A Look at Titanic Through a Few Mariners’ Artifacts

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The year 2022 marks the 110th anniversary of the sinking of Titanic on April 15, 1912, and it is also the 25th anniversary of James Cameron’s movie by the same name. I would like to pay my respect by highlighting a few Titanic-related artifacts that the Museum has in its Collection.

Poster advertising James Cameron’s Titanic from 1997. The Mariners’ Museum and Park 2012.0007.000031

Twenty-five years ago, James Cameron debuted his version of the Titanic story featuring Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet as the fictional and ill-fated lovers, Jack and Rose. The poster depicts the ship’s bow and the embracing stars; the movie title and film details are featured prominently at the bottom. On the back of the poster is a reverse image that was originally designed to be used with a lightbox. Using the lightbox gives the reverse artwork a more life-like appearance when placed behind it. Printing this type of poster was quite expensive and involved running the initial negative through at normal color intensity. It was then reversed and run back through the presses, printing the back at a reduced color intensity.

Prop lifeboat from “A Night to Remember”. The Mariners’ Museum and Park 1982.0023.000002A

This is a movie prop that was used to replicate passengers getting into the lifeboats in the 1958 movie, A Night to Remember.  The movie is based on the book written by Walter Lord in 1955 and chronicles the actual night of the sinking. This model was used to film the lifeboats leaving Titanic as it began to sink, which was staged in a swimming pool! This model lifeboat is made of electrified fiberglass and wood, complete with survivors – mainly female – wearing lifejackets and four oarsmen activated electrically by four separate motors with gear and chain drive. The model is finished in weathered white and natural wood.

A portion of a dresser top with silver railing and a drawer with a silver knob. The Mariners’ Museum 1977.0012.000001A

While on a search and recovery mission for those lost during the sinking, a crew member aboard the cable ship, MacKay Bennett, found this portion of a dresser top at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, now the resting place of Titanic. This artifact measures 6-1/8″ (height) x 9-1/4″ (width) x 6″ (diameter) and it is believed to have come from one of the staterooms in first class.

My Easter Wish for You, greeting card. The Mariners’ Museum MS0140-02-01.05-01
Inside the Easter Card written by Selena Rodgers to Leah Aks. The Mariners’ Museum MS0140-02-01.05-02
Note inside the Easter card. The Mariners’ Museum MS0140-02-01.05-03

Selena Rodgers, a first-class passenger, wrote this note to Leah Aks, a third-class passenger aboard Titanic. Both women bonded during their time on Carpathia, the ship that came to the rescue of the survivors afloat in one of several lifeboats. Selena tells Leah about the passing of one of Titanic’s crew members, Mr. Crimmins, in 1956. She also included his obituary from a newspaper. Artifacts and the story of Leah Aks and her son, Frank, are currently on display in the museum.

On April 15, 1912, at 2:20 a.m., the ship that was at one time referred to as “practically unsinkable,” slipped beneath the water and there the ship remained until it was found in 1985.

I believe the poem written by Katherine Lee Bates in 1912 tells the story well in simple prose:

The Titanic
By Katharine Lee Bates (author of “America, the Beautiful”)

As she sped from dawn to gloaming, a palace upon the sea,
Did the waves from her proud bows foaming whisper what port should be?
That her maiden voyage was tending to a haven hushed and deep,
Where after the shock and the rending she should moor at the wharf of sleep?

Oh, her name shall be tale and token to all the ships that sail,
How her mighty heart was broken by the blow of a crystal flail,
How in majesty still peerless her helpless head she bowed
And in light and music, fearless, plunged to her purple shroud.
Did gleams and dreams half-heeded, while the days so lightly ran,
Awaken the glory seeded from God in the soul of man?
For touched with shining chrism, with love’s fine grace imbued,
Men turned them to heroism as it were but habitude.
O midnight strange and solemn, when the icebergs stood at gaze,
Death on one pallid column, to watch our human ways,
And saw throned Death defeated by a greater lord than he,
Immortal Life who greeted home-comers from the sea.

To view more artifacts related to Titanic, please visit our website or online catalog. To view other stories about passengers, you can search “Titanic” on our blog!