Titanic Flotsam & Jetsam
Fete Fatale Prepares to Sail (and Dine) on the Titanic
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03/24/12
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Filed under: General
Posted by: Fete Fatale @ 2:53 pm

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.

“On the night of the wreck our dinner tables were a picture! The huge
bunches of grapes which topped the fruit baskets on every table were
thrilling. The menus were wonderfully varied and tempting. I stayed at
table from soup to nuts.”
Titanic passenger Kate Buss

“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


A few short hours earlier, the socially prominent or merely wealthy denizens of First Class dined lavishly in the First Class Dining Saloon or the a la carte restaurant. The restaurant was stunningly appointed in the style of Louis Seize, and only the muted vibrations from the engines gave any hint that the patrons were not actually dining in a five-star hotel. The Wideners hosted a party there that night–Mrs. Widener consulting with the chef to determine the menu–which boasted among their guests Titanic’s commanding officer, Captain Edward J. Smith.

“We dined the last night in the Ritz restaurant. It was the last word in luxury. The tables were gay with pink roses and white daisies, the women in their beautiful gowns of satin and silk, the men immaculate and well-groomed, the stringed orchestra playing music from Puccini and Tchaikovsky. The food was superb: caviar, lobster, quail from Egypt, plover’s eggs, and hothouse grapes and fresh peaches. The night was cold and clear, the sea like glass.”
–First Class passenger Mrs. Walter Douglas

However, the list of those gathered in the First Class Dining Saloon was also impressive, including Colonel John Jacob Astor (one of the wealthiest men in the world) and his young bride; Benjamin Guggenheim (through his financial dealings with J. Pierpont Morgan, part owner of the White Star Line itself); Isidor and Ida Strass (co-founder of Macy’s department store); William T. Stead, well-known crusading journalist; Dorothy Gibson, motion picture actress, and her mother.

“A smooth sea, clear skies and low temperature outside gave women passengers an opportunity to get out their latest Parisian gowns, their most brilliant jewels, transformation [a hairdo of the time], facial treatments, etc. It was a brilliant assembly — contentment and happiness prevailed.”
– First Class passenger Elmer Taylor

Titanic had the most advanced culinary facilities afloat, and a small army of chefs, assistants, kitchen support staff and stewards to prepare and serve at least six thousand meals a day, for the 2,223 passengers and crew aboard. The Dining Saloon was large enough to seat five hundred diners. That night, head chef Charles Proctor had constructed an eleven-course feast of Edwardian cuisine based on the elaborate dishes and rich sauces of French master chef Auguste Escoffier. 

:It was hard to realize, when dining in the large and spacious dining saloon, that one was not in some large and sumptuous hotel.”
–First Class passenger Washington Dodge

“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




In the unlikely event you aren’t already aware of this: Fete Fatale Productions will be running “an historical dinner with roleplaying event” Last Dinner on the Titanic on Saturday, April 14th, 2012.  As we prepare for our voyage back in time to recreate the atmosphere the First Class passengers aboard Titanic experienced during that final dinner, we will posting here various information about the ship, the passengers, the social mores of the time, and probably random stuff just because it strikes us as cool.

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:

  1. A Night to Remember by Walter Lord is an excellent non-fiction telling, and pretty much the gold-standard. [We will be viewing the 1958 movie based on it soon!]
  2. The Loss of the S.S. Titanic by Lawrence Beesley was written by a survivor, and is available as a free e-book from Project Gutenberg.
  3. Last Dinner on the Titanic by Rick Archbold and Dana McCauley: obviously we are big fans of this book! 
Any resources you’d recommend? Also, we’d be happy to post guest articles, should you wish to contribute.

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