“Jewels of Titanic” collection in Atlanta ends on 6 Jan 2013. It then travels to Orlando’s Titanic: The Experience opening on 11 Jan 2013. The collection will be on display until 12 Mar 2013. For information about hours and to purchase tickets, go to titanictheexperience.com. Admission to the collection is complementary when purchasing ticket for Titanic: The Experience.
“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” are the opening lines of The Christmas Song. The song has been performed by various artists over the years but the best, I think, are Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby. The song is quiet in its tone unlike other Christmas songs that belt out the tune with great force. Yet it manages to convey the Christmas season well and that kids are going to bed in great expectation of a visit from Santa Claus. And although not a song, a poem written in 1823 by Clement Clarke Moore, has also become a staple of Christmas. Titled “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” it is always worth a read on Christmas Eve.
A Visit from St. Nicholas
by Clement Clark Moore
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there; The children were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads; And mamma in her ’kerchief, and I in my cap, Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap, When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash. The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle,
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”
Frederick Rasmussen, writing for the Baltimore Sun, reviews Grace Evans book on Titanic fashion (Titanic Style: Dress and Fashion on the Voyage) and writes:
It is a detailed and comprehensive look into the vanished world of Edwardian fashion, an era defined by rigid social stratification, which revealed itself in the clothing worn by those with social status and those without. She re-creates a world using both words and illustrations — many in color — when travel was only for the wealthy and the middle class. Those in third class or steerage were the poor, making their way to the New World and, they hoped, a better life. Also, it was a time when dressing for travel was more than climbing into a pair of gray gym sweats and strapping on a backpack.
I have to admit, I have not given any deep thoughts to Edwardian fashions (except what I have read in various Titanic books and histories of the period). It was a totally different era of travel. Men of stature and substance were expected to wear good clothes no matter what they did. Many of their clothes would be tailored while men and women who were professionals of one kind or another wore ready-to-wear clothing. Those of lower classes wore functional clothing but did not appear shabby either if they could avoid it. As a kid I remember that when we flew (which was a major thing back in those days), most people tried to look good. Men wore slacks or at least casual pants and nice shirt. Women wore nice outfits. In short, you tried to look spiffy. Those days are long gone as well like the Edwardians. Then again my parents came from a generation where looking right was stressed even in the worst of times (and they both grew up during the Great Depression).
Some places try to make it upscale by requiring customers to come properly dressed. Many years ago an uncle accompanied us to a fancy place for dinner which required men be attired in business formal (suit, tie, shirt and slacks), women in dresses and children properly attired as well (my mother got a curt reminder that I had to have my coat on when I got up to get something from a buffet table at this place). My uncle had nice slacks and a turtleneck. It was winter so we did not think it would be an issue. It was but fortunately the maitre’d simply handed him a tie to wear around his turtle neck. It looked ridiculous but those strict rules of fashion came from that period. The meal, however, was delicious so it was worth all the hassle of getting dressed up. And back then a gentleman going to evening dinner outside his home was expected to look his best (women too as well). Gone too are the rich meals of the Edwardian era though some of it came back some decades later with restaurants that served high end French food. Few of them are around today (there is one in New York that Tony Bourdain went to his No Reservations show) and have menus with foods unheard of by modern chefs today.
I guess that is part of why Titanic is enduring. It offers much and never quite disappears like other disasters. And I guess fashion is just another facet of Titanic and the era she lived in.
Readers here will recall that in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Clive Palmer decided to put the gala dinner for Titanic II in early December on hold. Now the gala is set for 26 Feb 2013 in New York. Invitations for the same high power guest list are being sent out. Palmer will unveil the Titanic replica plans at the dinner.
Correction: In both this post and a previous one, I referenced the Simpson letter. However while RR Auction lists this as part of the December auction, the letter was bought earlier this year by Titanic Foundation and brought to Belfast for exhibition. In fact, it was exhibited during the summer. In short, I got it wrong. I kick myself for not checking my own news archive about this.
At the recent RR Auction the top bid for Titanic iceberg photo was $21,000. Not all items were sold and a third auction is being considered next April. So far, there is no report that the Simpson letter was sold.
According to Digital Journal, a Titanic deck chair was auctioned off for $59,000. The auction was held by RR Auctions in Nashua, New Hampshire on 16 Dec. The name of the winning bidder was not disclosed. At time of writing, no word on other items auctioned (Titanic iceberg photo, Simpson letter).
1. BBC News is reporting two men originally from Holyhead, who served on Titanic, are being honored with a plaque in in Marine Square. Hugh Roberts perished and his body was recovered by CS Mackay-Bennett. He was given a funeral at sea. Edward Brown, who worked as a first class steward, survived. He helped load lifeboats and was washed overboard by a wave as Titanic sank. Clinging to a lifebelt, he was rescued by a collapsible lifeboat.
2. If you are going to be near Ballymena, Northern Ireland during the holidays, there is a Titanic exhibit you can check out. The Mid-Antrium Museum at The Braid is showing two Titanic exhibitions until 5 January 2013. Titanic Honour & Glory and Titanic: A Photographic Exhibition are both there. Best of all there is no fee into the museum.
1. Express & Star (UK) is reporting a new memorial stone for Titanic cellist John Wesley Woodward, who perished when Titanic went down in 1912, has been put up in his honor. Wesley was from West Bromwich and his memorial stone had stood in Heath Lane Cemetery for decades. However the sandstone memorial had become weathered with age and two Black Country residents feared it would crumble, so they began seeking funds to replace it. Donations from local groups helped raise £900 to replace the stone. A ceremony was recently held to mark its unveiling.
2. Douglas Main, writing for OurAmazingPlanet.com, recently wrote of his experience visiting Titanic:The Artifact Exhibition at Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. One of the features he liked was that you got to know some prominent passengers. He was also surprised to learn the large number of second and third class passengers coming to America for a better life.
3. Robert Ballard believes he has found evidence that the Biblical story of a global flood may have some basis in fact. He has found an ancient shoreline 400 feet below the surface of the Black Sea. Pottery, man-made structures, and possibly an ancient shipwreck with human bones inside. His theory is that Earth was covered in ice 12,000 years ago and that when it started melting floods occurred. Carbon dating of shells from the shoreline indicates the Black Sea flood, which he calls the mother of all floods since that land stayed under water, was around 5,000BC.
Way back in 1912 some survivors believed Titanic split in two, but this was dismissed by the British enquiry. And it was commonly believed a gigantic gash was responsible for it sinking so quickly. Today thanks to finding the wreck we know Titanic did split in two but there is no gash. What happened is the iceberg ruptured the hull in many places resulting in tears and holes but no long gash. Since the watertight compartments were not sealed all the way to the top. the water filled in one and then the other pulling Titanic down to its doom. Various other theories have emerged that may have contributed to her demise. This includes the bunker fire or brittle steel. Other explanations either take a supernatural turn (mummy’s curse) or a conspiracy of some kind.
There is a video out there that purports to prove Titanic is Olympic, that White Star switched the liners for its own reasons (insurance or other corrupt issues). Generally this theory believes the tragedy was unplanned, that something went horribly wrong resulting in loss of life. The British enquiry (not the American one) was a cover-up. Lord Mersey kept key facts from being heard and proof is his handling of Lusitania’s sinking. which was torpedoed by German submarine on 7 May 1915. Her rapid sinking and belief it was carrying munitions from the United States (which was neutral at the time) has fed many conspiracy theories. So far it is unproven whether Lusitania actually carried munitions.
Now this theory has been out there for a long time. I think it comes back every twenty years or so with someone claiming they have the goods the ship was switched. For years it had little traction, since the ship was too far down for any conventional diving method to see for sure. And like all conspiracies, there often a small group of believers out there. Just like there are people who believe Neil Armstrong never set foot on the moon or that 11 Sep 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center were a government conspiracy, there are those who argue the Titanic/Olympic switch.
The problem is that we know what Olympic and Titanic looked like. Aside from photographs and blueprints, there is a lot of material from news reports. Both ships were well known and switching identities would not be easy at all. In fact it would be very hard to do. Due to the large size, these ships could only be fitted out in places that had the facilities to handle them. And in 1912, that was limited to just a few places like Harland & Wolfe in Belfast. Then you needed the labor to do all the retrofitting required for a switch. Merely changing the nameplate and repainting the names would not be enough. Lots of details to be taken care of as this would be a major operation. Assuming you could do this without arousing any suspicion, the main problem will be making sure that everyone involved keeps their mouths shut. Think about it. You have the workers, the shipyard owners, the sailors and officers of each ship, White Star Line and government officials that would have to be involved. Only if you operated like the Gestapo or Stalin’s henchmen could you pull off total silence.
Of course there is another problem, namely that wreck two miles down on the ocean floor. It has been examined and photographed very closely. Artifacts from the debris field have been brought up. So far nothing has been found that contradicts it is Titanic.
Then there is another problem. Namely that White Star was willing to risk lives to pull off the switch. They knew exactly how many people those lifeboats would carry and that a lot would be stuck on board waiting for lifeboats to return (assuming rescue ship was right there). No matter what one may think of J. Bruce Ismay, I cannot imagine him signing off on a plan that would put so many in peril. It simply would have been unthinkable and foolish to boot simply to collect insurance. A far simpler plan with minimal loss of life would have it occur during sea trials or a trial run between Ireland and the U.S. before having passengers board. This is not a crew of pirates and scoundrels for the most part but well trained officers with years of experience. Much of the crew, except for the newest the same. So it would be hard to get them aboard with such a scheme. Of course conspiracy theorists have an answer: a private submersible would await Titanic and then sink her. The officers and crew would be unaware of any conspiracy and any blame would likely fall on Germany due its well known bellicose nature at the time.
So far no one has proved with hard irrefutable evidence that a switch occurred. We get lots of interesting bits of suggestive information but just smoke and no fire. So if you hear about this tall tale around the web with a link to a video, by all means watch it. If nothing else to be amused by the seriousness of the person making the claim. Remember though such claims require extraordinary proof. And in this case that is very hard to find.