On this day in 1912, the ocean liner RMS Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic ocean and sank, killing over 1,500 passengers and crew in one of the most infamous disasters of the 20th century. The Titanic was the world’s largest ship afloat at the time, billed with great fanfare and bravado as a state-of-the-art and “unsinkable” luxury liner. The story of its improbable and tragic demise has horrified and captivated millions around the globe.
Of the thousands of people on board the Titanic’s maiden voyage were 33 Connecticut-bound men and women, only 15 of whom made it to their final destination alive. The overwhelming majority of the Connecticut-bound casualties — 16 of the 18 who died — were Third-Class or “steerage” passengers. They included immigrants from Ireland, Greece, Sweden, and Lebanon, a diverse group who shared a common dream of starting a new life on their own in America or else meeting family members who had already made the transatlantic journey.
The loss of life from the sinking of the Titanic was magnified by glaring safety oversights, most notably the insufficient number of lifeboats stored on board. (The lifeboats aboard the Titanic could not even carry 40% of the ship’s passengers when the liner was at full capacity.) Relentless international media coverage which focused on every last detail of the Titanic disaster drove calls for reformed safety standards the world over, from laws requiring sufficient lifeboats and vests to renewed efforts to design and build better ships’ hulls. However, for thousands of passengers — including 18 hoping to start a new life in Connecticut — these renewed efforts at passenger safety had come too late. They and their American dreams were lost at sea, today in Connecticut history.
“Titanic in Black and White” Online Exhibit, The Virginia Newspaper Project & the Library of Virginia