Private telegrams

Arun Vajpey

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Apr 21, 2009
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We have learned that on board the Titanic (as perhaps with other ships of the period), many passengers, probably mostly American businessmen in First Class, sent out private telegrams from Saturday night onwards. I am interested in knowing what the regulations and financial implications (to the two wireless operators) were of this activity.
  • I understand that Phillips & Bride were employed by the Marconi Company and not White Star Line. Did that mean that they drew their salaries from Marconi? Did they get any additional stipend from White Star for services rendered?
  • While working on board Titanic, were there any set rules about how they prioritised their time with regard to ship's messages as opposed to private ones?
  • I assume that a passenger wanting to send a private telegram had to pay a fee for the service; who did it go to - Marconi Company or White Star?
  • Did Phillips and Bride receive additional fees for themselves for sending out private messages for passengers? If so, was this official or "incentive"? One way or another, I assume that the rich Americans tipped the Wireless Operators for their assistance.
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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The radio operators were paid by White Star and Marconi. Bride received £2-2-6 per month from White Star and £4 per month from Marconi. Complete details of Phillips' pay are not known. They signed ship's articles, putting them under Captain Smith's control. Messages concerning the safety and operation of the ship took priority over private messages.

The operators were in no position to get tips from passengers. Messages were written at the purser's office and send to the radio room via a pneumatic tube. Revenue went to Marconi.

In passing, the messages sent by passengers were mostly of stunning banality, of the "Having a good time, missing my cat" variety. The rich Americans conducted very little business during the voyage.
 
A

Aaron_2016

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On a related note I wonder how chaotic it was for the operators on the Olympic in 1929. She was sailing to New York when the stock market crashed. Wonder how many passengers boarded the ship as millionaires and left the ship flat broke. Soon after her arrival the headlines said the Olympic would be fitted with radio phones for passengers' use. I wonder if the wireless operators were so overworked during that voyage (buy...sell...buy...sell) that they requested that private phones should to be installed for the passengers.


New York Times archive

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Arun Vajpey

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Apr 21, 2009
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In passing, the messages sent by passengers were mostly of stunning banality, of the "Having a good time, missing my cat" variety. The rich Americans conducted very little business during the voyage.
:D:D:D:D I could not help laughing when I read this. I guess a lot of those Americans had more money than what they could think of doing with it. I don't suppose charity crossed many minds in those days.