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Newspapers in education: Titanic, past and present, week four

This article has been specially written for thousands of pupils from across Northern Ireland who are doing the Belfast Telegraph cross-curricular project on the Titanic (PA)
This article has been specially written for thousands of pupils from across Northern Ireland who are doing the Belfast Telegraph cross-curricular project on the Titanic (PA)

This article has been specially written for thousands of pupils from across Northern Ireland who are doing the Belfast Telegraph cross-curricular project on the Titanic.

Ship reflected society's class divide

In 1912 when the Titanic set sail for America, class played a major part in society.

It was the same on the most iconic ship of all, with passengers split into first class, second class and third class.

Those travelling in first class were the richest on board while some of the third class passengers thought they were leaving poverty behind for an exciting new life.

There were big differences in facilities and food for those travelling in the various sections.

For those in first class, public rooms included a reception room, reading and writing room and smoking room. There was also a gym and squash court as well as Turkish baths.

Everything in first class was the height of luxury, from the 114 foot dining room to the Grand staircase, which was around 60 feet in size from the lower landing to the glass skyline above.

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The accommodation was also of the highest order, with 39 private suites which included private toilet facilities.

Some members of the British aristocracy and extremely wealthy people were on the Titanic in the first class compartments. They included multi-millionaire Colonel John Jacob Astor IV, one of the richest men in the world.

Travelling as a second class passenger was not considered a hardship either, as both the facilities and accommodation were very good.

The third class passengers travelled in much less luxurious surroundings, though it is noted that the Titanic had better third class facilities than other ships.

For third class passengers on board, who included British, Irish and Scandinavian immigrants and passengers from Central and Eastern Europe, their accommodation was comprised mainly of two to six berth rooms.

On the first class lunch menu passengers could enjoy roast beef, grilled mutton chops and Chicken a la Maryland.

Those in second class were offered baked haddock, spring lamb in mint sauce and roast turkey in cranberry sauce while dishes for the passengers in third class included rice soup and boiled potatoes.

As you would expect, the cost of tickets to sail on the Titanic were different depending on whether you were a first, second or third class passenger.

For a first class parlour suite in 1912, the cost was £870. Today it would be just over £93,600.

For a first class berth, a one way ticket was £30, a second class berth was £12 and third class berths ranged from £3 to £8.

When the Titanic hit the iceberg and started to sink, a larger percentage of third class passengers died in comparison to those travelling in first and second class.

Each week we will write about various people with a connection to the Titanic. Today we feature  Joseph Bruce Ismay

Joseph Bruce Ismay served as chairman and managing director of the shipping company White Star Line, which financed the building of the Titanic.

He was born on December 12, 1862, in Lancashire and was the eldest son of Margaret Bruce and Thomas Henry Ismay, who was the senior partner in Ismay, Imrie and Company and founder of the White Star Line.

After gaining his education at Elstree School and Harrow, Joseph Bruce Ismay started an apprenticeship at his dad's office before touring the world and working for the company in New York.

In 1891 he came home to the United Kingdom and when his dad died in 1899, he took over the family business, which flourished under his guidance. He liked the idea of building the biggest and best ocean liners in the world.

In 1907 Ismay met Lord Pirrie from Harland & Wolff and it was decided they would build three great ships, one of which would be the Titanic. It is said that Ismay authorised a reduced number of lifeboats for the ship.

Ismay was on board the Titanic for its only voyage. After the ship struck an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean, he was one of those who was saved by boarding a lifeboat.

After the disaster Ismay was heavily criticised by American and British newspapers for leaving the ship while women and children were on board, though the official British inquiry into the tragedy found that he had helped women and children.

In the United States Inquiry, Ismay said that in the future all vessels to do with his company would have enough lifeboats for all passengers.

Ismay had married Julia Florence Schieffelin in 1888. They had five children. After the Titanic disaster he kept a low profile and died on October 17, 1937.

Recently, descendants of Ismay have defended him, insisting that he was treated badly after the disaster, especially by the American press.

Belfast Telegraph


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