When the RMS Titanic set sail on her maiden voyage across the North Atlantic Ocean, the world waited in anticipation for its docking in New York to hear how grand this new ship really was. Designed with luxury in mind, even third class accommodations were better than on other ships. First class areas were most luxurious, providing all the amenities that money could buy. These advantages extended even to the lifeboats, which first class passengers were given priority access as the ship went down. Second and third class passengers were locked behind gates until first class women and children were loaded into the lifeboats. Unfortunately, there was no urgency in the beginning to get off the sinking ship. Lifeboats were launched at half capacity, and some refused to get in a lifeboat. Second and third class passengers barely had a chance to escape, and the Titanic sank with 1,500 souls still on board.
Our exhibit Tip of the Iceberg: St. Charles’ Ties to the Titanic explores the experiences of three particular passengers from different classes. Molly Brown is highlighted as the First Class passenger because of her actions during and after the sinking. The Caldwell family’s story is told because not only were they traveling home to Illinois, but they were also incredibly lucky as they survived the sinking as a whole family. Third class passengers Alice Berg Johnson and her two children, Harold and Eleanor, were heading home to St. Charles when they boarded the Titanic and narrowly escaped the sinking.
We are proud to tell the stories of these survivors and our community’s tie to the most infamous disaster in maritime history.