April 14: The Fate of the Connecticut-Bound Passengers Aboard the Titanic

 

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 newest and largest ship, billed with great fanfare and bravado as a state-of-the-art and “unsinkable” luxury liner. The story of its 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 destinations of Waterbury, New London, New Haven, Stamford, Hartford, Greenwich, New Britain, Windsor Locks, Stratford, Meriden and Middletown alive. All six First Class passengers – a noted architect, a stockbroker, and the wife, daughter and governess of a wealthy industrialist –– survived, though one was dogged with charges of cowardice for the remainder of his life. William Thompson Sloper, a 28-year-old stockbroker and the son of a New Britain bank president was accused by a newspaper reported to whom he refused to give an interview of disguising himself as a woman to secure his seat in the first lifeboat to leave the ship.  The charge was untrue, but the smear to Sloper’s reputation stuck with him.

Of the five Connecticut-bound passengers with Second Class accommodations, the three women survived but two men perished. The overwhelming majority of the Connecticut-bound fatalities – 16 of the 18 – 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, either on their own or by joining family members who had already made the transatlantic journey.

The loss of life from the sinking of the “unsinkable” Titanic was magnified by glaring safety oversights. Most notably, investigators found, the ship carried an insufficient number of lifeboats. (The lifeboats the Titanic did have could not hold even 40 percent of the ship’s passengers.) Relentless international media coverage of the inquiry into the disaster focused on every last detail of the safety failures. As a result, the Titanic catastrophe drove calls for reformed maritime safety standards the world over. New laws required sufficient lifeboats, vests and other safety measures, and there were renewed efforts to design and build better ships’ hulls. But for 1500 Titanic passengers and crew members –– including 18 of those hoping to start a new life in Connecticut — such efforts came too late. They and their American dreams were lost at sea, today in Connecticut history.

Hartford Courant newspaper coverage of the Titanic disaster, published April 16, 1912.

Further Reading

Philip R. Devlin, “Titanic, 100 Years Later: A Profile of the Connecticut Bound Passengers,” Patch

Philip R. Devlin, “Titanic, One Hundred Years Later: Survivor From New Britain Suffered the Rest of His Life,” Patch

Encyclopedia Titanica Online

Titanic in Black and White” Online Exhibit, The Virginia Newspaper Project & the Library of Virginia