Titanic Birthdays


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sashka pozzetti

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I was at a birthday party this weekend, and wondered how Edwardians celebrated such occasions. I would have thought it must have been at least a couple of people's birthdays during the voyage, and wondered if their are any traditional ways of celebrating on a ship. I know you can have special birthday dances. :)
 
Statistically, there should have been a lot more than a couple of birthdays. Maybe up to 40 on board during a normal crossing. The Edwardians celebrated birthdays in much the same way as we would today - many happy returns, cards and presents, maybe a party (especially for children) or a night out, but most people didn't have much cash to spare so cards might be home-made, gifts often simple and practical and parties even for children were uncommon in working class homes. Some birthdays were more significant than they are now - the 21st, for instance, and the 16tn especially for a boy, because on that day he could consider himself to be a man.

Cruise ships today are well prepared for catering to special occasions like birthdays. In 1912 it might have been possible, with a word in the right ear and a tip in the right hands, to obtain a cake or other special dish for a birthday meal or a party at one of the children's sittings, and in the restaurant I daresay you could be served with whatever you were prepared to pay for. In 3rd Class the kitchen staff were probably far too busy to offer anything but the standard menu, but a steward (especially one with a greased palm) might cooperate by providing something like extra oranges or apples for a special occasion.
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Monica, a neighbor of my Great-Great- Grandparents sent a letter to my Great-Grandparents asking them to watch over his brother during the crossing on the Titanic. His name was Alfred Rush. His birthday was on April 14th. My Grandfather told me about him. He was excited about receiving a refund for an overcharge for his luggage onboard the ship. My Grandfather didn't elaborate on any celebration for the occasion. Less than 16 hours later he made the decision to stay with the men as the ship went down. You see up till then he was only allowed to wear knickers,[a mid length between the knee and ankle pair of pants]. On his 16th birthday he was able to wear long pants. This signified a rite of passage from adolescence to manhood for male children during that era. When the ship was sinking, my Grandfather and his mother were permitted to ascend to the life boat deck. Alfred was told to go through by the crew at that point. he pulled back and stated the he was a man and would stay with the men. A decision that cost him his life.
 
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Poor guy.

I see where he's coming from, having been 16 myself. I didn't know boys had to wear those stupid pants until their 16th birthday. I wonder if that was only in Great Britain? Though I could see boys in the states wearing 'em til they were 14 or 15. My Grandfather was born in 1900. I wonder if his folks made him were those little boy pants til his 16th birthday?
 
Different times, George. Back then most boys were dressed in skirts for much of their childhood, so graduating to trousers of any kind was a step in the right direction!
 
I forgot about the skirts. I wonder if boys working in sweat shops or factories wore short pants. Seems to me that boys who worked like men would have been dressed like 'em to. Of course I wonder if it was up to the parents as to when boys left off the short pants or God forbid skirts.
 
Both men and boys working in hot conditions (eg miners and stokers) often wore shorts. Otherwise, a boy doing heavy manual work might well have been dressed exactly like his father and older brothers, and possibly wearing their old clothes adjusted to fit. But for street workers, and any boy in his Sunday best, the knickerbocker ruled. Here's a photo of young news vendors in Jersey City in 1912. Note the confident-looking lad with one leg. No prosthetics for children in those days.

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Thanks for sharing Bob. Nice group of boys. I've seen photos of men in those kind of shorts in twenties. I forgot men wore them during sports activities.
 
Those aren't what I would call shorts, George. When I mentioned that miners and stokers often wore shorts I meant boxer style. Trousers something like the 'knicker' style above were indeed worn also by men, and were fashionable as casual (not just sporting) wear at least into the 1940s. Still seen on golf courses today. In England they are called 'plus fours'.
 
They were strapped below the knee like knickerbockers or knee breeches, but were more generously cut (by four inches) so they could be folded down past the point of attachment.

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Knickers- I always thought knickers was a term for underwear. I think I know why they were never called knickers in Britain. Of course I could be wrong in my assumptions.
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Knickerbockers or knickers was the American term. Over here we'd call them knee breeches. Under their skirts and petticoats ladies of course wore knickers which were made to essentially the same design. These were also known as 'bloomers' or 'unmentionables'. Very naughty of you to mention them, George. :)

I think Plus Fours are still sold in the US as 'golf knickers'?
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