I’ve been fully immersing myself in the general hoopla over the 100th anniversary of the voyage and untimely demise of the Titanic. Like so many people, I’ve always been fascinated by the story of the Titanic. I’m less interested though in the events of the tragic night of April 15th, 1912, as compelling as they are, then in what life must have been like on board this magnificent ship, heralded as the latest in technology and luxury, as it cruised across the Atlantic and unwittingly toward disaster.
I still remember a college professor asserting that fin-de-siecle society really came to an end, not at the actual turn of the twentieth century, but in the period between the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 and the start of World War I in 1914, as cataclysmic events fundamentally altered the social and political landscape and heralded the beginning of the modern age. For me, the Titanic has always been a ghostly monument to that long gone world of elegance and opulence and phenomenal class divides.
Little evokes that lost world more than the hundreds of artifacts salvaged from the wreckage of the ship itself and the ocean floor – from grand chandeliers and Tiffany lamps to delicate teacups that somehow survived intact. The New York Times has put together a slide show of some more personal items like kid gloves and top hats that are remarkably well preserved after decades at the bottom of the ocean, a testament perhaps to their quality and construction. The pictures are fascinating, and the companion article on the importance of clothing as a marker of class status aboard the ill-fated ship is well worth the read.