Encyclopedia Titanica

William Thomas Stead

William Thomas Stead
William Thomas Stead

Mr William Thomas Stead, 62, of Cambridge House, Wimbledon Park, London SW and 'Holly Bush', Hayling Island, Hampshire was a well known journalist and author.

Stead was born in Manse, Embleton, Northumbria on 5 July 1849, he was the son of Rev. W. Stead a congregational minister and Isabella, daughter of John Jobson a Yorkshire farmer.

Birthplace of WT Stead

In 1850 the family moved to Howden-on-Tyne and until the age of 12 W.T.Stead was educated by his father. In 1861 Stead went to Silcoates School near Wakefield. In 1863 when he was 14 he was apprenticed office boy in a merchants counting house on Quayside in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

In February 1870 he began to contribute articles to the 'Northern Echo', a liberal paper that had been recently founded in Darlington. His work was much admired and in April 1871 he was appointed editor even though he had never been inside a newspaper office, he remained at the post until 1880, a period during which he became renowned for his strong support for Gladstone in the agitation against Turkey over recent Bulgarian atrocities.

In 1873 he married Emma Lucy Wilson daughter of Henry Wilson of Howden-on-Tyne and together they had six children. Stead later listed his interests at cycling, boating and playing with children.

In September 1880 Stead moved to London to be assistant editor of the 'Pall Mall Gazette', a liberal publication under the editorial control of John (later Viscount) Morley. Together they formed a successful partnership until August 1883 when Morley was elected to parliament as MP for Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Stead was thus appointed editor and over the next seven years developed what Matthew Arnold described as 'New Journalism'. From being a relatively quiet chronicle of the day's events the Gazette was transformed into an innovative and daring organ, the initiator and supporter of numerous political and social movements. An example of its influence is that of General Gordon who was on the brink of retirement when, in January 1884 he was interviewed by the Gazette, the publication of the interview was followed shortly after by an editorial from Stead urging the government to send Gordon on one last mission to Khartoum. It was a mission from which Gordon would never return. In 1885 the government was forced to supply an extra £3½m to bolster weakening naval defences, this was in response to Stead's series of articles in the gazette entitled 'The Truth about the Navy.'

Controversy surrounded Stead in 1885 when he published The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon. His text exposed criminal vice and specifically child prostitution. An an almost immediate consequence of his revelations was the ressurection of the dormant Criminal Law Amendment Act which raised the age of consent to sixteen. However, Stead had failed to secure evidence to protect him from prosecution and, as a result of a civil indictment, he was jailed for three months. Widely vilified by the British press and public as a peddler in pornography, Stead received much support from influential reformers including Cardinal Manning, the Bishop of London (Dr Temple), and Lord Shaftsbury. Read more in pages of the "War Cry" from the Salvation Army.

Gradually Stead tired of daily journalism and in 1890 he left the Gazette to found the 'Review of Reviews' followed in 1891 by the 'American Review of Reviews' and in 1892 by the 'Australian Review of Reviews' the 'Masterpiece Library of Penny Poets, Novels and Prose classics' was founded in 1895.

Around this time Stead became interested in spiritualism and between 1893 and 1897 he edited 'Borderland' a periodical devoted to the subject. Although his fascination with the subject continued until he death Stead's reputation diminished a decline that was to some extent compounded by his increasing pacifism at a time when the government was rallying support for the war in South Africa. Despite this he continued to campaign for a strong navy under the banner 'two keels to one.'

In 1898 Stead had visited the Tsar of Russia and this visit spurred him to found and edit the 'War against War' which was a weekly paper. At this time he also preached what he termed a 'Peace Crusade'. After the Hague conference, which he attended, he strongly opposed the war in the Transvaal and wrote 'Shall I Slay my Brother the Boer' and also published the weekly organ of the Stop the War Committee, 'War against War in South Africa'. In 1900 Stead supported the formation of a Union International to combat Militarism and to secure the adoption of the recommendations of the Hague Conference. At the same time he maintained his interest in publishing and began a series of portfolios of pictorial masterpieces.

Until his death Stead continued to preach 'peace through arbitration' and when he boarded the Titanic in Southampton he was travelling to America to take part in a peace congress at Carnegie Hall on 21 April at the request of the president William Howard Taft.

W. T. Stead posing for "Biofix" photography days before boarding the Titanic
(click image to view animation)

Stead occupied cabin C-87 (? C-89) but while the ship sank he sat quietly reading a book in the First Class Smoking Room.

Curiously, on 22 March 1886 Stead had published an article entitled 'How the Mail Steamer Went Down in Mid-Atlantic, by a Survivor'. In the story an unnamed steamer collides with another ship and due to a shortage of lifeboats there is a large loss of life. Stead wrote 'This is exactly what might take place and will take place if liners are sent to sea short of boats. - Ed'.

An 1892 edition of the 'Review of Reviews' carried the fictional story of an accident involving a White Star Line vessel. In the story - entitled 'From the Old World to the New' - the Majestic carries a clairvoyant who senses a disaster to another ship that has collided with an iceberg. The survivors are rescued and the Majestic manages to avoid the ice.

References and Sources

Daily Sketch, 16, 23 & 24 April 1912
Who Was Who

Newspaper Articles

New York Times (6 May 1907) STEAD'S FAREWELL TALK
New York Times (16 April 1912) Profile of W T Stead
English Editor and Author of "If Christ Came to Chicago."
Washington Times (16 April 1912) William T. Stead Known as Famous Newspaper Man
Daily Sketch (16 April 1912) William Thomas Stead: The Biofix Pictures
Animation of Stead
Le Matin (17 April 1912) Missing: Astor and Stead
From Le Matin, 17 April 1912
Chicago Tribune (17 April 1912) STEAD'S CLAIRVOYANT MISSED
Worcester Telegram (20 April 1912) Stead and Astor Cling to Raft
News of the World (21 April 1912) Lost in the Titanic
Hays, Head, Stead, Straus, Guggenheim
New York Times (21 April 1912) PEACE MEN MOURN THEIR LOSS
White Plains Daily Argus (24 April 1912) Talked With Stead's Spirit, Woman Says
The Nation (25 April 1912) Stead and Futrelle
Le Patriote Républicain de la Savoie (28 April 1912) A Great British Journalist
Chicago Examiner (29 April 1912) Message from Stead recited by medium
Le Soir (5 May 1912) William Thomas Stead in 1909
The Daily Banner (14 May 1912) Victim Sends A Message From Spirit World
Death was painless and perfectly calm
New York Times (7 June 1912) HONORS W. T. STEAD
The Times (1 August 1913) Laurels on Stead's ocean grave
Chicago Examiner (7 December 1913) MORE SPIRIT NOTES BY STEAD REVEALED
Chicago Examiner (16 December 1913) STEAD'S SPIRIT PICKS WRONG LADY GORDON
Message From Other World Upon Titanic Disaster Goes Astray at London Seance


From 'Sinking of the Titanic'
From 'Sinking of the Titanic'
From Sciences et Voyages # 5, 1919
Indianapolis News (1912) William Stead
Titanic victims in a German weekly
From the French dictionary Larousse Mensuel, July 1912


William Thomas Stead, journalist, editor, spiritualist and pacifist.
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    Related to First Class passenger William T. Stead. ROBERT E. STEAD KEARNY, NEW JERSEY

  2. Richard Stead

    Richard Stead

    Philip Many thanks for refering me to this site. Have visited before but not signed visitors book. Will do a full visit at cheaper phone time. Keep up the good work Richard (Great grandson of WT Stead Richard Stead Cornwall UK

  3. Tara


    Stories were wrote before the sinking of the Titanic that almost foreshawdowed the events to come! In a short story published in 1892, journalist W. T. Stead had offered a fictious account that previewed the disaster. Ironically, Stead was among the passengers who lost their lives that night of April 14, 1912. Still another warning, uncanny in detail, surface. Fourteen years earlier, in 1898, a remarkable coincidence began. Morgan Robertson, a young author, wrote a book entitled Futility, a fictionalized account of a furturistic steam liner that met diaster on it's maiden voyage. Amazingly... Read full post

  4. John M. Grove

    John M. Grove

    Family lore has told me that William T. Stead a Titanic victim was a cousin to my great grandfather John Alfred Cliff. I am interested in contacting Stead's descendants if they can be found. Anyone reading this who may be able to connect me to his descendants please pass on my email address [email protected] This site is an example of the WWW at its best. JMG John M. Grove Norwood, MA USA

  5. Ryan Stead

    Ryan Stead

    Thank you for doing this web site. Ever since I was six years old I have been fasinated with the Titanic. That was because my father told me that my great great grandfather was on the mother of all ships. His name was William T. Stead, and until now I never really knew much about him. I was suprised to see how much info. there was about him. Again THANK YOU! For now on I will be surfin to this web site and telling everyone about it . Ryan Stead California

  6. Shirley L. Stead

    Shirley L. Stead

    I have seen the new movie 'Titanic' twice, and have been interested in the story since my marriage to one of the great, great grandsons of William T. Stead, who was a passenger on the Titanic. My children have a special interest, as can be imagined. Your site has more information on Mr. Stead than I have found elsewhere. I thank you for my children. Knowing more about their history helps them to understand more about themselves and who they are. Shirley L. Stead San Jose, CA

  7. Jim Leary

    Jim Leary

    I'm interested in reading a copy of William Thomas Stead's article titled ``How the Mail Steamer Went Down in Mid-Atlantic, by a Survivor,'' in which a steamer collides with another ship and due to a shortage of lifeboats many people die. Stead wrote ``This is exactly what might take place and will take place if liners are sent to sea short of boats.'' And, ironically enough, it did happen to the very liner he was travelling on... Thank you. Jim Leary New Zealand

  8. SZ


    This site is incredible! I've been reading and researching the Titanic disaster for quite some time and find this to be the most useful web site available. Can anyone tell me where the article 'How the Mail Steamer went Down in the Mid Atlantic' by William Stead can be found? I would love to read it! Keep up the great research! SZ Southern California

  9. Stead, Paula

    Stead, Paula

    What a great web site! There was a William Stead aboard the Titanic, who was a writer. Does he have any children or grandchildren or relatives living in the U.S.? Could we be related? Was there also a Robert Stead aboard the Titanic? Stead, Paula Cincinnat, Ohio




  11. Damon M. Lord

    Damon M. Lord

    I recently visited the site looking for information on an Esperantist (I speak Esperanto) who died on the Titanic. I was misinformed and thought that he was an editor of The Times, but I did not have his name. However, I have recently discovered through a passing reference in the book 'Zamenhof: Creator of Esperanto' by Marjorie Boulton (GBP4 from Esperanto Centre http://www.esperanto.demon.co.uk) that the Esperantist is in fact the eminent William Thomas Stead, who although a journalist, was not the editor of the Times. If you could add the little piece of info about his ability to speak... Read full post

  12. Tanya Stead

    Tanya Stead

    I've been searching for info on W.T. Stead for years and your site was alot of help. Keep up the great work, I've never seen a Titanic site with as much info as yours. Tanya Stead Ontario, Canada

  13. Andrew Rogers

    Andrew Rogers

    Have been having a bit of a read of George Behe's book and I was wondering if Mr Stead ever did take out accident insurance. In about 1907 hesaid his death had been fortold, he would be kicked to death by a mob in the streets of London! (I bet that fortune teller went broke). He then said he would have no need of accident insurance. After a few more of his para-normal comings and goings he was told he would die in water. So did he ever change his mind and take out some accidental death cover. Andrew

  14. George Behe

    Hi, Andrew! I wish I could tell you. :-) All my best, George

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Titanic Passenger Summary

Name: Mr William Thomas Stead
Age: 62 years 9 months and 10 days (Male)
Nationality: English
Marital Status: Married to Emma Lucy Wilson
Last Residence: in London, England
Occupation: Journalist
Embarked: Southampton on Wednesday 10th April 1912
Ticket No. 113514, £26 11s
Cabin No. C87 ?
Died in the Titanic disaster (15th April 1912)
Body Not Identified

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