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Cultural legacy of RMS Titanic

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

RMS Titanic has a rich legacy in films, books, memorials and museums.

Films and literature

The eight members of Titanic's band, who became a focus for many commemorations of the disaster
The eight members of Titanic's band, who became a focus for many commemorations of the disaster

Titanic has played a prominent role in popular culture ever since her sinking. The disaster has inspired numerous books, plays, films, songs, poems and works of art, and has lent itself to a great variety of interpretations of its significance, meaning and legacy. The immediate aftermath of the sinking saw an outpouring of poetry, though much of it was dismissed by The New York Times as "worthless" and "intolerably bad" and by Current Literature as "unutterably horrible",[1] though Thomas Hardy's "The Convergence of the Twain" (1912) was one of the more significant works to emerge from the disaster. Several survivors wrote books about their experiences[2] and various hack writers cashed in on the tragedy by producing sensationalist "dollar books" culled from the often inaccurate press coverage.[3] 1955 saw the publication of Walter Lord's influential non-fiction book A Night to Remember which weaved numerous personal accounts from survivors.[citation needed]

The sinking of the Titanic has been a popular subject for visual artists, whether in paintings and illustrations or on the screen. The first Titanic newsreel films were released within days of the disaster; one by the Gaumont Film Company was a huge hit and played to packed houses around the world,[4] often accompanied by the audience singing the hymn Nearer, My God, to Thee at the climax of the film.[5] There have also been many drama films set aboard Titanic. The first such film about the disaster, Saved from the Titanic, is now lost. It was released only 29 days after the ship sank and had an actual survivor as its star—the silent film actress Dorothy Gibson.[6] The story of the sinking was also told in heavily fictionalised form as a Nazi propaganda movie (Titanic, 1943) and as an American melodrama (Titanic, 1953). The British film A Night to Remember (1958) is still widely regarded as the most historically accurate movie portrayal of the sinking,[7] but the most successful by far has been James Cameron's Titanic (1997), which became the highest-grossing film in history up to that time.[8]

A great variety of memorabilia was also produced. Memorial postcards sold in huge numbers; one popular series produced in Britain showed verses from Nearer, My God, to Thee alongside a mourning woman and Titanic sinking in the background.[9] The disaster was commemorated in numerous other forms, ranging from tin candy boxes to commemorative plates, whiskey jiggers,[10] and even black mourning teddy bears.[11] The latter are now hugely sought-after and examples have sold for over $135,000.[12]

In anime and manga

In the Japanese spinoff series The Doraemons, it depicts a scene of RMS Titanic in a famous chapter, Titanic the Ghost ship, in which Dora-the-Kid acts as Jack facing on Rose. In the anime movie Black Butler: Book of the Atlantic, the fictional ocean liner Campania suffers a similar fate to Titanic including getting hit by an iceberg and splitting in half as well as lifeboats being filled by women and children first.

On stage

In 1997, Titanic (Musical) was made. It won Tony Award for Best Musical.

Legends and myths

The Titanic has gone down in history as the ship that was called unsinkable.[a] However, even though countless news stories after the sinking called Titanic unsinkable, prior to the sinking the White Star Line had used the term "designed to be unsinkable", and other pre-sinking publications described the ship as "virtually unsinkable".[13] Another well-known story is that of the ship's band, led by Wallace Hartley, who heroically played on while the great steamer was sinking. This seems to be true but there has been conflicting information about which song was the last to be heard. The most reported is "Nearer, My God, to Thee", though "Autumn" has been mentioned.[14][b] Finally, a widespread myth is that the internationally recognised Morse code distress signal "SOS" was first put to use when the Titanic sank. While it is true that British wireless operators rarely used the "SOS" signal at the time, preferring the older "CQD" code, "SOS" had been used internationally since 1908. The first wireless operator on Titanic, Jack Phillips, sent both "SOS" and "CQD" as distress calls.[16]

Memorials and monuments

Memorial to Titanic's engineers in Southampton, England, unveiled in 1914
Memorial to Titanic's engineers in Southampton, England, unveiled in 1914

The Titanic disaster was commemorated though a variety of memorials and monuments to the victims, erected in several English-speaking countries and in particular in cities that had suffered notable losses. These included Southampton, Liverpool and Belfast in the United Kingdom; New York and Washington, D.C. in the United States; and Cobh (formerly Queenstown) in Ireland.[17] Individual British victims of the disaster are commemorated in a number of places, notably Captain Smith in Lichfield,[18] wireless operator Jack Phillips in Godalming[19] and musician Wallace Hartley in his home town of Colne.[20] Most of the bodies recovered after the disaster are buried under simple black granite headstones in Halifax, Nova Scotia.[21] Two towns in Australia, Ballarat and Broken Hill, built memorials to the ship's musicians.[22][23]

Each year, on the anniversary of the sinking, a wreath is laid at the site by the United States Coast Guard's International Ice Patrol.[24]


A number of museums around the world have displays on Titanic. In Northern Ireland, the ship is commemorated by the Titanic Belfast visitor attraction, opened on 31 March 2012, that stands on the site of the shipyard where Titanic was built.[25] The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum also has a substantial exhibition called TITANICa. In England, artefacts relating to the disaster are preserved at the SeaCity Museum in Southampton and the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool, which has the original 20 feet (6.1 m) long builder's model of the ship.[26] The National Maritime Museum also has a large Titanic-related collection, donated by the author and producer of A Night to Remember.[27]

Several Titanic museums operate in the United States. The Titanic Museum in Indian Orchard, Massachusetts, presents the collection of the Titanic Historical Society. It includes artefacts including original blueprints of the ship, the lifejacket of John Jacob Astor (which he gave to his wife when they parted aboard Titanic), and original wireless messages. In Branson, Missouri a Titanic Museum is located inside a half-size replica of the ship, complete with iceberg. It presents replicas of the ship's lobby, cabins and wireless rooms and various items of memorabilia and artefacts. The same company operates the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, which recreates the ship's Grand Staircase as well as enabling visitors to experience the cold of the ocean and the heat of the boiler rooms. Titanic The Experience—in Orlando, Florida—likewise recreates the Grand Staircase, the Verandah Café, a first-class suite and part of the Promenade Deck. Actors in period dress provide guided tours to visitors.[28] RMS Titanic Inc., which is authorised to salvage the wreck site, has a permanent Titanic exhibition at the Luxor Las Vegas hotel and casino in Nevada which features a 22-ton slab of the ship's hull. It also runs a travelling exhibition which travels around the world.[29]

In Nova Scotia, Halifax's Maritime Museum of the Atlantic displays many items that were recovered from the sea a few days after the disaster. They include pieces of woodwork such as panelling from the ship's First Class Lounge and an original deckchair,[30] as well as objects recovered from the bodies of the victims who were buried in the city's cemeteries.[28] At Cape Race, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Myrick Wireless Interpretive Centre is set to open a permanent Titanic exhibit. This site of a former Marconi wireless station was the first on land to respond to Titanic's distress call, transmitted hundreds of messages from passengers, and was used to coordinate the rescue effort.[31]

100th anniversary commemoration

At 12:13 pm on 31 May 2011, exactly 100 years after Titanic rolled down her slipway, a single flare was fired over Belfast's docklands in commemoration. All boats in the area around the Harland and Wolff shipyard then sounded their horns and the assembled crowd applauded for exactly 62 seconds, the time it had originally taken for the liner to roll down the slipway in 1911.[32] On 12 March 2012 BBC's Songs of Praise, from Belfast, took the form of a Titanic memorial. The programme included a selection of maritime hymns and ended with Nearer, My God, to Thee, allegedly the last tune played by the ship's band.[33]

On 27 March 2012, Titanic 3D premiered at the Royal Albert Hall in London, with James Cameron and Kate Winslet in attendance,[34] and entered general release on 4 April 2012, six days shy of the centenary of RMS Titanic embarking on her maiden voyage.[35][36] ITV1 produced a four-part Titanic miniseries, written by Oscar-winner Julian Fellowes, broadcast in March and April 2012.[37] Titanic Tales: Stories of Courage and Cowardice is a dramatic production co-written by Duncan McCargo and Stephanie Winters, based on original testimonies of survivors, along with authentic music. It was commissioned by Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and premiered in New York on 12 April 2012.[38]

Little Girl Giant in front of the former White Star Line headquarters during Liverpool's Sea Odyssey street theatre event
Little Girl Giant in front of the former White Star Line headquarters during Liverpool's Sea Odyssey street theatre event

An original stageplay called Iceberg—Right Ahead! was performed at Upstairs at The Gatehouse, London from 22 March–22 April 2012, the Lyric Theatre, Belfast performed White Star of the North, and the street theatre event Sea Odyssey: Giant Spectacular was held in Liverpool over the weekend of 20–22 April.[39] The event which attracted 600,000 spectators[40] was inspired by a letter written by a 10-year-old Liverpudlian girl, May McMurray, in 1912 to her father William, a bedroom steward on the Titanic who did not survive the sinking. The letter never reached him and is now on display at the Merseyside Maritime Museum.[41][42][43]

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performed The Titanic Requiem, a work composed by singer/songwriter Robin Gibb and his son RJ Gibb, at the premiere on 10 April in London.[44] The event includes a hologram show depicting the sea, the ship, and the iceberg.[45]

The cruise ship Balmoral, operated by Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, was chartered by Miles Morgan Travel to follow the original route of Titanic, and stopped over the point on the sea bed where she rests on 15 April 2012.[46]

On 14 April 2012, Halifax's Maritime Museum of the Atlantic held a candle-lit procession by the water from the museum to Halifax's Grand Parade, which passed some of the city's Titanic related landmarks along the way. Following this, Halifax's Fairview Lawn Cemetery held an interfaith memorial service in remembrance of the hundreds of lives lost in the Titanic tragedy and for the 121 Titanic victims buried at the cemetery, followed by a wreath-laying and musical performance the next day.[citation needed]

The SeaCity Museum in Southampton, Hampshire opened on 10 April 2012, the date when RMS Titanic made her maiden voyage out of Southampton.[47] It was designed to show Southampton's 2000 years of sea history, as well as commemorate the 549 city residents who sunk with the Titanic.[47]

To mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking, the BBC World Service broadcast, on 10 April 2012, a radio documentary in the "Discovery" series, entitled Titanic—In Her Own Words. The programme was conceived and created by Susanne Weber and was narrated by Sean Coughlan who had previously written a book on the Titanic radio messages.[48] The programme used voice synthesis to re-create ". the strange, twitter-like, mechanical brevity of the original Morse code messages.. " transmitted by Titanic and neighbouring ships. The messages often included the fashionable slang expressions of the time such as "old man". The BBC noted: "All such messages were recorded at the time in copper plate handwriting, and were now scattered across the world in different collections, but together formed a unique archive".[49] On 14 April BBC Radio 2 aired a three-hour minute-by-minute account of the disaster to coincide with the time it happened.[50]

Besides commemorations on land, two ships participated in memorial services at the spot where Titanic sank. Azamara Journey left New York on 10 April, with passengers interested in the Titanic story, many dressed in period attire. A stop was made at Halifax to visit the graves of 121 victims. A second ship, MS Balmoral, set sail from Southampton, with 1309 passengers, on 8 April and also held onboard memorial services, 640 kilometres off the coast of Newfoundland.[51]

Postage stamps have been issued to mark the centennial: Canada Post issued a series of five designs, Britain's Royal Mail issued a set of 10, Gibraltar created five stamps,[52] Isle of Man, six.[53] and the Republic of Ireland's post office, An Post, issued four commemorative stamps[54] The Canadian Mint produced a $10 silver commemorative coin, and two coloured collector coins (25¢ and 50¢) and the British Mint two £5 coins.[55][56]


Following previous abortive attempts to construct a replica, on 30 April 2012, Clive Palmer, an Australian mining magnate, declared his plans to build Titanic II in China.[57][58]


The phrase "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic" entered American English in the late 1960s as a metaphor for taking a pointless action.[59]

See also


  1. ^ An example is Daniel Butler's book about the RMS Titanic, titled: Unsinkable
  2. ^ Earlier on during the sinking, more cheerful songs were played like ragtimes.[15]


  1. ^ Biel 1996, p. 31.
  2. ^ Rasor 2001, p. 77.
  3. ^ Anderson 2005, p. 20.
  4. ^ Bottomore 2000, p. 75.
  5. ^ Bottomore 2000, p. 98.
  6. ^ Spignesi 2012, p. 267.
  7. ^ Heyer 2012, p. 104.
  8. ^ Parisi 1998, p. 223.
  9. ^ Eaton & Haas 1995, p. 327.
  10. ^ Eaton & Haas 1995, pp. 329–330.
  11. ^ Maniera 2003, p. 50.
  12. ^ Cartwright & Cartwright 2011, p. 117.
  13. ^ Adams 2009, p. 10.
  14. ^ Lord 1997, p. 78.
  15. ^ Butler 1998, p. 91.
  16. ^ Campbell 2008, p. 210.
  17. ^ Spignesi 2012, pp. 262–263.
  18. ^ Barczewski 2011, p. 172.
  19. ^ Ward 2012, p. 249.
  20. ^ Maxtone-Graham 2012, p. 199.
  21. ^ Ward 2012, pp. 250–251.
  22. ^ Spignesi 2012, p. 262.
  23. ^ Eaton & Haas 1999, p. 169.
  24. ^ "Titanic, 100 Years Later: Disaster Spawned International Ice Patrol [VIDEO]" at
  25. ^ BBC News & 31 March 2012.
  26. ^ Spignesi 2012, p. 260.
  27. ^ National Maritime Museum & 7 April 2003.
  28. ^ a b Spignesi 2012, p. 261.
  29. ^ Ward 2012, p. 252.
  30. ^ Ward 2012, p. 251.
  31. ^ Myrick Wireless Interpretive Centre
  32. ^ "Titanic launch 100th anniversary marked by Belfast flare". The Daily Telegraph. London. 31 May 2011. Retrieved 31 May 2011.
  33. ^ "Titanic Centenary" at
  34. ^ "Titanic: Kate Winslet and James Cameron at 3D premiere". BBC News. Retrieved 28 March 2012
  35. ^ "Titanic Official Movie Site". Paramount Pictures. Retrieved 7 February 2012.
  36. ^ "Paramount Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox and Lightstorm Entertainment to Set Sail Again with James Cameron's Oscar-Winning "Titanic" with a Worldwide 3D Re-release on April 6, 2012" (Press release). Paramount Pictures. 19 May 2011. Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 19 May 2011.
  37. ^ ITV: Titanic. Retrieved 13 January 2012
  38. ^ Retrieved 14 April 2012
  39. ^ Iceberg Right Ahead!—review The Guardian. Retrieved 1 April 2012
  40. ^ "Liverpool giants: Sea Odyssey Titanic event ends". BBC. 22 April 2012. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  41. ^ "Liverpool Sea Odyssey event inspired by Titanic letter". BBC. 20 April 2012. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
  42. ^ "SEA ODYSSEY: The story of the little girl who inspired Liverpool's biggest ever street theatre event". Liverpool Daily Post. 19 April 2012. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
  43. ^ "Liverpool, "L'Odyssée de la mer" (in French)". Royal de Luxe, Nantes. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
  44. ^ "Robin Gibb too ill for Titanic concert". BBC News. Retrieved 15 April 2012
  45. ^ Needham, Alex (20 January 2012). "Robin Gibb to honour Titanic victims in first 'classical' composition". The Guardian. London.
  46. ^ "Cruise to mark Titanic centenary". BBC News. 15 April 2009.
  47. ^ a b "Titanic anniversary: the day Southampton went silent". The Telegraph. London. 5 April 2012.
  48. ^ Booth, J. A. and Coughlan, S., (1993) "Titanic": Signals of Disaster, White Star Publications, ISBN 0-9518190-1-1, ISBN 978-0-9518190-1-2
  49. ^ "Discovery: Titanic—In Her Own Words". BBC News. 10 April 2012. Retrieved 14 April 2012.
  50. ^ Reynolds, Gillian (12 April 2012). "Titanic: Minute by Minute, Radio 2, preview". Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 14 April 2012.
  51. ^ "Titanic memorial cruise headed to wreck site" Retrieved 14 April 2012
  52. ^ Gibraltar Titanic stamps
  53. ^ Isle of Man Titanic stamps
  54. ^ An post[dead link]
  55. ^ Canada Post stamps, coins, and UK stamps
  56. ^ Anon (21 February 2012). "Titanic Centennial Commemorative Coins Issued by UK Royal Mint". Coin News. CoinNews Media Group. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
  57. ^ Rourke, Alison (30 April 2012). "Titanic II: Australian billionaire announces plan to rebuild liner". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 30 April 2012.
  58. ^ "Australian billionaire Clive Palmer to build Titanic II". BBC News Asia. 30 April 2012. Retrieved 30 April 2012.
  59. ^ Rice, Doyle (7 Apr 2012). "Titanic deck chairs' sad symbolism lives on". USA Today. Retrieved 1 Dec 2013.



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