The lives of saloon stewards


Mette McCall

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I'm working on a book about the Danish passengers aboard Titanic. The only Scandinavian crew member was Charles Valdemar Jensen working as a saloon steward in 2nd class.
I'm looking for sources describing in detail the duties of saloon stewards in this class. Also, what was White Star Lines hiring process like, was it a rigorous procedure where you needed lots of references or was it pretty much easy to get hired on? Were the wages competitive to other ships and is it true that White Star Line stopped paying the crew members the hour the Titanic sank?
 

Bob Godfrey

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Yes, a crew member's contract (and his pay) was immediately terminated when a ship went down. A partial payment for the incomplete voyage would then be made to survivors or to the dependents of those who died. For the Titanic's crew, and perhaps with an eye to public relations, WSL did eventually donate extra cash equal to a couple of weeks pay, though they had no legal obligation to do so.

I don't know of any source which specifically details the work of saloon stewards, but the memoirs of Titanic stewardess Violet Jessop (published as 'Titanic Survivor') are useful for a general picture of the working lives of victualing crew members on White Star and other liners of the period.

Rates of pay would have been pretty much the same on all British liners. Keep in mind that a steward's income could easily be doubled by tips from passengers.

Most of the crew members chosen for the Titanic had experience of working on other WSL vessels, but there were certainly some (including saloon stewards) who had never been to sea before. One of these had previously worked as a farm labourer. Basically a man deemed suitable for employment as a steward would need to be of smart appearance and reasonably articulate, but no great deal of skill was involved so 'if your face fitted' you were in with a chance.
 

Senan Molony

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>>Yes, a crew member's contract (and his pay) was immediately terminated when a ship went down. A partial payment for the incomplete voyage would then be made to survivors or to the dependents of those who died.<<

Married men on board (at least from Southampton) would be carrying a deduction on their wages, typically £1, which was paid to their families by the WSL in Canute Road after the vessel had sailed.

This shows up as an 'advance' on Titanic wage slips, one of which I am lucky to possess. It is then deducted from the net payment to the seafarer.

Examples can be seen in books such as Titanic Voices.

>> For the Titanic's crew, and perhaps with an eye to public relations, WSL did eventually donate extra cash equal to a couple of weeks pay<<

There is not much "eventually" to it. The sign-offs for the balance of wages came at the end of April. Slips show the amount of the incomplete voyage being paid for (6 days - Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun and the whole of Monday), plus a bonus.

The bonus is in the amount of 13 days. The total number of days paid is therefore 19, which is for the whole of the intended voyage... being two crossings, to New York and back, plus layover [less any advance paid].

So the men were paid for their time on the Carpathia, separately maintained by WSL, the public weal and the American Inquiry in New York and Washington, and then paid for their time on the Lapland, when they did no work.

And once home, there were even attendance expenses for the British Inquiry....
 

Mette McCall

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Thanks so much Bob and Senan for your answers! Very relevant to my research. I'm ordering the book on Violet Jessop now. Btw, Charles Valdemar Jensen is listed as having served on the ship Atrato before Titanic. Anyone ever heard of this ship? I haven't been able to find any info on it..
 
H

H Nichols

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I am the grandson of steward Walter Henry Nichols. He survived and continued his life at sea. He was a steward on the American Lines ship SS St Paul for many years but she was stranded in Southampton due to the coal strike. All the "hotel" staff of 20 were taken aboard the Titanic for a one out and back trip. Walter was the only one that survived. I have fully researched the life of Walter Henry and present his story on the "after dinner speakers" circuit along the South Coast and as a "Enrichment Speaker" aboard the cruise ships. For more information on Walter contact me through my web site
www.howard-nichols.me.uk
His original pay slip (15 shillings and his WST bonus ) are in the Maritme Museum at Southampton.
 

Matteo Eyre

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Does anyone know the exact duties of the Saloon Stewards?? I know they were essentially waiters but did they have any other duties?? and did any of the saloon stewards help out in the smoke rooms as there were very few smoke room stewards??
Thanks Guys
Matteo :)
 

Bob Godfrey

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In between the meal sittings they had plenty to do clearing the tables, changing the linen, cleaning spillage (ships roll!) and laying the tables for the next meal.

In 1st Class, two stewards seems to have been the standard for public areas. There were three deck stewards, but they had a huge area to cover.
 

Matteo Eyre

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Ah right, Thanks Bob, this will really help with the research i'm doing at the moment, if they changed the linen what was the job of the Linen Steward?? and the Stewards in 3rd class, how did they differ from Saloon Stewards?? were they a combination of Bed Room and Saloon??, i know John Edward Hart was the only survivor of the Bed Room 3rd Class Steward, since there were the 2 Smoke Room Stewards and the Deck Stewards what did the 2 Reception Room Stewards do??
Cheers Bob
Matteo :)
 

Bob Godfrey

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There was no linen steward, but there was a linen keeper. That should suggest what his job was. Now slow down, Matteo, and pause for breath. Take a break from questions and tell us about the research you are doing.
 

Matteo Eyre

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I thought Mr Thomas Ferguson Baxter was a Linen Steward, yeah that sums it up, basically i'm a training pro cyclist so Titanic isn't my full focus at the moment but it's a big part of what i'm doing, i'm hoping to gather lots of information about the lives of the crew, the survival rates, the stories of the sinking from their points of view, the working conditions, the jobs that they did etc and possibly set up a website and maybe write ( or type as my handwriting is terrible ) a book about the crew of the Titanic and other bits crew related, some other research i have been doing was into the passengers as well and one thing i've been annoyed with in other books is that there aren't lists of who survived in which boats so i've made a full list of this, there are of course certain people whose boat of survival remains a mystery so i'm working on those too, i have also been looking into the recovered bodies and i'd like to make an input into the Titanic world, so yeah that's what i'm doing
Cheers for all the help guys
Matteo :)
 

Bob Godfrey

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Good for you, Matteo, you're getting yourself a good grounding in the basics. If you want eventually to come up with new findings you'll probably need to concentrate on a smaller area of study, as it takes a lot of time and effort to find stuff that nobody else has ever found. You seem, for instance, to be interested in the a la carte restaurant and cafe. Now there's not a great deal known about that, so a lot of scope for research. Wouldn't be easy, though!
 

Matteo Eyre

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Thanks Bob, that's the plan, yeah i guess after nearly 101 years almost everything is already known, i guess it's the fact that i'm half Italian so i seem to be interested in the the Italian waiters, Stewards and Cooks are also things i'm quite interested in, seems to be Waiters, Stewards, Cooks etc that have my interests, Yeah i'm looking into that now, i don't seem to know what things still remain undiscovered and Google isn't helpful with that as all the normal rubbish comes up and then the " 10 things you never knew about Titanic " sites and it's like I know that, I know that, I know that, i know that, you got any ideas of what remains unknown about Stewards, Cooks or The A La Carte Restaurant?? Could you also reccommend any websites that may be better informed on the Restaurant and Stewards or any other books, i'm currently waiting for Violet Jessop's book to be delivered and i am looking into more, DVDs would be good to, Yeah so far it hasn't been an interesting task, oh cooks i'm interested in too, i really have a wide section but basically Victualling and Restaurant Crew
Thanks for all the help so far Bob and if i ever get round to writing the book I'll be sure to give you multiple mentions in it
Cheers
Matteo :)
 

Bob Godfrey

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What you need is a list of "10 things that nobody knows about the Titanic" !

But seriously, if you're looking for something new you won't find it in books or on websites because obviously once it's been published it's no longer new. Reading books, articles and websites counts as secondary research - stuff that's already been found and analysed by others. Very useful to get you started, but for the new stuff you need primary research - examination of the evidence at first hand, not a selective and abbreviated version of it that's been sifted and processed by somebody else. Or at the very least you need to study all the evidence already available and see connections and possibilities that nobody else has spotted. There are lots of people who just collect information. Not so many who can draw the right conclusions from it. Above all you need patience. Lots and lots of it.

One bit of reading matter I will recommend for you is Craig Stringer's Titanic People, which nobody with a serious interest in the Titanic should be without. It won't tell you what a steward's or a cook's job was like, but it will tell you who they were. Every individual crew member and passenger is covered, with biographical info and (if known) what happened to them during the sinking and afterwards. Available only as a CD-ROM, not a book, and you can view some sample pages here: Family History Indexes - Titanic People You can also buy it from that site, but if you're in the US you might need to find another source over there.
 

Matteo Eyre

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Yeah see what you mean, yeah but it seems that each thing i think of that nobody knows it has either already been discovered or there is no way that i can think of of finding it out, you know anyone who collects information?? Right i think i'll have to get that, I'll get hold of it soon then, Nah UK all the way
Cheers Bob
Matteo :)
 

Bob Godfrey

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I thought you might be American when you said you didn't understand some of the expressions I was using, but that was probably the age gap! Sure I know people who collect information, but it's not always easy to get it out of them and not always useful when you get it. Craig Stringer's people database scores on all counts - top quality research, really useful information and he's made it available to us all.
 

Matteo Eyre

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Yeah i can see the confusion, Yeah probably, yeah i can imagine it being hard, right i'll be sure to get a look at it soon
Cheers Bob
Matteo :)
 

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