At 2:20am on April 15, 1912, the RMS Titanic sank roughly 400 miles south of Newfoundland, Canada after striking an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean. William James Pirrie, an Irish shipbuilder who controlled the largest shipbuilding firm in the world, designed Titanic (and her sister ship Olympic) to be one of the largest, fastest, and most lavish ocean liners ever built. Often dubbed “unsinkable,” Titanic stretched over 883 feet from stern to bow, rose over 175 feet from keel to the top of the funnels in height, and extended over 92 feet in width. Titanic could run roughly 24 to 25 knots at maximum speed and cost $7.5 million dollars to build in 1912. The 16 watertight compartments of her hull allowed Titanic to remain buoyant if any of the first four compartments flooded while the 15 transverse watertight bulkheads allowed Titanic to stay afloat long enough to rescue passengers and crew if any remaining compartments took on water. This innovation in ship buoyancy and her sheer size is why the editor of Shipbuilder Magazine referred to Titanic as “practically unsinkable,”thus spawning the ill-fated nickname.
Among the 1500+ passengers lost in the sinking, Titanic took the lives of some influential and affluent people of the early 20th century:
- John Jacob Astor IV, American millionaire and builder of the Astoria Hotel in New York City.
- Benjamin Guggenheim, American millionaire and heir to the Guggenheim mining business.
- William Thomas Stead, English journalist and pioneer of investigative journalism.
- Isidor and Ida Straus, owners of Macy’s department store.
- Francis Millet, American painter and sculptor
- Charles Hays, president of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada.
- Jacques Futrelle, American mystery writer and journalist.
- Archibald Willingham Butt, aide to President William Howard Taft.
- Thomas Andrews, Irish businessman and overseer/shipbuilder of Titanic’s construction.
However, due to sicknesses, changes in business plans, and simple twists of fate, the list of prominent and wealthy businessmen lost aboard Titanic might have included:
- Milton Snavely Hershey, confectioner and founder of The Hershey Chocolate Company. Due to his wife’s illness, Kitty and Milton sailed home on Amerika a week earlier.
- Theodore Dreiser, journalist and novelist, most known for his novels Sister Carrie and An American Tragedy. Although already booked on the Titanic, Dreiser was persuaded to changing bookings to a less expensive ship. He sailed safely home aboard the Kroonland.
- Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, heir to the Vanderbilt railroad and shipping fortune and sportsman. By cancelling his passage aboard Titanic at the last minute, newspaper reports at first listed Vanderbilt among the missing. Alfred Vanderbilt would later be one of the A-list causalities from the sinking of the Lusitania three years later.
- Henry Clay Frick, a steel tycoon from Pittsburgh and business associate of J.P. Morgan. Frick cancelled passage on Titanic when his wife sprained her ankle and was unable to leave Italy.
- J. P. Morgan, financier, banker, and creator of General Electric and U.S. Steel. Due to his business connections with White Star Line, the owner of Titanic, Morgan had a suite and private deck aboard the ship. He was rumored to sail aboard the ship but remained in Europe at the time.
To learn more about RMS Titanic or to check out other awesome resources, feel free to swing by the library!
Daugherty, Greg. “They Missed the Boat.” Smithsonian. Mar. 2012: 38. Print.
Garrison, Webb. A Treasury of Titanic Tales. Nashville, Tennessee: Rutledge Hill Press, 1998.
Meredith, Lee W. 1912 Facts About Titanic. Mason City, Iowa: Savas Publishing Company, 1999.
“Pirrie (Of Belfast), William James Pirrie, Viscount.” The New Encyclopedia Britannica. 15th edition. 2005. Print.
 One knot is equal to one nautical mile per hour. Therefore, Titanic could travel roughly 24-25 nautical miles per hour.
 Given inflation, $7.5 million in 1912 would equate to roughly $170 million in 2011.