Titanic Chronology: Titanic Fitted Out (31 March 1912)

RMS Titanic under construction. Photo taken between February-March 1912
Original source: Robert John Welch (1859-1936), official photographer for Harland & Wolff
Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

Titanic is nearly completely filled out with just a few things left before her upcoming sea trials. The ship is nearly identical to Olympic, but some changes were made so it was exteriorly different. It had a steel screen with sliding windows on the forward half of the A Deck promenade. This was done at the personal request of Bruce Ismay to provide additional shelter for First Class passengers. B Deck saw changes as well. The promenade space was converted into additional First Class cabins, which included two parkour suites with their own promenade spaces. The À la Carte restaurant was made bigger and the Café Parisien was added as well (it was not on the Olympic). The additional fitting out delayed Titanic and was delayed further by additional work needed on Olympic from a 1911 collision.


Remembering History: Napoleon Defeated and Seward’s Folly (March 30)

Napoleon Defeated (30 March 1814)

The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries, 1812
Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825)
Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

Napoleon Bonaparte, who rose to power during the French Revolution and became emperor of France, was defeated when allied troops entered Paris on 30 March 1814. Since 1803, the Napoleonic War had inflamed Europe. England and other powers had united against France during this period. France had expanded its power into the heart of Europe, Portugal, Spain and the Mediterranean. His failed foray into Russia and his forces being ejected from Portugal and Spain, weakened his once powerful forces allowing for the invasion of France and the taking of Paris.

Why this Is Important

Napoleon was a major figure in European and French history. He reformed the French state after French Revolution, established and streamlined the justice system under the Napoleonic Code, and sought better relations with the Catholic Church. His military tactics (wins and loses) are still studied today in military academies around the world. The Napoleonic Code laid the basis for legal administration in France today and many of its former colonies.

Sources:

Britanica.com
Biography.com
History.com

Seward’s Folly

William H. Seward, Secretary of State 1861-69
Date Unknown
Public Domain/U.S. Library of Congress, digital id cph.3a23003

In a purchase ridiculed at the time, U.S. Secretary of State William Seward purchased Alaska from Russia for $7 million. While it only cost 2 cents an acre, it was widely jeered in the press and politicians alike. It was nicknamed “Seward’s Folly” and other names as well. Russia had tried to sell it to the U.S. prior to the Civil War, but talks stopped when the war began. Seward believed the landmass was important for the country. Others were not so sure and took a lot of convincing to get the Senate to ratify the treaty. The U.S. Senate ratified the treaty on 9 April 1867 and the formal transfer was at Fort Sitka on October 18, 1867.

At first settlement was slow (getting there required taking a ship on the Pacific side and sailing up to a port) but in 1898 gold was discovered causing a rapid influx of prospectors and of course businesses to support them. Other resources were found in due course allowing Alaska to grow into a prosperous territory (albeit a cold one). Alaska would become the 49thstate when it was admitted to the union on 3 January 1959. The folly turned out to be golden instead.

Why this is Important
The purchase of Alaska expanded the territory of the United States substantially. The West Coast borders of the country were now forming up. California and Oregon were now states and Washington would soon follow in 1889. The rich resources of Alaska would also contribute as well. By the end of the 19th century, the United States had grown across a continent with cities and settlements on each end and within it.

Sources:

American.historama.org
History.com
Wikipedia


Yorkshire Vet

James Herriot (Alf Wight)
Photo: James Herriot.org

One of the greatest joys for me is reading the books by James Herriot. His books on being a veterinary surgeon in Yorkshire opened up a new world to many. His vivid description of the dales, the people, and animals he treated of all shapes and sizes made him a world-wide celebrity. To him though, he was a simple cow doctor who had by chance ended up practicing in a small town called Thirsk (Darrowby in his books) for the majority of his life. He loved the work he did and greatly came to admire the Yorkshire farmers he encountered. His love and care for the animals inspired many to enter the profession.

In his day, the majority of animals he treated were farm animals (cows, pigs, sheep, and the occasional horse) rather than domestic (dogs, cats, etc.). And it was not a calling for the faint of heart or does not want to get dirty. He vividly describes having to do calvings on cold nights, stripped to the waist, trying to get the new calf out of the womb of its mother. It sometimes took a good while and back then Caesarian operations had not yet been common. Also, they had a limited number of drugs they could use. They also had to mix much of it up into bottles in their dispensary and take it out with them on their visits. And then there were the required testing of cow herds for tuberculosis as well that kept the practice going. It was also hard to see good animals fade because they lacked the treatments that would come much later.

He was able to see the golden age that would come after World War II when all kinds of new drugs came out that could heal animals faster than before. It ended also the need to have a large dispensary where they had to mix up the concoctions. Now you just have packets and liquids. Fill the syringe up with the medicine, inject, and you are  done. Farmers were pleased as were vets at being finally able to cure many ailments that before took a while to treat. The days of small farms in Yorkshire, and a lot of places, came to a slow end after World War II. A lot of factors contributed to it from families changing, farmers retiring but the shift to large scale milk and livestock operations meant most small family farms could not survive.

Yorkshire Vet tv series
Photo: Radiotimes.com

That has affected the veterinary practice as well with a shift in many areas near farms shifting to treating domestic animals (dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, guinea pigs) and reduced numbers of livestock. In large cities veterinarians shifted to domestic animals and only those in areas with livestock still around might be a mixed practice. Which brings us to a remarkable show from the UK called Yorkshire Vet. This series follows the Skeldale Veterinary Centre, the former practice that James Herriot and Siegfried Farnon were part of in the books. It follows how this practice continues treating all creatures great and small as Herriot did in his books. The shows center vets are Robert Wright, who trained under Herriot, and Julian Norton, a highly skilled vet, who continue the service to animals. They are ably assisted by other vets who join the practice and animal nurses who assist the vets and keep the place spotless.

The show depicts them handling just about any case that comes their way. And it is truly remarkable the different types of domestic pets people have. You have the usual dogs, cats, small rodents, and bunnies. Then you have the odd ones with reptiles, pygmy goats or pigs, hedgehogs, and even pet chickens. So, it is quite varied but throw in some large livestock as well and the practice is not boring at all.

Yorkshire Vet does not shy away from showing the fuller picture that most shows tend to avoid. The first All Creatures Great & Small BBC television show, superbly acted by the way, did not show you the blood, guts, and muck the vets have to get through. They do here and you really appreciate the dedication they have for their craft. Seeing Julian carefully stich together a damaged cats rear end, where he has to slowly get everything back into place, reflects how dedicated they are. Or having to open up a cow to do a Caesarian section to get a calf out.

There are sad moments as well. Sometimes an animal brought in to Skeldale cannot be saved (a cancerous tumor cannot be removed or is suffering from a fatal disease). An ewe gives birth to a dead lamb or after doing emergency surgery, the calf dies. We see it all from the vets and owners when it does not work out. It is one of the most human parts of the series, the loss of an animal. However, there are many moments of joy as well when a calf is birthed fine, the surgery on the family pet is successful, or a lost pet missing for many years is joyfully reunited with its former owner.

What made Herriot’s books sell were the slice of life stories that brought laughs and cries to people who read them. And there are genuinely funny stories about living his partner Siegfried, his brother Tristan, and the remarkable people he met on the job. You get the same here. Reality shows love to stoke conflict and other things. No need for that here because the animals and the people around them give us all the entertainment we need. And we learn a thing or two not only about the animals but the lives of those around them. As I said earlier, most of the old-style family farms are near extinct. However organic farming and those wanting to care for livestock have led to some new farms. Some old ones are still around, and vets Peter Wright and Julian Norton take care of them. And some new wrinkles as well. Small dairy farms cannot make money milking (they cannot compete with the big companies) but make money breeding cows instead.

The show has been running since 2015 in the UK on Channel 5. It currently is available on Amazon Prime (disclaimer-I am an Amazon affiliate) so you can watch nearly everything up till now. Christopher Timothy, who played James Herriot in the original series, narrates it. That has changed for the latest series since due to Covid, Timothy could not go to the studio to do the narration. Nothing to fear though as another Herriot show veteran (and former Dr. Who) Peter Davison, was able to do so as he had a studio to record in his home. Skeldale Veterinary Centre made a big change at the end of 2020 and decided to focus on just small animals and no longer care for livestock. Julian Norton left that practice to work in another and the show follows him there as well. He has since opened up a new practice in Thirsk committed to helping animals but with consistent people handling the cases with concern.

If you liked the James Herriot books, or even if you didn’t but want to see how vets really work, this show will be worth your time. You will come to appreciate the work that vets do and some of the truly interesting people and animals they help.


Palm Sunday

Jesus Entry Into Jerusalem by Pietro Lorenzetti(1320). Fresco in the Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi, Italy Public Domain
Jesus Entry Into Jerusalem by Pietro Lorenzetti(1320).
Fresco in the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi, Italy
Public Domain

Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week on the Christian Calendar. This feast takes place the Sunday before Easter and commemorates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. The symbolism of Jesus arriving on a donkey is symbolic of coming in peace rather than on a steed as a soldier might do. While palms can be used for religious services held on this day, it is not always possible to have them. So in many places substitutes are used from other trees such as the olive, yew or other native trees. This lead to Palm Sunday sometimes referred to locally as Yew Sunday or Branch Sunday.

The feast is celebrated both in Western and Eastern churches though not at the same time due to different calendars (the West uses the Gregorian while Eastern Orthodox uses the Julian).

Passover Begins Today

Passover is an eight day festival celebrated in the spring between the 15th through 22 during the Hebrew month of Nissan. Passover commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. The first two and last two days are considered holidays. On those days holiday meals are served and observant Jews do not work or drive on those days (they also cannot write and even switch on/off electric devices though exception is made for cooking and carrying food outdoors.) The middle four days are called intermediate days and most forms of work are permitted.

A very important way Jews recall the Exodus is that they cannot eat or have an form of leavened bread (and that includes any food or drink that contains wheat, barley, oats, spelt or derivatives of it). That includes a lot of foods from breads, pastas, cookies and cakes, alcohol and soda. Most processed or industrial made foods are thus not allowed unless they have been certified for Passover by a rabbinical authority. It is not uncommon to see certain sodas in heavy Jewish areas reconfigured for the Passover season (such as Coke using real sugar and nothing that is derived from leavened bread in its making).

Observe the month of Aviv and celebrate the Passover of the Lord your God, because in the month of Aviv he brought you out of Egypt by night. Sacrifice as the Passover to the Lord your God an animal from your flock or herd at the place the Lord will choose as a dwelling for his Name. Do not eat it with bread made with yeast, but for seven days eat unleavened bread, the bread of affliction, because you left Egypt in haste—so that all the days of your life you may remember the time of your departure from Egypt. Let no yeast be found in your possession in all your land for seven days. Do not let any of the meat you sacrifice on the evening of the first day remain until morning. (Deuteronomy, 16:1-4)

 

Seder table Image: Gilabrand at en.wikipedia

The most important part of Passover is the Seder. It is a fifteen step tradition that is family oriented and packed with rituals for the feast. The most important points of the Seder are eating matzah, bitter herbs(to commemorate the slavery under the Egyptians),drinking wine or grape juice to commemorate their freedom, and most importantly reciting from the Haggadah. The Haggadah is the liturgy of the Exodus from Egypt and the duty of every family to recite the story so the next generation never forgets what Passover means to them.

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone! Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength. Take to heart these words which I command you today. Keep repeating them to your children. Recite them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them on your arm as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:1-9)

The Israelites Leaving Egypt, 1828/1830 by David Roberts (1796-1864) Public Domain(Wikipedia)
The Israelites Leaving Egypt, 1828/1830 by David Roberts (1796-1864) Public Domain(Wikipedia)

Titanic Lifeboats Tested

Collapsible lifeboat D photographed by passenger on Carpathia on the morning of 15 April 1912.
Public Domain(Wikipedia)

On March 25, 1912 all sixteen of the wooden lifeboats were tested. They were each loaded with 65 men and lowered by davits into the water in front of Francis Carruthers, Board of Trade Engineer & Ship Surveyor at Belfast. Titanic had 20 lifeboats in total: 14 wooden lifeboats and 2 wooden cutters that were to be used as emergency boats in case of people in the water. 4 collapsible Engelhardt lifeboats were also aboard as well (they carried up to 47 people each). 1,178 people could be accommodated on the lifeboats, as per Board of Trade regulations at the time (which Titanic exceeded). The total capacity of the ship was 3,547 passengers and crew.

,

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire(25 March 1911)

[Updated with more information and edited both Why this is Important and Aftermath with more information. Add source list to include Wikipedia and photo of procession]

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire on March 25, 1911
Originally published in New York World, March 26, 1911
Public Domain US/Wikimedia Commons

At approximately 4:40  p.m. Eastern Time on 25 March 1911, a fire would break out in the Asch Building in the Greenwich Village of Manhattan in New York City that was one of the deadliest industrial disasters in U.S. history. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, located on the 8th, 9th, 10th floors, was where the fire took place and was caused when fire broke out in a rag bin on the 8th floor. It was a Saturday afternoon with 600 workers, many of whom were recent Italian and Jewish immigrant women and girls aged between 14-23 years of age. The workday was coming to an end when the fire flared up, likely by a unextinguished cigarette or match, in the scrap rag bin that had at least two months of cuttings in it at the time of the fire. A passerby on Washington Street saw the smoke and reported it.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was a sweatshop with cramped spaces and work areas for the employees. When the flames were noticed, people started screaming and hollering. Cramped spaces made it hard to escape quickly and the supposed buckets of water, a standard of the time, were empty many would report later. Many jumped on the machine tables hoping they could hop from table to table to get to the elevators, Narrow aisles with chairs and baskets made that hard. And then the fire start consuming them. The manager did try to use the fire hose on the fire but the hose was rotted and the valve rusted shut.

Panicked workers ran to any exit they could find. There were four elevators but only one was operational; it could only hold twelve people at a time and broke down on the fourth trip due to heat from the fire.. Women began jumping down the shaft to escape the flames. Many would die as a result. There were two stairways but one was locked from the outside to prevent theft trapping the women who burned alive at the door. The other was impassable due to flames. Dozens took stairs to the roof and escaped the flames.The exterior fire escape, shoddy and poorly constructed, became unsafe with so many people trying to use it and collapsed sending 20 people to their death below. Those trapped above the fire escape succumbed to either smoke inhalation or were burned to death.

Bodies of workers who jumped from windows to escape the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire
Original image source: Brown Brothers
Public Domain (US)/Wikimedia Commons

A crowd had gathered outside watching events unfold. Sadly many of those trapped decided, in groups of two or threes,  to jump from the windows. The fire ladders only could reach up to the 7th floor and their safety nets were not strong enough to catch them. To the horror of those watching, 62 people leaped to their deaths causing many in the crowd to weep, faint, or cry hysterically.  William Gunn Shepard, a reporter on the scene during the fire, said he heard a sound more horrible than can be described: the thud of a body hitting the stone sidewalk. A similar description would be made many years later when people, trapped in the Twin Towers on 9/11, choose to jump out of the windows. It was captured on film but those who heard the thuds said nearly the same thing as Shepard.

People and horses draped in black walk in procession in memory of the victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire, New York City.
US Library of Congress, digital id cph.3a30009
Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

The fire was put out in a half hour and then the shocking number of deaths would be known: 146.  123 women and 23 men perished. The youngest victims were two girls aged 14 and the oldest was a women who was 43. Many bodies were found all stacked up against a locked door. As reports of the fire and deaths spread in New York and across the nation, it caused outrage at the conditions the workers had to work in. The owners of the company, Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, faced a backlash in the community. Demonstrations outside the building the next day showed the how many were outraged. A memorial procession on April 5, 1911 was attended by over 60,000 people who stood in the rain to see it.

Why this is Important

This fire shocked not only New York but the entire nation. New York created a commission to investigate and recommend laws to make workplaces safer for workers. The International Ladies Garment Workers Union would galvanize and agitate for better conditions, pay, and safety for the workers. It would spark other reformers to seek more comprehensive changes to labor laws, safety, and workers compensation. Changes in other states and at the federal level would occur as well.

Aftermath

Max Blanck and Isaac Harris were put on trial for manslaughter but were acquitted of the charges. While the prosecution showed how locked doors and other thing were an issue, the defense argued that there was no proof the owners knew of the locked doors or authorized them. The were found liable in a civil suit for wrongful death but only paid out $75 per victim to the families despite getting a large insurance payment for the loss. The building still stands today though it has been renamed the Brown Building.

Sources

History.com
U.S. Department of Labor
Wikipedia
Womenshistory.org


Remembering History: Italian Fascist Party Founded

Benito Mussolini
Public Domain

On 23 March 1919, Benito Mussolini founded the Fasci de Combattimento, a name drawn from peasant revolutionaries from the 19th century. These “fighting bands” as they were commonly called back then, became the foundation of the Italian Fascist Party. Mussolini, who had been committed to Socialism but disenchanted how it did not support defending France during World War I, broke away from his former allies to found this new party. The Fascist Party incorporated many aspects of Communism and Socialism within its ideology (please see my write up on Fascism here) but differed when it came to private property and nationalism. Mussolini believed that using nationalism could unify a nation without having to seize private property but rather convince the owners to serve the state in its goals. And like Communists and Socialists, Fascists did not believe in democracy but one party and, more importantly, one person rule.

Why This Is Important

The Italian Fascist Party would inspire others to follow in the same vein such as Adolf Hitler in Germany, Franco in Spain, and Salazar in Portugal. And still inspires movements today.

Why  Fascism Appealed to Italians

Italy faced many problems in the wake of World War I though it had been on the winning side. It acquired new territory as the Austrian-Hungarian empire was dismantled but the cost of the war left Italy in an economic depression. Italy lost 600,000 in battle, 950,000 wounded and 250,000 crippled for life. The cost of the war on the nation’s treasury was staggering resulting in its currency having reduced value, unemployment spiked and massive inflation set in as well due to the devalued currency. Despite being on the winning side, Italians felt betrayed at Versailles as their delegation was ignored. The government came across as weak and having little pride in Italy. This is what gave Mussolini his opportunity. With millions unhappy with how things were being done by the parliamentary government combined with a feeling of betrayal at Versailles, Mussolini knew he would be able to bring the Fascist Party to power. In October 1922, he led the Fascists on a march to Rome where King Emmanuel III asked him to form a new government. He was appointed head of the Fascist cabinet and appeared to work with the parliamentary government. Backed up by his own brutal police force, he became the de facto dictator of Italy and suppressed a Socialist revolt in 1924. In January, 1925 he proclaimed Italy a Fascist state and he was its leader (Il Duce). He would remain in power until 1943 when he was removed from office.

Sources:

1. Books
Pipes, Richards : Communism: A History, Modern Library, New York 2001

2. Internet
Britannica.com
History.com
History Learning Site

Monday Titanic News

A sure sign spring is here is when lambs appear.
Spring Lamb In The Sunshine
Photo: Tanya Hall/publicdomainpictures.net

Welcome to Spring everyone! For those of you down under, Happy Autumn. Here are some news stories you may find of interest.

The story of the Sunderland man who survived the Titanic disaster thanks to a game of cards (Sunderland Echo, 21 Mar 2021)

One of the very many stories to be told in its aftermath, is that of a glass worker from Sunderland who was one of the lucky survivors. Had Charles Whilems gone to bed earlier on that fateful night he would never have been heard of again

Fact Check-J.P. Morgan did not sink the Titanic to push forward plans for the U.S. Federal Reserve (Reuters, 17 Mar 2021)

A widely-shared meme has taken several facts about the Titanic out of context to  make unsubstantiated claims that imply the ship’s sinking was a deliberate act. This is not true – experts widely agree the sinking of the Titanic was an accident. The meme was posted?to Facebook?on March 1 and has been shared more than 600 times. It consists of two images: one of the ship and a  second of American financier John Pierpont (J.P.) Morgan. These sit alongside a wall of text that suggests Morgan had motive to sink the Titanic?because it was hosting three powerful people who opposed his idea for a centralised banking system, ie: the U.S.?Federal Reserve.

NASA Astronaut and Physician, Dr. Scott Parazynski to Join Titanic Survey Expedition (KHQ.com, 16 Mar 2021 (via PR Newswire)

“Challenging environments are incredible catalysts for innovation,” shares Dr. Scott Parazynski. “Being part of the inaugural expeditionary team for the Titanic Survey Expedition with my friend and colleague, Stockton Rush, is an amazing opportunity. I am looking forward to working with the OceanGate Expeditions team to demonstrate the cutting edge submersible technology that has the power to change the way humans explore our deep oceans, understand our planet, and investigate other planets. Our home planet is extraordinary, and my bucket list will get an additional check mark as part of this ground-breaking OceanGate expedition,” says Parazynski.

Why Was Utah’s Only Titanic Passenger Not Among The Survivors?(Salt Lake Magazine, 15 Mar 2021)

Pulling a treasured artifact from her purse, Liz holds the postcard up against an enlarged copy displayed prominently on one wall. Dated April 1, 1912, the card bears an illustration of London’s Piccadilly Circus on one side and Irene’s gracefully sloping scrawl on the back with her ill-fated words, “Finish London soon—am going to sail on one of the biggest ships afloat: the Titanic, an American Liner.” This was the last dispatch from 30-year-old Irene, the only Utahn aboard the RMS Titanic. She drowned with more than 1,500 passengers hours after the liner struck an iceberg in the early hours of April 15, 1912 sinking to the ocean floor in the frigid north Atlantic on its way from Southampton to New York.


Today is the Spring Equinox

Solstices and Equinoxes Image: NASAToday is the March/Spring Equinox.  This equinox marks the moment where the Sun crosses the equator and usually occurs between March 19-21 every year. Both the March and September equinoxes are when the Sun shines directly on the equator making night and day nearly equal.

The March equinox is the transition from winter to spring in the Northern Hemisphere but the reverse in the Southern Hemisphere (summer into fall). Various cultures celebrate March equinox as a time of rebirth. Many spring festivals are timed to coincide with the equinox and some religious events (Passover and Easter) use specific calculations based on the equinox to help determine the exact day of the event.

Though the equinox marks the changing of the seasons, it is quite common for winter effects to continue in many places far until May or even June.