After 1,492 people died when the Titanic sank, this is how big city newspapers first reported the tragedy

Titanic - Oil painting

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Thousands in dire peril on the Atlantic

The San Francisco Call (San Francisco, California) April 15, 1912

Largest vessel afloat reported sinking head down; women put off in boats

Wireless call for help responded to by several ships, including Olympic

Cape Race, Newfoundland; April 15 [1912] –– At 10:25 o’clock last night, the White Star steamship Titanic called “C Q D” and reported having struck an iceberg. The steamer said that immediate assistance was required.

Half an hour afterward, another message came, reporting that they were sinking by the head and that women were being put off in the lifeboats.

The weather was calm and clear, the Titanic’s wireless operator reported. He gave the position of the vessel 40:46 north latitude and 50:14 west longitude.

Crowds awaiting Titanic survivors - 1912

The Marconi station at Cape Race notified the Allen liner Virginian, the captain of which immediately advised that he was proceeding for the scene of the disaster.

The Virginian at midnight was about 170 miles distant from the Titanic and is expected to reach that vessel by 10 am Monday.

The Olympic at an early hour Monday morning was in latitude 40:43 north and longitude 61:18 west. It was in direct communication with the Titanic, and now is making all haste toward the endangered liner.

The steamship Baltic also reported itself as about 200 miles east of the Titanic and was making all possible speed toward the other.

The last signals from the Titanic were heard by the Virginian. At 12:27 am, the wireless operator on the Virginian says these signals were blurred and ended abruptly.

MORE: 1,492 go down to their death in loss of the Titanic (1912)

Largest vessel afloat

The Titanic, the largest vessel afloat, left Southampton April 10 on its maiden voyage for New York. It is a vessel of 46,338 tons, is 382 feet 6 inches long and displaces 60,000 tons. The Titanic carried about 1,300 passengers, of whom 350 were in the first cabin.

Among these are D Millet, the artist and president of the Consolidated American Academy at Rome; Major Archibald Butt, military aide to President Taft; C M Hays, president of the Grand Trunk railway; J Bruce Ismay, chairman and managing director of the White Star line; Henry B Harris, the American theatrical manager; W T Stead, Mrs Isidor Strauss, Mr and Mrs John Jacob-Astor, Mr and Mrs C D Widener, Benjamin Guggenheim and Mr and Mrs Harry Widener. Captain E J Smith is in command of the Titanic.

The Sinking of the Titanic - Antique book cover

Whole trip eventful

The last communication with the Titanic was a wireless message received by the Marconi station at Cape Race, reporting it 1,284 miles east of Sandy Hook at 2:15 o’clock Sunday morning.

On leaving Southampton last Wednesday, the Titanic had a rather exciting moment. While passing the White Star liner Oceanic and the American liner New York, which were berthed alongside one another, the suction of the Titanic’s triple screws dragged the New York from its moorings. Its stern swung into mid-stream and narrowly escaped striking the Titanic.

Can accommodate 3,500

The Titanic is a luxuriously fitted vessel, and its accommodations for cabin passengers are elegant. It has accommodations for 3,500 persons and carries a crew of 860.

That icebergs are prevalent in the Atlantic just now was made known today when it was learned that the Cunard liner Carmania and the French liner Niagara had adventures with them last week. The Niagara had several plates stove off Grand Banks last Thursday, and the Carmania had an exciting day threading its way through floes.

MORE: Titanic: Newspaper front pages with the first stories of the disaster on April 15, 1912


1,492 go down to their death in loss of “world’s greatest liner” (1912)

From The Day Book (Chicago, Ill.) April 16, 1912

Women and children saved; men stay to die; pitiful scenes as news is awaited; world’s most noted names among “missing”

New York, April 16. – It is now practically certain that 1,492 human beings went to their death in the loss of the giant Titanic on the ice banks of Newfoundland.

The last hope that any but the 866 passengers picked up by the Cunarder Carpathia, now bound for this city, had been rescued, went glimmering at noon today.

Up to that time, relatives and officials of the White Star line had clung desperately to the hope that the Virginian or the Parisian had picked up survivors. 

This hope was revived and strengthened at 11 o’clock when an unsigned wireless message was picked up on the coast, which declared that the Virginian had rescued 400 passengers. But at noon came the first authoritative message from Captain Gambell, commander of the Virginian. “There was none left to rescue, and I proceeded on my voyage,” it read.

Newsboy selling the Evening News newspaper after the loss of the Titanic - 1912

MORE: Liner Titanic strikes iceberg, sinking head down

Five minutes after this message was received by the stunned people, Montreal wired that the Parisian had been reached by wireless from there, and that there was not a single survivor aboard that vessel.

That means that the 866 aboard the Carpathia are all that are left of the 2,538 who sailed from Southampton six days ago. And the 866 are mostly women and children, who, in accordance with that unwritten law of the sea which says that the women and children shall be given the first chance of life, were the first put over the side of the sinking Titanic.

Saved, but will they recover?

There is some doubt here as to how many of the women saved will ever recover from their experience. They were wakened from their sleep by the crash of the collision. They were put over the side in the lifeboats, clad only in flimsy nightclothes.

For six weary hours, their cockshells of boats were tossed about the cruel ice field that had sent the Titanic to the bottom of the sea. They saw the lights of the floating hotel, on board which were the men they loved, dip into the sea, and glimmer, and disappear. They were picked up at dawn, hysterical, and suffering terribly from the exposure in the bitter cold and rain.

How many of them ever will recover their health? How many of them will keep their sanity?

And all might have been saved.

Had there been a sufficient number of lifeboats and life rafts aboard the Titanic it is generally conceded that not a life would have been lost. But the newest, the most luxurious, the greatest of Trans-Atlantic ships, carried only twenty large, modern lifeboats, and they were loaded to the gunwales with the women and the children.

Most of the men are missing. Colonel John Jacob Astor; Major Archie Butt, President Taft’s aide de camp; Benjamin Guggenheim; Jacques Futrelle; William T Stead; F D Millet; Henry B Harrisall, world-famous personages, who took passage on the gala day when the greatest steamer in the world left her home port, are missing from the wireless list of the survivors aboard the Carpathia.

The inference is that they stayed by the ship and went to the bottom with her, a sacrifice to the custom which fails to compel enough lifeboats and rafts or ocean steamers to take off everyone on board.

Titanic news from the New York American newspaper - 1,492 go down to their death in loss of the Titanic (1912)

Loss of the Titanic: Survivors will arrive soon

The Carpathia with the survivors will reach here late Thursday or early Friday. Under orders from Washington, the Collector of Customs office this afternoon announced that all regulations would be suspended when it arrived.

The survivors of the Titanic have no baggage, and the treasury department determined to permit their immediate reunion with relatives and friends without the formality even of customs examination.

One scant hope still is clung to. The Titanic drifted 34 miles after the collision before it struck. It is just possible that one or two lifeboats, which were lowered first, might have drifted away and not been reached by the Carpathia. For this reason, the sister ship of the Titanic, the Olympic, is cruising about the Newfoundland banks, searching every inch of the ocean.

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How I was saved from the Titanic: A Titanic survivor's story (1912)

But this is only a straw, to which the relatives of those “missing” are clinging desperately. And against, it are the weather reports from the stations along the Nova Scotia coast.

There was a heavy thunderstorm which traveled eastward over the scene of the wreck last night. Wind followed the thunderstorm. Even the modern life boats of the Titanic could hardly live longer than ten or twelve hours in the sea that now is running, especially with the added danger of the ice fields.

The scenes at the offices of the White Star line today were piteous. Millionaires and wives of millionaires, workmen and wives of workmen begged and pleaded with the officials to “do something.” But to all the one reply was made:

“We have done all we can. Money can do no more.”

One to whom this reply was made was Mrs Benjamin Guggenheim, wife of the smelter king, who is among the “missing.” She told Vice President Franklin of the White Star that she was ready to spend any amount into the millions to charter steamers to go to the rescue.

Franklin gently told her that it was too late to charter steamers now. “There is nothing left to do now,” he said, “but hope.”

Herbert Straus, who called on Vice President Franklin to learn the latest news as to the fate of Isidor Straus, one of New York’s merchant princes, was given as little encouragement.

The loss of the Titanic aftermath - sinking ship in 1912

Loss of the Titanic: The crowds jammed the offices

The crowd of men and women that jammed the White Star offices and blockaded the traffic on lower Broadway became half hysterical several times. The police reserves were hard put to it to manage them.

The commissioner of police gave orders that the grief-stricken multitude of people were to be handled very gently. Only when it was found out that some person was adding to the trouble of the day through morbid curiosity was he hustled out of the way by the police.

The White Star company added to its force of clerks. With every new wireless dispatch that was received the list of survivors was revised. When any person asked for, was known to have been saved, the glad news was given quickly. When there was no record, this information was broken as gently as possible.

A typical case was that of City Magistrate Robert C Cornell, whose wife and two sisters, Mrs J Murray Brown, of Boston, and Mrs F D Appleton, of Bay Shore, LI, were passengers.

The wireless told of the saving of Mrs Brown and Mrs Appleton, but contained no word of the fate of Mrs Appleton. When Magistrate Cornell realized that his wife probably was dead, he collapsed in a heap, and had to be carried into the private office.

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Titanic witness says wireless hero died right after the ship sank, and officers to blame for the disaster (1912)

The attitude of the officials of the White Star Company was bitterly resented by the public. It was accepted as a fact that the company had held back information that was coming into the offices of the big wireless company was being given only to the White Star, and was being guarded against leaks.

Vice President Franklin insisted he was making public all the information he could. He was the buffer between the directors of the company and the public. The directors were in constant executive session from 11 last night, and Franklin gave out only such information as they wished, while they could not be seen.

Mrs Butts, of Newark, NJ, forced her way into the offices of the company to ask information, regarding the safety of Mr and Mrs C E Stengel, of Newark. She was told they were safe. “Thank God! Thank God!” she cried, and fell on her knees, in hysterics.

Vincent Astor, only son of Colonel John Jacob Astor, was one of the first to be admitted to the private office of Vice President Franklin. He was accompanied by A J Biddle, representative of the Astor estate. Young Astor was worried, but hopeful when he went into the office. When he came out, he was weeping bitterly, and had to be helped into his automobile.

RMS Titanic facts - Ship illustration
Image created by homeworks255/Deposit Photos
Loss of the Titanic: White Star officers stupified

The officers of the line were stupified by the tragedy. Franklin went about like a man in a daze. Only once did he flash and flare up. That was when he was told that it was reported and generally believed that the company had held back information and muzzled the wireless so reinsurance could be secured.

“That is an absolute lie, and those who said it knew they lied,” he cried. “We did not admit the Titanic was sunk until we were absolutely certain it was a fact. But that was because we did not wish to needlessly alarm the country.”

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Inside the Titanic: When the largest ship sank in 1912, here's what the luxury-first interior looked like

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