by Jessica Reppert
The Royal Mail Steamer (RMS) Titanic was the pride of the White Star Line, a British steamship firm. Chief Executive of White Star, J. Bruce Ismay, planned the construction of a new “Olympic” class of liners with William J. Pirrie, the chairman of Harland and Wolff, a shipbuilding company in Belfast. Each of the new ships would measure 882 feet long and 92.5 feet at their broadest point—the largest of the time. In Mach of 1909, construction began in the Harland and Wolff shipyard on the second ship, Titanic, continuing nonstop until the spring of 1911. On May 31, 1911, Titanic’s hull—which at the time was the largest movable manmade object in the world—was transported to the River Lagan in Belfast for its launching. The launch went perfectly, after which the hull was taken to “a mammoth fitting-out dock where thousands of workers would spend most of the next year building the ship’s decks, constructing her lavish interiors, and installing the 29 giant boilers that would power her two main steam engines,” (History.com).
RMS Titanic set sail for its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, on April 10, 1912. Due to the Titanic’s status as the world’s most celebrated ship, many of the passengers were “high-ranking officials, wealthy industrialists, dignitaries, and celebrities,” (History.com). J. Bruce Ismay and Thomas Andrews, the ship’s builder from Harland and Wolff, were both on board. The wealthiest passenger of all was John Jacob Astor IV and his 18-year-old wife, Madeleine Talmadge Force, a woman 29 years his junior. Other millionaire passengers included Isidor Straus, the elderly owner of Macy’s, and his wife, Ida; Benjamin Guggenheim, an industrialist, accompanied by his mistress, valet, and chauffeur; Margaret “Molly” Brown, widow and heiress, who would earn her “unsinkable” nickname by “helping to maintain calm and order while the lifeboats were being loaded and boosting the spirits of her fellow survivors,” (History.com).
What largely set the RMS Titanic apart from all other ships of the day were passenger accommodations. “The employees attending to this collection of First Class notables were largely traveling Second Class, along with academics, tourists, journalists, and others who would enjoy a level of service equivalent to First Class on most other ships,” (History.com). The largest group on board, however, was Third Class, with more than 700 passengers, more than the other two levels combined. Titanic was designed to offer the Third Class passengers accommodations “superior to those found in Third Class on any ship up to that time,” (History.com).