The Titanic Disaster in History, Fiction, and Film

This month is the 100th anniversary of one of the most infamous tragedies in history – the sinking of the Titanic. On April 15th, 1912 the luxurious British ocean liner R.M.S. Titanic sank in the North Atlantic after striking an iceberg, buckling a 300 foot span of the starboard hull. It took only two hours and 40 minutes for the ship to sink at 2:20 a.m. killing 1,503 of the 2,208 people on board.

The ship had 20 lifeboats with room for only half the passengers. At first people refused to believe the ship was sinking and wouldn’t board the lifeboats. Some boats left the ship with only 12 to 56 passengers on board. 705 people survived on those lifeboats while others wearing life jackets died of hypothermia floating on the waters frigid surface.

It was the maiden voyage of the largest ship afloat at the time. Set to sail from Southampton, England with a final destination of New York City it was built to be the epitome of luxury with a gymnasium, heated swimming pool for first-class passengers, libraries, restaurants, and staterooms with electric lighting and heating. Many rich and famous people were traveling on the ship. Their combined fortunes would be about $11 billion today.

The library has many of the new books that have been published to mark the 100th anniversary.

Historical accounts and nonfiction:

Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage: the Titanic, Her Passengers and Their World by Hugh Brewster focuses on the first-class passengers including artist Frank Millet, Major Archibald Butt President Taft’s closest aide, Margaret “Molly” Brown, Millionaires John Jacob Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim, and movie actress Dorothy Gibson.

Voyagers of the Titanic: Passengers, Sailors, Shipbuilders, Aristocrats, and the Worlds They Came From by Richard Davenport-Hines is a collective biography telling the stories of the most rich and famous but also of the third-class passengers emigrating to the U.S.

Shadow of the Titanic: the Extraordinary Stories of Those Who Survived by Andrew Wilson explores how the survivors lived with or repressed their memories and the social ostracism experienced by the men who escaped in lifeboats.

Titanic : the Last Night of a Small Town by John Welshman traces the stories of twelve eye-witnesses. He delves into their earlier histories, how they survived the disaster, and what happened to them in the following years.

Titanic, First Accounts is a compilation of historic firsthand accounts by survivors and eye-witnesses.

To experience exactly what the people of 1912 were reading at the time, Wreck and Sinking of the Titanic: the Ocean’s Greatest Disaster is a deluxe reproduction of the 1912 memorial edition published immediately after the disaster.

The Titanic tragedy is also a plot point in many fiction books:

In Promise Me This by Cathy Gohlke, Michael Dunnagan survived the Titanic through the sacrifice of Owen Allen. He promised to care for Owen’s sister Annie still in England. As he works to save enough money to bring Annie to America, WWI erupts in Europe and Annie mysteriously disappears.

The House of Velvet and Glass by Katherine Howe is set in 1915 when a young woman is still tormented by the deaths of her mother and sister on the Titanic. In a blend of mystery and romance she searches for answers from a medium’s crystal ball.

Echoes of Titanic by Mindy Starns Clark and John Campbell Clark is a mystery combining modern-day corporate intrigue with the uncertainty of what really happened to Kelsey Tate’s great-grandmother Adele on the Titanic’s last night.

There are plenty of representations of the Titanic disaster on film and television:

When I think of the Titanic the first thing that comes to mind is Leonardo DiCaprio shouting “I’m the King of the World” from the bow of the ship in James Cameron’s epic  movie Titanic. This winner of 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture of 1997, is available at the library on DVD. Watch Jack and Rose meet and fall in love on the doomed luxury liner . To listen to the music from the movie you can check out the Titanic Anniversary Edition soundtrack featuring Celine Dion’s Titanic Love Theme “My Heart Will Go On“.

You can watch the 4-part BBC mini-series Titanic on DVD that was written by Julian Fellowes creator of Downton Abbey. Starring Toby Jones, Linus Roache, and Geraldine Somerville it will be shown on ABC starting on April 14, the 100th anniversary of the day that the ship hit the iceberg and released on DVD April 24th.

And whatever you do, don’t forget to view the Titanic up close by stopping by the Main Library lobby to see a 5 ½ foot long wooden replica of the ship made by Tim Anderson.


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