Today in 1912, the ocean liner RMS Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic ocean and sank, killing over 1,500 passengers and crew. It was one of the most infamous disasters of the 20th century. The Titanic was the world’s largest ship, 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.
Among the thousands who met their fate 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. They were coming to Connecticut to start a new life on their own, or else coming here to join 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 notable was that the ship carried an insufficient number of lifeboats. (The lifeboats the Titanic did have could not even carry 40 percent of the ship’s passengers.) Relentless international media coverage focused on every last detail of the safety failures. As a result, the Titanic disaster drove calls for reformed maritime safety standards the world over. This led to new laws requiring sufficient lifeboats, vests and other safety measures, as well as renewed efforts to design and build better ships’ hulls. But for 1500 passengers and crew members aboard the Titanic — including 18 of those hoping to start a new life in Connecticut — these renewed efforts at passenger safety would 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