Timeline Article: American Inquiry - Bruce Ismay Is the First Witness To Be Called

Senator William Alden Smith & New York City
in the 1900s.
Friday, April 19, 1912
Early Morning

As the United Kingdom holds a national day of mourning, in America, Senator William Alden Smith convenes an inquiry in New York City the morning after Carpathia arrives with Titanic's survivors. The people of America are in shock after hearing the news of Titanic's fate. Senator Smith moves quickly to issue subpoenas so that he can promptly collect survivor testimonies while the incident is still fresh. 

J.P. Morgan
Smith's colleagues suspect that he has put together the inquiry and appointed himself chairman mainly because he is an outspoken opponent of J.P. Morgan, the owner of International Mercantile Marine, White Star's parent company. 

The first witness called at the inquiry is Bruce Ismay.
His responses to questions are short, evasive, and lack substance. Senator Smith is determined to hold White Star's president responsible for the tragedy. Ismay claimed that he never ordered Titanic pushed to full speed, that never showed any ice warnings to the passengers, and he only boarded the lifeboat when no other passengers were visible on deck.

Bruce Ismay at the inquiry.

After two days at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, the inquiry is moved to Washington D.C. The crew members and passengers that haven't received a subpoena are free to return to their lives. The others who are required to testify will have to travel to Washington.

Bruce Ismay will be required to answer further questions after the inquiry is moved. Senator Smith will not release him for eleven days.





Featured Article: Senator Smith and The United States Titanic Inquiry


Senator William Alden Smith and his son had made a North Atlantic voyage aboard the Baltic under the command of Captain E.J. Smith in 1906. Captain Smith would later be the commander of Titanic in 1912. While aboard the Baltic, the senator had the chance to meet Captain Smith and developed a great respect for the man. After Titanic went down, the senator was determined to find out why the largest and most state of the art ship in the world went down at the command of one of the most experienced and respected captains on the sea?

Senator William Alden Smith (left) & Captain E.J. Smith (right)

He telephoned to Charles Hilles, Secretary to President Taft, to ask what action was to be taken. The reply was that the President intended to do nothing. After hearing this, he began working on a draft of a resolution to investigate the disaster.

Early morning of Thursday, April 18th, word had been received showing that there were no other survivors of the disaster, except for those aboard the Carpathia. The true scope of the disaster was now apparent to all. Shortly after hearing the news of the true reality of the survivors, the Senate met that same morning and the floor was turned over to Senator Smith, who immediately asked for passage of his resolution which authorized the Committee on Commerce to investigate the disaster. 

The resolution called for a hearing with witnesses being subpoenaed who could offer information about the disaster. With very little opposition the resolution was carried, and Smith was appointed by the Commerce Committee chairman, Knute Nelson, as chairman of the subcommittee to look into the Titanic disaster. Neslon and Smith spent the remainder of the day selecting the panel of Senators that would aid him in the inquiry.

J. Bruce Ismay
Later that morning, the Department of the Navy contacted Senator Smith, advising him that they had intercepted several significant messages being sent from the Carpathia by Bruce Ismay, President of the White Star Line. 

Other than announcing the loss of Titanic and requesting personal needs, some of telegrams that were intercepted indicated that Ismay was hoping to go directly back to England, along with the crew, without setting foot on American soil. Some of these messages were signed with the name "Yamsi". It didn't take much to interoperate that Yamsi was Ismay spelled backwards.

At noon, Smith immediately arranged a  meeting at the White House. During the meeting, Smith asked about the legalities of subpoenaing British citizens. President Taft, checking with Attorney-General George Wickersham, said there was no question so long as they were in the United States.

That afternoon, the first meeting of the investigative subcommittee was held, during which the Ismay messages were discussed. Smith asked which of the other Senators would accompany him to New York to serve subpoenas and interrogate witnesses.

That evening at around 9:30pm, Titanic survivors begin to disembark the Carpathia shortly after her arrival.

Ismay had hoped for a quick return to England for himself and the surviving crew members by immediately boarding another White Star ship, most likely the Cedric. However, that hope was quickly diminished with the arrival of Senator Smith and his men, intercepting Ismay and the others before they could disembark the Carpathia. The men carried subpoenas for Ismay, as well as various members of the Titanic crew.

Smith also was accompanied by Senator Francis G. Newlands, US Steamship Inspector General - George Uhler, Sheriff Joe Bayliss (an old ally of Smith's that was deputized as an Assistant Sergeant at Arms of the US Senate specifically to serve subpoenas), and Bill McKinstry (Smith's private secretary).

The inquiry began at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City the following morning on Friday, April 19th. After two days, the inquiry was moved to Washington D.C. All together inquiry lasted 18 days and recorded the testimonies of 86 witnesses.



Timeline Article: Memorial Services Are Held for Titanic

Crowds of people outside of
St. Paul's cathedral in London.
On Friday, April 19th, 1912, England observes a national day of mourning for Titanic. Roughly 10,000 people attend a memorial service at St. Paul's cathedral in London.
Those that cannot find room inside pay their respects in the street. The dead are mourned, and prayers of thanks are offered for those who were rescued. 


Churches in other cities are crowded with those paying their respects to the tragedy. 

In Queenstown, flags fly at half staff to honor all the people of Ireland who will never fulfill their dreams of the new world.

Flags are flown at half staff outside of White Star's
office in Queenstown, Ireland.


Timeline Article: Survivor Lists Become More Accurate / Southampton Is Hit Hardest By The News of Titanic


Friday, April 19, 1912
Morning

The lists of names of Titanic's survivors become more accurate after Carpathia's arrival in New York. Crowds of people gather outside the White Star offices in both America and the United Kingdom. They watch with hope and fear for familiar names. 

Southampton is hardest hit by the news that only about 200 of Titanic's 900 crew members were saved. The majority of Titanic's crew were recruited directly from Southampton not long before Titanic departed. 


The London Daily Mail reports:
"In the humble homes of Southampton, there is scarcely a family that has not lost a relative or friend."

Timeline Article: Titanic's Survivors Disembark

Carpathia at the New York docks

Thursday, April 18, 1912
Around 9:30pm

Darkness and heavy rain have delayed the warping of the Carpathia to the dock. A crowd of 10,000 to eventually 30,000 people have gathered, and are awaiting the arrival of Titanic's survivors. Among the crowd is a large detachment of city officials, immigration commissioners, doctors, priests, sisters, nurses, ambulances, and coroners. The Salvation Army is also there to care for the survivors of Titanic’s steerage passengers. Delegates from the New York Stock Exchange have sums of cash for those who have lost everything. Organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America along with many others have set up fundraisers to help those in need.

The Boy Scouts of America collecting money
to help support Titanic's survivors.

Once the Carpathia was tied to the dock and the gangway prepared, a large number of stretchers were taken aboard. As Titanic's passengers began making their way down the gangway it soon became evident to the crowd that a large number of survivors had lost all their clothing, and had to make due with whatever was available to them aboard the Carpathia. Some were ill physically and or mentally. Others were violently hysterical, and evidently deranged, while there were a considerable number of cases that were in a state of shock. As the survivors made their way to the street, silence fell over the crowd, and even the flashes of the Press photographers' cameras ceased for a moment.

Titanic's surviving Wireless Operator
Harold Bride being carried from the
Carpathia.


Dr. Henry Frauenthal and his wife were the first to land from the Carpathia. They were driven off quickly in a motor car, and no one had any opportunity to speak to them. Many soon followed in the same manner. 

Some of the survivors needed assistance getting down the gangway such as Titanic's Wireless Operator Harold Bride who had injuries to his feet. One was sprained and the other had frostbite.






As Titanic's survivors disembark, the people in the crowd started shouting out names in hopes to get a response. The people that were reunited with their loved ones clung to them and kissed them tenderly. 

The sick and injured of Titanic's survivors were carried on stretchers and taken to a hospital by ambulance. 

For the others that waited and waited but never saw their loved ones, it was a horrible reality. Out of the 2,208 people aboard Titanic only 712 survived. That meant 1,496 were dead.


One man in the crowd waiting to greet the survivors is William Alden Smith, a U.S. Representative and Senator from the state of Michigan. He has been appointed to investigate the sinking of Titanic. Senator Smith along with a group of U.S. marshals board Carpathia. He has a handful of subpoena, one of which is for Bruce Ismay. The investigation hearings begin the very next day and Senator Smith wants Ismay to be there.


Senator William Alden Smith (left) and
White Star Line President J. Bruce Ismay (right)