A timeline of Titanic artefacts

These artefacts tell the story of Titanic from its construction to tragic demise. Each artefact has been carefully chosen to represent a unique chapter or moment in time, while also exploring the story behind people who built and sailed onboard the Titanic.

Table of Contents

Announcement of the Titanic

1908

This newspaper clipping represents the first time the names “Titanic” and “Olympic” were ever mentioned. The names were rumoured in an article dated April 23rd, 1908, for the newspaper The Daily News. The piece reads:

“HUGE NEW LINERS.

Official confirmation comes from Liverpool of our correspondent’s message of a few days since that the White Star Company intend to build one or two huge vessels to surpass in size any other ships in the world.

The company issued an announcement yesterday that two steamers are to be built for them at Belfast, and that the keels will be laid down within the next two months. Once, as our correspondent stated, will be called the Olympic. Both turbines and reciprocating engines will be supplied, and a speed of not less than 21 knots is to be guranteed.

Information from Belfast, in addition to the company’s statement, is to the effect that the new vessels will be 840 feet long and 78 feet broad. This will make them about 40 feet longer than the two largest existing Cunarders, and give them an estimated tonnage of from 45,000 to 50,000 gross. It is also stated that the name of the second vessel will be the Titanic.”

Design of the Titanic

1909

Before construction on the Titanic began at the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast, a team of draftsmen, led by Thomas Andrews, designed the ship using a series of large hand drawn blueprints. This 1:1 scale rigging plan – copied at Hardland & Wolff in 1953 for the artist Laurence Dunn – is 2 meters in length, and details the entire rigging system for the ship.

Construction of the Titanic

1909

Construction on the Titanic officially began on March 31, 1909, just four months after its nearly identical sister, the Olympic. At the peak of construction at the Harland & Wolff yard in Belfast, more than 14,000 men were adding rivets, carving ornate wooden mouldings, and fitting out the ship.

Below is a rare apprenticeship receipt dated 2nd March 1916. An apprenticeship with Harland & Wolff was an incredible opportunity for young men interested in shipbuilding. With the exception of unskilled workers, who were usually tasked with jobs such as hull riveting, an apprenticeship was the only way to join Harland & Wolff; and you could only be accepted by recommendation. As a result, trades usually stayed within families.

Alongside is a timekeeping bourd from the Pattern Stores Photo Room, Harland & Wolff, Belfast. Timekeeping bourd’s were in use at the Harland & Wolff Belfast Shipyard between 1860 and 1970. A bourd was issued to each shipyard worker at the start of the day, and kept on their person while they worked. At the end of the day, the bourd was returned to the Time Office and the day’s wage was calculated.

Titanic Launch

1912

On April 10th, 1912, the Titanic sailed out of Southampton, England, on its maiden and only voyage. 

These are the only known photos of life onboard the Titanic. They were taken by Father Browne, who travelled to Southampton before boarding the Titanic on the afternoon of 10 April 1912.

Father Browne was booked in cabin no. A-37 on the Promenade Deck. Browne took dozens of photographs of life aboard Titanic on that day and the next morning; he shot pictures of the gymnasium, the Marconi room, the first-class dining saloon, his own cabin, and of passengers enjoying walks on the Promenade and Boat decks. He captured the last known images of many crew and passengers, including captain Edward J. Smith, gymnasium manager T. W. McCawley, and engineer William Parr.

Onboard Dining

1912

Passengers onboard the Titanic were able to enjoy some of the finest food, service, and cabins in the world – no matter what class ticket they held.

For first class passengers, elegant staterooms awaited, while at dinner they were able to enjoy the finest French cuisine with fine bone china and silverware. 

Below are two examples of chinaware from the Titanic. The first is a hot chocolate cup and saucer, while the soup bowl was used by second class passengers.

The life of a porter

1912

As passengers enjoyed the Titanic’s facilities, porters behind the scenes were working to ensure a smooth operation.

These two artefacts represent just a fraction of the tasks porters completed each day. The first is a coat hanger from a first class stateroom. Porters would have hung the clothes of first class passengers while they boarded the ship. It still retains the name of the White Star Line, and is still usable to this day.

The second artefact is a used laundry bag, emblemed in red cotton with the letters W.S.L. (White Star Line). Porters would have taken away dirty clothes to be cleaned and pressed, before returning them neatly folded and ready to be worn again. Made of a thick durable canvas, this laundry bag is heavily stained, but still usable more than 100 years later.

The Grand Staircase

1912

Perhaps the most famous and recognisable part of the Titanic was the Forward Grand Staircase. It was described best in the White Star Line brochure “Olympic” / & “Titanic” / Largest Steamers in the World:

We leave the deck and pass through one of the doors which admit us to the interior of the vessel, and, as if by magic, we at once lose feeling that we are on board a ship, and seem instead to be entering the hall of some great house on shore. Dignified and simple oak panelling covers the walls, enriched in a few places by a bit of elaborate carved work, reminiscent of the days when Grinling Gibbons collaborated with his great contemporary, Wren.

In the middle of the hall rises a gracefully curving staircase, its balustrade supported by light scrollwork of iron with occasional touches of bronze, in the form of flowers and foliage. Above all a great dome of iron and glass throws a flood of light down the stairway, and on the landing beneath it a great carved panel gives its note of richness to the otherwise plain and massive construction of the wall. The panel contains a clock, on either side of which is a female figure, the whole symbolizing Honour and Glory crowning Time. Looking over the balustrade, we see the stairs descending to many floors below, and on turning aside we find we may be spared the labour of mounting or descending by entering one of the smoothly-gliding elevators which bear us quickly to any other of the numerous floors of the ship we may wish to visit.

The staircase is one of the principal features of the ship, and will be greatly admired as being, without doubt, the finest piece of workmanship of its kind afloat.

These two rare artefacts are survivors from the Titanic’s sister ship, the RMS Olympic. Both are identical in every way to the figures and fittings enjoyed by Titanic’s passengers.

The first is a 12-inch segment of moulding that ran along the upper parts of the Grand Staircase. The same moulding was also found on adjoining areas including the lift entrances and Purser’s office.

The second artefacts are a pair of handles from the vestibule doors, found on each side of the Grand Staircase on A-deck. These handles were present for the entirety of the Olympic’s 24-year career, and are identical to handles found on the Titanic’s Grand Staircase.

Imminent danger

1912

As the Titanic steamed across the Atlantic at at 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph), little did the crew know that imminent danger lay ahead. 

All White Star Line vessels, including the RMS Titanic, had multiple pairs of binoculars that were used by officers and lookouts to spot distant ships, objects, and landmarks. Unfortunately, the binoculars assigned to the crow’s nest were locked away and inaccessible during the maiden voyage. The locker key was in the hands of David Blair, a seaman for the White Star Line, who was reassigned from his post on the Titanic just days before its maiden voyage. Blair left the Titanic on 9th April 1912, and took the keys to the crow’s nest locker with him. 

This set of binoculars was issued by White Star Line for use onboard one its vessels (unknown). The lenses were made by Sharman D Neill in Belfast. A company based in Donegall Place, Belfast, during the late 19th and first decade of the 20th century. Sharman manufactured naval instruments, military binoculars, and telescopes.

After the Titanic struck an iceberg, the two wireless operators Jack Phillips and assistant operator Harold Bride  send out a stream of distress signals and messages that were picked up by other vessels. This second artefact is a Wireless Room Marconi Key, and it is identical to the two keys used onboard the Titanic. While this Marconi key is most certainly not from the Titanic, it could be from the RMS Olympic – Titanic’s sister ship. It is in remarkable condition for its age, with the only sign of any wear and tear being a small chunk to one side of the wooden base.

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