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Titanic Disaster Hearings: The Official Transcripts of the 1912 Senate Investigation


The Titanic hearings were conducted by a special subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee and chaired by Senator William A. Smith (R-MI). The hearings began on April 19, 1912, at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. The next week the hearings were moved to the new caucus room of the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. They were the first hearings to be held in that room. A total of 82 witnesses testified about ice warnings that were ignored, the inadequate number of lifeboats, the ship’s speed, the failure of nearby ships to respond to the Titanic’s distress calls, and the treatment of passengers of different classes. The hearings concluded on May 28, 1912, when Senator Smith visited the Titanic’s sister ship, Olympic, at port in New York, to interview some of its crew. When the Titanic sank, the Olympic was about 500 miles away.

The subcommittee hearing transcripts, which were published in 1912, are over 1,100 pages long. They were issued as Senate Document 726, 62nd Congress, 2nd session, and are called: “Titanic” Disaster: Hearings before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Commerce, United States Senate, Sixty-Second Congress, Second Session, Pursuant to S. Res. 283, Directing the Committee on Commerce to Investigate the Causes Leading to the Wreck of the White Star Liner “Titanic.” There is an index to the testimony broken out by topic–such as “collision, effect of” and “ship light in distance.” Spawned by the popularity of the movie on the Titanic, a paperback reprint of the hearings was published in 1998 by Pocket Books, called The Titanic Disaster Hearings: The Official Transcripts of the 1912 Senate Investigation. This paperback is an exact reprint of the hearing transcripts.

Other congressional documents issued in 1912 as a result of the Titanic investigation include:

•The final report issued by the committee that contains the panel’s conclusions about the causes of the disaster. The report was issued as Senate Report 806, 62nd Congress, 2nd session, and is called: “Titanic” Disaster: Report of the Committee on Commerce, United States Senate, Pursuant to S. Res. 283, Directing the Committee on Commerce to Investigate the Causes Leading to the Wreck of the White Star Liner “Titanic,” Together with Speeches Thereon by Senator William Alden Smith of Michigan and Senator Isidor Rayner of Maryland.

•The investigative report issued by the British Government, which was reprinted as Senate Document 933, 62nd Congress, 2nd session, and called Loss of the Steamship “Titanic”: Report of a Formal Investigation into the Circumstances Attending the Foundering on April 15, 1912, of the British Steamship “Titanic,” of Liverpool, after Striking Ice in or near Latitude 41º 46´ N., Longitude 50º 14´ W., North Atlantic Ocean, as Conducted by the British Government.

•A law (37 Stat. 639) to award medals of honor to the captain, officers, and crew of the ship Carpathia, which picked up the survivors of the Titanic.

•A law (37 Stat. 644) to establish a memorial to Archibald W. Butt and Francis D. Millet, commissioned officers who went down with the sinking of the Titanic.

These publications may be available in a federal depository library in your state.


 
  

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