White Star Line Blankets


Robert Berg

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Jan 2, 2005
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Does anyone know what the correct color/style of the steamer blankets and the third class blankets?were on Titanic? There are red blankets with fringe that have a white star and say WSL on it up for bid on ebay. I didn't know how historically correct this one would be. I know Cameron showed ones with differet colors and patterns than the ebay one, for example the one Rose was wrapped in while in the lifeboat. I read that the shipping companies put there name on them, to discourage theft. Any help is appreciated. Thanks in advance.
 
Dec 29, 2006
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Blankets were traditionally an off-white colour with thin coloured bands at each end - the word was, after all, derived from the French term for "white". The coloured bands served a purpose insofar as blanket material was woven in long lengths of cloth known as "stockfulls", which were subsequently cut into individual blankets.

Red blankets were normally supplied to hospitals (including ships sick bays), while British army blankets were normally grey or brown. I have been trying to find out were the White Star line blankets were made, which might lead to some more satisfactory answers. As a guess, however, I would suggest that, by analogy with Edwardian practice, first and second class blankets would have been off-white, whereas third class blankets could have been brown or grey.
 

Bob Godfrey

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I'd be interested in any documentary proof that blankets in the style of these reproductions were actually used on the Olympic Class ships at that time. The Ebay entry has some supporting artwork of a cabin interior with such blankets in place, but of unstated origin. The more familiar (and often published) image of a 3rd Class cabin on the Olympics shows plain, light-coloured blankets. That image shows one of the after cabins for single women and families. The Ebay image shows one of the mens' cabins at the fore end of the ship. It's possible, I suppose, that WSL felt that the blankets were more likely to go 'walking' from that area!
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Paul Lee

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Aug 11, 2003
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The red/white fringed blankets are "based" on WSL designs. They are for sale through RMS Titanic, Inc.s' roaming exhibitions, and are very nice and warm. I have two!
 

Bob Godfrey

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Yes, I've seen them for sale at the exhibit, and in use in the mock-up of a 3rd Class cabin. But the exhibition shop was selling various reproductions and also non-authentic souvenir items. I think I recall seeing red and white life rings with Titanic printed on them!
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Dec 29, 2006
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I assume that the companies which were involved with the furnishing of the Olympic class vessels were mentioned in contemporary press reports (although I cannot at present find any details). Assuming, for the sake of argument, that well-known firms such as Liberty or Maple & Co of London were involved, their publicity material will provide a useful glimpse of the types of blankets or other soft furnishings that are likely to have been involved. Can anybody provide this information?
 
Dec 29, 2006
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The item shown on Ebay looks more like a bed cover or rug than a blanket. The illustration which accompanies it was presumably provided by the vendor, although it is said to be based on a White Star Line advertisement. If this is indeed the case, what was the source of the advertisement?
 
Dec 29, 2006
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I am working on the history of the Witney blanket industry and have been trying to obtain details of a suggested link between Witney textile firms such as Charles Early & Co and shipping lines such as Cunard and White Star.

In the first half of the 20th century, a typical British bed would have been “made up” with six items of bedding - two sheets, two blankets, an eiderdown and a bed cover or counterpane. Applying these figures to the Olympic class ocean liners (which had a maximum capacity of about 3,500 passengers and crew), each vessel would have carried at least woollen 7,000 blankets and 3,500 bed covers, together with several thousand linen sheets and pillow cases. It follows that the construction of the Olympic and Titanic would have provided welcome business for the British textile industry and, in this context, it is conceivable that at least some of the White Star line’s blankets would have been supplied by mills in Witney, Oxfordshire.

Under the provisions of The Merchandise Act, “Witney” blankets could only be made in Witney, and this ensured that the Witney blanket industry had cornered up to 75 per cent of the quality blanket market by 1912. It is, therefore, highly likely that hotels and prestigious steamship companies such as the White Star Line would have equipped their vessels with Witney blankets. As many Witney blankets were supplied to London department stores on a wholesale basis, any contracts for the supply of blankets of soft furnishings are likely to have been made with top companies such as Maple & Co, and I would therefore be interested to hear if anyone has found details relating to the supply of blankets to the Olympics.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Senior crew members I daresay were provided with bed sheets, but the rank & file had pillows and blankets only. The same was true for traditional steerage. It's possibly that the Olympics were a step up in this respect, but I don't think so. Linen lockers were few and far between in 3rd Class areas.
 
Dec 29, 2006
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Hello Bob,

I have just looked at another site (Titanic-Titanic.Com) and, under a search for "provisions", there is one of those impressive lists that appeared in contemporary newspapers and magazines. It suggests 7,500 blankets, 3,000 counterpanes, 3,600 bed covers, over 800 eiderdown quilts and 18,000 sheets (among numerous other things).

When I responded earlier in this thread I assumed that steerage would have made do with rough blankets, but photographs of the Olympic 3rd class cabins show properly made-up beds with bed covers over sheets and blankets. Everything looks far better than old-style steerage. I think that the red White Star "blanket" on Ebay is in fact a bed cover (blankets do not have tassels!)

There is, I think, scope for much confusion here, insofar as what are sometimes described as "Titanic blankets" are probably rugs for use by passengers sitting out on deck. The lifeboats may also have had a supply of "emergency" blankets(?)
 

Bob Godfrey

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There's a record of the Olympic returning to Soton after one fully-booked voyage and depositing 75,000 individual items with the WSL laundry! That of course would include tablecloths, napkins, towels etc. If the standard provision for the two-way crossing was 18,000 sheets, I'd say that suggests that they didn't carry any for 3rd Class, or perhaps only sufficient for the single women and families in the rather better-furnished cabins at the after end of the ship. Unless the sheets even in 1st Class were not changed at all during each crossing (unlikely). And, with due allowance for mal de mer, they would of course have carried lots of spares.

The only image that comes to mind of a 3rd Class cabin at the time the Titanic was in service does not clearly show whether the beds are covered with just blankets or sheets as well. I've read in travel accounts relating to other WSL liners of that period (sailing from Liverpool) that only pillows and blankets were provided in 3rd Class - but the blankets were said to be impressively large and warm. In the case of the Olympic, certainly full bedding would have been expected in later years.

I don't think blankets were kept in lifeboats as a matter of course, but it's very likely that before they were lowered supplies were dropped in or handed out from the steamer blanket/rug stores on the promenade decks.
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Bob Godfrey

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Just from memory here, Stanley, I'm sure that at least one of the Titanic 'blankets' which have been through the auction rooms had the typical plaid patterning of a steamer (deckchair) rug.
 

Jason D. Tiller

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FWIW, the "Titanic blankets" or bed covers that are being sold on ebay are also referred to as "throws". I own one (not the one that was referred to in Robert's post, but nonetheless). I purchased mine at an artifact exhibition several years ago and that's the term they use for them.
 
Dec 29, 2006
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I saw the reference to "throw blankets" on Ebay and wondered what they were! The deck chair blanket referred to by Bob Godfrey is shown on the Dalbeattie Town Website - it is a green tartan check with the words WHITE STAR LINE displayed within a circular motif. I take it that the reproduction red "blankets" are covers, whereas the green check "blankets" are deck rugs.

Interior photographs of the First Class cabins clearly show eiderdowns on the beds. Is it possible that the red bed covers were used by Second and Third Class passengers? Bob has also raised a point about the crew sleeping in blankets without sheets. This made me wonder about the firemen and trimmers; did they have bath rooms? If not, they must have had some very dark blankets.
 

Bob Godfrey

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As far as I can see, baths were available only for the officers and for crew members like stewards who came into contact with the passengers and needled to be well-groomed. The firemen had to make do with troughs and basins in a communal washroom (or not, as they saw fit!). This was much the same situation as would have been found in working class homes.
 

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