent out at 11.40 am. Given the confusion which still existed, and the vast amount of misinformation that was being manufactured by unscrupulous newspaper editors, responsible sources such as The Times, The New York Times, and the White Star Line itself, seem to have made every effort to ascertain the truth, and place it before the public at the first opportunity.
 
Dec 2, 2000
58,614
692
483
Easley South Carolina
>>responsible sources such as The Times, The New York Times, and the White Star Line itself, seem to have made every effort to ascertain the truth, and place it before the public at the first opportunity.<<

I think that says it all. Even then, the New York Times took quite a gamble in reporting it as early as they did. If they had been wrong, it would have been quite the embarrassment, but I think they would have preferred to be wrong in this instance. 1500 violent and premature deaths ain't nuthin' to cheer about!
 

Jeff Marion

Member
Mar 30, 2007
10
0
71
>>However, if the paper had brought out a LATER edition on that same day, it is quite clear that news of the sinking had reached New York, and that the New York Times would have had sufficient information to publish the story.<<

This is what I believe to be the case, that there was a 2nd edition released on April 15th, 1912, the first to report Titanic had sunk. This is the edition I'm trying to track down.

I'm realizing this may be a more ambitious feat than I had previously thought! It seems the NY Times did not make a habit of saving these late-day editions, at least not in their microfilm holdings.
 
Dec 29, 2006
735
11
123
Witney
It would have been an easy for an early 20th century newspaper to run a second edition in connection with some important event, but any second or third editions would, by definition, have been limited print runs for sale in major cities such as London or New York. Distribution problems would have prevented wider circulation - in particular, the special overnight newspaper trains which (in the UK at least) conveyed daily papers to other parts of the country would not have been available until the following morning. I assume that, in 1912, US papers reached their readers in much the same way? As a matter of interest, I note that the New York Times (like the "London" Times) is available online - which edition is used?
 

Patrick Leary

Member
Apr 4, 2007
1
0
71
"Extra" editions were quite common at the time. Like Jeff Marion, I'm searching for a copy of that third edition that went out at 3:30 a.m. and definitively reported that the ship had sunk.

The microfilm version of the paper, by the way, and therefore also the digital version (which was made from the microfilm copy by ProQuest, formerly UMI) have only the famous "Sinking by the Bow at Midnight" edition for April 15, but neither the first, out-of-town edition nor the third one (surely a city-wide one, as Stanley Jenkins suggests) that Berger reports. I tend to believe Berger, in part because he got lots of other things right, and in part because this gamble of Van Anda's in reporting the sinking appears to have been legendary in the newspaper world for years before he wrote about it. And then, of course, the coverage that Friday sealed the Times's reputation for the most up-to-date and wide-ranging coverage of the disaster.

But has anyone ever seen even a reproduction of this mysterious third NYT edition of April 15?
 

Similar threads

Similar threads