A lot (an amazing amount!) of food.
And other forms of alcohol.
And beautifully dressed women and handsome men.
But you WON’T find plot. Your character sheet contains some character background and only goals of the “make conversation” variety. You won’t need to try to steal the Countess’s jewels, or raid the Purser’s safe, or poison an enemy or deal with a blackmailer. You will inquire about trips to Egypt or the health of a family member or plays to see in New York or share stories of previous social events.
Depending on how well-known your character was, your character sheet may include a lot of character history, or not much at all. If there is a lot, please don’t be intimidated. Don’t think we expect you to memorize it. [We included it because there’s so much fascinating material out there. We found it interesting, and we thought you might too.] Feel free to make up shared reminiscences with other characters and add details or interests as they will enhance your own and others’ enjoyment. We do ask that you refrain from departing wildly from the basics of your character. If you claim to be a time traveling space nazi or the like, Dig or Gail is likely to pull you aside for a little “re-direction.”
What we’re trying to accomplish in this event is to create a “shared reality” of these people at this moment; we are not striving for historical verisimilitude. And for everyone to enjoy themselves with a good meal and good company, as the First Class passengers did at dinner on April 14th, 1912.
Free for Nook–such a deal! The Truth About Chickamauga
Written after Titanic’s maiden voyage, obviously (Only $.99 for Nook) The Truth About the Titanic
Author of a series of mystery novels that had earned him the nickname “the American Conan Doyle.” His popular “Thinking Machine” stories featured the brilliant amateur sleuth S. F. X. Van Dusen, first serialized in Hearst’s Boston American, where Futrelle was a staff writer. The public’s enthusiasm for the character allowed him to quit journalism and concentrate on writing mystery novels.
Full text of many of his stories at: www.futrelle.com
May is always referred to as “also a writer” in materials on the Titanic, but it took me a while to track down exactly what she had written. It was through IMDB, oddly enough, where I found a reference to a 1911 novel, The Secretary of Frivolous Affairs. It became a 1915 silent movie, and she was credited her as a writer. How I wish I could find it! [The following link purports to let you watch it online, but then tries to show you some other film: http://www.1channel.ch/watch-33447-the-secretary-of-frivolous-affairs
The only novel of hers I can find online is one based on a story of his: Lieutenant What’s-his-name: Elaborated from Jacques Futrelle’s The Simple Case of Susan. Also free for Nook!
John Jacob Astor IV wrote a Jules Verne-ish novel, published in 1894, called A Journey in Other Worlds. Who would have guessed?
Mrs. Helen Churchill Candee was an ardent feminist, and her first book published in 1900 was How Women May Earn a Living, which can be downloaded at google books or archive.org. The New York Times reviewed it.
Her second book, An Oklahoma Romance, (1901) had to do with settlement in the Oklahoma Territory.
In 1906, Decorative Styles and Periods was released; here are comments by an artist.
She was in Europe in early 1912 to finish her research on The Tapestry Book, to be published that fall.
A previous blog entry included an excerpt from Emily Post regarding the difficulties ladies dining can experience with gloves, fan, and napkins.
This was apparently a well-known enough quandary that Charles Dana Gibson (the creator of the “Gibson Girl” archetype) illustrated it.
So there was this James Cameron movie released in 1997 (85 years after the Big Boat Went Down, as Dig says). You know–starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio? With the song that was so ubiquitous that if you hate Celine Dion, it’s probably the direct cause? And which then hauled home a raft of Oscars?
[That Maggie went to see in the theatre four times? All, I believe, in the huge Woodfield Cinemas, now a parking lot.]
You may have heard that it’s being re-released to theatres this year, with retrofitted 3D, because of some significant milestone or other.
Dana Stevens (film critic for Slate) didn’t watch it during its original release, eschewing it for its huge box office and Oscar haul as indications of “the triumph of mediocrity”, but she now recognizes it for its “triumph of popular art.”
Ebert gives it 4 stars again (despite his view that 3D is a net negative).
At the TED conference in February 2010, James Cameron stated: “Secretly, what I wanted to do was I wanted to dive to the real wreck of ‘Titanic’. And that’s why I made the movie”.
We watched it last weekend, and if you’re a Titanic buff, it is amazing how very many accurate details it includes. Many of them that very few people (like, say, people who are watching it as part of a project requiring research on various minute points) would recognize. Stuff like including tiny speaking parts portraying Guggenheim and his mistress Mme. Aubart, the Duff Gordons, the Countess of Rothes, and the Strausses, and the amazing authenticity of the layout and fittings of the ship.
Except of course for the obligatory portrayal of Mrs. J. J. Brown as a crass hick, starting with her name.
But that’s a subject for another post. . .
Captain Edward J. Smith: (62)The commodore of the White Star fleet, commanding the world’s largest and most luxurious ship on her maiden voyage. Known as the “millionaires’ captain”, many of the social elites plan their Atlantic crossings based on his schedule.
George Dunton Widener: (50) A member of New York’s elite Four Hundred (although not “old money” enough for Philadelphia Society), Widener is heir to one of the greatest fortunes in America. As he has taken control of his father’s street railway empire, he has become known as a man whose familial kindness is balanced with ruthless business instincts.
Eleanor Elkins Widener: (50) Nellie (as she is known to her friends) is the daughter of William Elkins–long-time business partner to Peter Widener, her husband’s father. Full of good humor and energy, she has a reputation as a gracious hostess with a subtle wit.
William Ernest Carter: (36) Son of a Philadelphia industrialist, Billy divides his time between Europe and America. An avid polo player, it’s rumored that his ponies are on board.
Lucille Polk Carter: (36) Known for her vivacity and style, Mrs. Carter is not afraid to shock her peers with the “most bizarre modes of the moment.” She was the first woman in Philadelphia to wear a harem skirt, and created a sensation at Newport when she appeared at a costume ball in the guise of a fairy, with filmy costume and gauzy wings. It is only to be expected that tonight she will be wearing one of her many purchases in Paris.
Henry Burkhardt Harris: (45) Harris is one of the most successful American theatrical producers, even owning a popular Broadway theatre. He is returning to New York with a British play which he hopes will be a hit in the States.
René Harris: (35) A woman of tremendous spunk, just an hour ago she slipped on the grand staircase and broke her arm. But she had it set and, despite her discomfort, is appearing at dinner anyway–in a sleeveless gown.
Dorothy Gibson: (22) A proper young woman traveling with her mother, some passengers may have recognized her from Eclair Motion Pictures publicity.
Mrs. Pauline Gibson: She and her daughter are returning from a lovely vacation together, touring England, the Continent, and Egypt.
Lucy Noël Martha, Countess of Rothes: (33) Traveling to New York to join her husband, the Earl of Rothes on a trip to Vancouver, since her marriage in 1900 she has been the chatelaine of Leslie House, an ancient Scottish seat on a ten-thousand acre estate near Fife, Scotland.
Colonel Archibald Gracie IV: (53) Gregarious, well-bred and of military bearing, Colonel Gracie is returning from a tour of Europe following the completion of his Civil War history, The Truth About Chickamauga.
Mrs. Helen Churchill Candee: (52) A woman of a certain age but no uncertain charm, she is known as a woman of good breeding and impeccable social standing. She has two books to her credit, including a volume called How Women May Earn a Living.
Colonel John Jacob Astor IV: The richest man on board, as well as one of the leaders of New York Society, Mark Twain describes Astor as “the world’s greatest monument to unearned increment.”
Mrs. Madeleine Talmage Force Astor: Barely nineteen and visibly pregnant after a winter in Egypt and on the Continent, Madeleine is Astor’s young second wife.
Mr. Benjamin Guggenheim: (46) Having resigned from his family’s business in 1901 to live on his investment income, Ben has been able to concentrate on his own interests: travel, art collecting, and philandering.
Mme. Léontine Pauline Aubart: (24) Although listed in the passenger list as “Mrs. N. Aubert”, some have recognized her as a caberet singer known as Ninette, said to have attracted the eye of Benjamin Guggenheim.
Jacques Futrelle: (37) Journalist and author, his brilliantly analytical sleuth, Professor S.F.X. Van Dusen, is known as “the American Sherlock Holmes.” Due to the success of his stories, Futrelle is a household name and can well afford to travel in style.
Mrs. Lily May Futrelle: (35) Jacques’ wife and an author herself, May has been immensely enjoying her voyage on the Titanic–the luxurious accommodations, lavish meals, and the opportunity to show off the latest fashions she acquired in Paris.
Mrs. Emma Eliza Bucknell: Widow of the benefactor of Bucknell University in Philadelphia, Mrs. Bucknell frequents the same social circles—whether in Philadelphia, New York, Paris or Rome—that many of the other American First Class passengers do. At Cherbourg on board the tender Nomadic, waiting to transfer to the Titanic, she was pleasantly surprised to find her long-time friend, Mrs. Margaret Brown.
Mrs. Margaret Tobin Brown: (44) Wife of a western mining magnate, Margaret is returning from a tour of Europe and Egypt. She has a practical outlook on life and doesn’t hesitate to speak her mind.
Lucile Christiana, Lady Duff-Gordon: (48)The first British designer to achieve international renown, “Lucy” was a widely-acknowledged innovator in couture styles: liberating slit skirts and low necklines, less restrictive corsets, and alluring, pared-down lingerie. Last year, she opened a branch of her London house, Lucile Ltd, in Paris and is travelling to finalize arrangements for a new and larger location for the New York house, opened in 1910.
Sir Cosmo Edmund, Lord Duff-Gordon: (49) Originally merely an investor in Lucy’s fledgling fashion business, this reserved Scottish baronet was drawn to her energy and competence. They married in May 1900. They booked their crossing under the name of “Morgan” in the hopes of having a quiet journey.
Mr. Thomas Andrews, Jr.: (39) A managing director (and universally popular) at Harland and Wolff, shipbuilders for the White Star Line, Andrews’s custom is to travel on maiden voyages to observe a new liner in service and recommend improvements. He seems to know every detail of every deck.
Mr. William T. Stead: At sixty-two, Stead has lost some of the fire that made him one of the most powerful opinion-makers of the late-Victorian era. But he is still a captivating conversationalist with strong views and a trunkful of fascinating anecdotes from his long career as a pioneering, crusading journalist and spiritualist.
Miss Edith Louise Rosenbaum: (34) Paris correspondent for Women’s Wear Daily, Edith came from Cincinnati in 1908 to work in the fashion world. She has drawn sketches for the Butterick Pattern Service, and even designed a line of clothing for Lord & Taylor. This is her first trip to New York as a fashion buyer, and she is accompanied by many trunks of dresses for celebrities like the Broadway actress Ina Claire and the opera singer Geraldine Farrar.
Mrs. Dr. Alice Leader: (49) Having spent six years practicing medicine with her husband in a pediatric and general medicine practice in Lewiston, Maine, she moved to New York after his death four years ago. She has been traveling through Europe with friends.
Mrs. Marian Longstreth Morris Thayer: (39) A proper Philadelphia lady, Mrs. Thayer is returning from a European tour.
Major Archibald Butt: (46) Returning to America after a diplomatic mission to the Vatican, Major Butt is an invaluable aide to President Taft. Legendary for his acumen at official functions, he is accustomed to moving in the highest circles of power and society.
According to The London Ritz Book of Etiquette, “there have never been as many rules regarding manners and etiquette as existed during the Victorian and Edwardian eras.” Of course, all these expectations were easier to meet for people who were drilled in them, typically from a very young age (which probably isn’t the case for anyone participating in this event). Making an effort to maintain a more formal tone will add to sensation of stepping back in time to 1912.
A few basic guidelines that pertain to our event:
Whenever a lady rises, or enters or leaves the room, all of the gentlemen automatically stand up.
Unless guests are on terms of intimate acquaintance, they address each other as Mr., Miss, or Mrs. [In public, husbands and wives will typically also address each other as Mr. or Mrs.]
Before dinner, guests gather in a reception room. The host (having determined pairings beforehand) introduces each gentleman to the lady he will “take down” to dinner (this will not be the gentleman’s wife or female relation, unless the party is particularly small or unusually laden with his family). The gentleman bows to the lady, but never takes her hand. Ordinarily the gentleman would converse with the lady while drinks are served, but in this setting (and since they will be seated next to each other for many courses), we encourage guests to mingle and converse with those who will be seated at other tables.
On the Titanic, passengers were called to dinner by a bugler playing the tune “The Roast Beef of Old England.” Many stately homes rang a gong for the same purpose. The host then leads the way to the dining room with the most important lady on his arm. The hostess enters last, escorted by the most distinguished gentleman. Each gentleman offers his right arm to his lady, escorts her to her place at the table (to the right of his), holds her chair for her, and then sits down himself. During the meal, the gentleman’s first responsibility was to engage her in conversation, but he might speak to the lady on his left if his dinner partner was occupied in conversation elsewhere. These were the formal standards, but the most memorable and successful dinner parties generally included conversations involving most or all at the table.
Ideally, there would be an exact balance of men and women. However, should there be a surplus of women (as can happen during travel), the host will introduce the gentleman to the two women he is accompanying to the table; when called to dinner, he will offer his right arm to the older or the more important of the two, and his left arm to the other and escort them to their places.
Courses on the Titanic were presented in the style known as “Service à la russe“. Each dish is presented on a salver by a steward to each guest. [”A filled plate is never placed before a guest, as thsi would indirectly dictate how much food the guest is to eat.[ In a meal of many courses, this permits each diner to eat as little of each course as he or she prefers.
ETIQUETTE OF GLOVES AND NAPKIN
Ladies always wear gloves to formal dinners and take them off at table. Entirely off. It is hideous to leave them on the arm, merely turning back the hands. Both gloves and fan are supposed to be laid across the lap, and one is supposed to lay the napkin folded once in half across the lap too, on top of the gloves and fan, and all three are supposed to stay in place on a slippery satin skirt on a little lap, that more often than not slants downward.
It is all very well for etiquette to say “They stay there,” but every woman knows they don’t! And this is quite a nice question: If you obey etiquette and lay the napkin on top of the fan and gloves loosely across your satin-covered knees, it will depend merely upon the heaviness and position of the fan’s handle whether the avalanche starts right, left or forward, onto the floor. There is just one way to keep these four articles (including the lap as one) from disintegrating, which is to put the napkin cornerwise across your knees and tuck the two side corners under like a lap robe, with the gloves and the fan tied in place as it were. This ought not to be put in a book of etiquette, which should say you must do nothing of the kind, but it is either do that or have the gentleman next you groping under the table at the end of the meal; and it is impossible to imagine that etiquette should wish to conserve the picture of “gentlemen on all fours” as the concluding ceremonial at dinners.
THE TURNING OF THE TABLE
The turning of the table is accomplished by the hostess, who merely turns from the gentleman (on her left probably) with whom she has been talking through the soup and the fish course, to the one on her right. As she turns, the lady to whom the “right” gentleman has been talking, turns to the gentleman further on, and in a moment everyone at table is talking to a new neighbor. Sometimes a single couple who have become very much engrossed, refuse to change partners and the whole table is blocked; leaving one lady and one gentleman on either side of the block, staring alone at their plates. At this point the hostess has to come to the rescue by attracting the blocking lady’s attention and saying, “Sally, you cannot talk to Professor Bugge any longer! Mr. Smith has been trying his best to attract your attention.”
“Sally” being in this way brought awake, is obliged to pay attention to Mr. Smith, and Professor Bugge, little as he may feel inclined, must turn his attention to the other side. To persist in carrying on their own conversation at the expense of others, would be inexcusably rude, not only to their hostess but to every one present.
At a dinner not long ago, Mr. Kindhart sitting next to Mrs. Wellborn and left to himself because of the assiduity of the lady’s farther partner, slid his own name-card across and in front of her, to bring her attention to the fact that it was “his turn.”
ENEMIES MUST BURY HATCHETS
One inexorable rule of etiquette is that you must talk to your next door neighbor at a dinner table. You must, that is all there is about it!
Even if you are placed next to some one with whom you have had a bitter quarrel, consideration for your hostess, who would be distressed if she knew you had been put in a disagreeable place, and further consideration for the rest of the table which is otherwise “blocked,” exacts that you give no outward sign of your repugnance and that you make a pretence at least for a little while, of talking together.
At dinner once, Mrs. Toplofty, finding herself next to a man she quite openly despised, said to him with apparent placidity, “I shall not talk to you—because I don’t care to. But for the sake of my hostess I shall say my multiplication tables. Twice one are two, twice two are four ——” and she continued on through the tables, making him alternate them with her. As soon as she politely could she turned again to her other companion.
Rather unsurprisingly, the cover story of the April 2012 issue is on the Titanic—primarily on new images of the wreck and debris field. Using similar techniques to how Google Earth stitches together satellite images, high-definition visuals captured by “three state-of-the-art robotic vehicles . . . bristling with side-scan and multibeam sonar as well as high-definition optical cameras snapping hundreds of images a second” have been digitally assembled into a massive picture. [Apparently if you get the iPad version of the issue, you can zoom in and out on the image, which is just a fold-out in the newsstand version.]
There also more detail on how and why Titanic broke apart during the sinking. [There’s an animated version of the sinking in the iPad version.] A second article has some amazing interior images of different rooms of the wreck, side-by-side with shots taken from similar perspectives inside Titanic’s sister ship, Olympic.
National Geographic Channel, starting Sunday, April 8th, will be showing a two night Titanic Event. Their website has a huge amount of content about Titanic—documentaries, photos, articles, and two intriguing “interactives”: an Interactive Timeline of the building of Titanic and “Adventure on the Titanic”, where you choose a first class passenger and select their actions on board in various quests. Which I would totally be wasting time on right now, if I didn’t have posts and timetables and character stuff to work on.
April 14th, 1912, during her inaugural crossing of the Atlantic, the Titanic stuck an iceberg at 11:40pm and sunk just a few hours later.
“There was not the slightest thought of danger in the minds of those who sat around the tables in the luxurious dining saloon of the Titanic. It was a brilliant crowd. Jewels flashed from the gowns of the women. And, oh, the dear women, how fondly they wore their latest Parisian gowns! It was the first time that most of them had an opportunity to display their newly acquired finery.”
–First Class passenger Mrs. Jacques Futrelle
“Inside this floating palace that spring evening in 1912, warmth and lights, the hum of voices, the gay lilt of a German waltz — the unheeding sounds of a small world bent on pleasure.”
–First Class passenger Lady Duff-Gordon
Probably in part because this is the 100th anniversary, we are finding a great increase in the amount of information about Titanic available online since we did this event in 2001.
For information about the ship, its passengers, and the voyage, sinking and aftermath, the number one resource online is the Encyclopedia Titanica. [We wouldn’t recommend clicking that link unless you’ve got time to poke around.] See the complete listing of First Class passengers with links to biographies for every one.
Of course, at the time, those in the society that booked First Class passage on the Titanic spent a lot of time on choosing and changing into clothes. See Dressing for Dinner on the Titanic for an excellent article detailing just that.
Many, many books have been written on the Titanic. Here are three that we would recommend: