Titanic Medical Care: Second to None


By Richard A. Glenner, DDS; Alison G. Kassel, BBA; Laurel K. Graham, MLS – Numerous events have transformed the practice of operative dentistry into one that is more efficient and more comfortable for the patient as well as for the operating team, and, often, one that is more productive for the dental office than it was previously… This article presents a narrative that traces these significant events along categorical lines and a chronology of events in the development of the art and science of operative dentistry…



When R.M.S. Titanic sank on April 15, 1912, less than a week after sailing from Southhampton, England, 1,523 people died because there were not enough lifeboats aboard ship. It was believed that the ship was unsinkable. Although there were not enough lifeboats, medical care aboard ship was more than adequate. The number of lifeboats and the requirements relating to health were established by the British Board of Trade. There were medical facilities on the ship comparable to most state-of-the-art small hospitals in the United States and Britain, where the sick and injured could be treated. A surgeon and assistant surgeon, equipped with a large assortment of medical instruments and medicines, staffed these hospitals.

Evidence was immediately sought after Titanic sank to find out why this tragedy occurred. The bodies were picked up, the witnesses questioned, but the ship and most of its contents had sunk. Only decades later have fortune hunters, the insatiably curious, historians and scientists visited the wreck. And only recently have artifacts been brought to the surface. The artifacts are standard fare, clothes and dishes, items that speak of everyday life, with the exception of the medical relics. The medical artifacts, the practitioners and their patients provide a personal glimpse at a different time. Dual realities become ironically evident as man’s own susceptibility to disease is discussed in relation to a man-made ship that was declared invincible. By reconstructing medical care aboard the Titanic and the personalities behind the medicine a little more the Titanic mystery is salvaged from the ocean floor. Titanic was a beautiful ocean liner that offered exceptional accommodations and wonderful food, and if one became sick, a more than adequate hospital, with medical staff was available.

Although Titanic was known for its first class splendor and wealthy passengers, third class accommodations also reveal the luxuriousness of the ship. Many third class passengers lived better on the ship than they had at home. They had clean quarters and plentiful, good food. Many in fact had never before seen a toilet. Titanic provided all their needs. Passengers were treated medically in accordance to class, but at least all had the opportunity to be treated. The same medicines were available for all aboard ship. On the day Titanic sailed, first and second class passengers stopped at the purser’s office to have their tickets processed before going to their cabins.

Every third class passenger underwent a cursory medical examination given by a team of surgeons, led by Titanic’s Surgeon, Dr. William Francis Norman O’Loughlin, senior surgeon of the White Star Line. Dr. O’Loughlin studied at Trinity College, and the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin. He was at sea for 40 years and a resident of Southampton. Prior to being transferred to the Titanic, he was the surgeon on board the Olympic.

Dr. Edward C. Titus, medical director Doctor of the White Star Line and a close friend of Dr. O’Loughlin, said, “He was undoubtedly the finest man I have ever known. Always ready to answer a call for aid at all hours of the day and night, he would go into steerage to attend an ill mother or child, and they would receive as much consideration from him as the wealthiest and mightiest on board, truly honoring his oath as a physician. He was one of the best read men I ever met. Dr. O’Loughlin was always doing some charitable act. Of his income, I believe it will be found that he left little having distributed most of it to the poor. There is no doubt he died as he wished. Once, recently, I said to him that as he was getting on in years, he ought to make a will and leave directions for his burial, as he had no kith or kin. He replied that the only way he wanted to be buried was to be placed in a sack and buried at sea (New York Herald). Dr. John Edward Simpson was the Assistant Surgeon on the Titanic. He was 37 years old at the time of his death. He was born in Belfast, resided in London, educated at the Royal Academical Institution, and at Queens College, Belfast; M.B., B.Ch., B.A.0., Royal University of Ireland, with honors in physics and zoology. He was a member of the British Medical Association and at the time of the sinking was a Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps (Titanic Enthusiasts of America and Titanic Historical Society 43.)

Additionally, there was a small medical staff. Mrs. Katherine Wallis was the matron. She was in charge of the immigrants in the third class, showing them how to do things, such as how to use the toilet, which many of them had never seen. She was an expert in looking after people and would be the first to spot anything that needed treatment by the doctors. The hospital steward was William Dunford. He was 41 years old. Mr. Dunford was the one who looked after everything. It is believed that individuals, such as Mr. Dunford, were invaluable; literally running the hospital and being extremely helpful to the doctors. Finally, Mrs. Evelyn Marsden was described as the Nurse/Stewardess for the First Class passengers. Dr. O’Loughlin and Dr. Simpson examined the crew muster sheets with Captain Maurice Harvey Clark, the Board of Trade immigration officer, to ensure a healthy crew was aboard (Hind). Health regulations, which were in effect in 1912, when Titanic sailed, stipulated that every ocean going ship with over 50 steerage passengers or a total of over 300 persons (passengers and crew), should have a qualified medical practitioner. This practitioner must be licensed in the United Kingdom or in the country of origin and provided with suitable surgical instruments.

Finally, a medical practitioner, appointed by the emigration officer at the port of clearance, had to inspect all steer age passengers and crew to make sure that they appeared healthy. This was done to avoid sending a sick passenger to America, where they might not be accepted. An inspection card (health certificate) was filled out for each third class passenger and attached to the ticket. The doctors checked the scalp for lice and evidence of infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis.

Trachoma, a highly infectious and potentially blinding eye disease, was one of the things looked for. Anyone showing such signs was not allowed to board (Butler 39). Three children’s lives were saved ironically because they were diseased. These children had trachoma, and therefore remained in Syria. (Charity Organization Society of the City of New York. Red Cross Emergency Relief Committee and American Red Cross 13.).

From reports of medical interest by the British Board of Trade regarding Titanic in April, 1912, before the ship sailed, we know that they inspected the medical supplies, and found them to comply both as to quality and quantity with the regulations of the British Board of Trade. From this report, we also know that they inspected the crew and steer age passengers and found that none of them appeared to be either physically or mentally unfit to travel to America or endanger the health or safety of other persons aboard. The three classes of passengers were separated.

Medicines Aboard Titanic as Required by the British Board of Trade

I .Spirits of Ammonia — a stimulant, for stomach pain, headache and faintness.

2. Bicarbonate of Soda — for indigestion and heartburn

3. Black Drau-ht (Mistura Seance Composite) for constipation

4. Bromide of Potassium (Potassii Broniidum) a mild sleeping pill and tranquilizer

5. Camphor (Camphora) In small doses to relieve gas accumulated in the stomach or intestines.

6. Castor Oil (Oleuni Riciiii) for constipation and diarrhea, caused by some irritant such as fruit or bad meat.

7. Compound Tincture of Chloroform and Morphine (Tincura Chloroformi et Morphinece Composite) useful as a sedative in cases of neuralgic headache, fever, coughs and restlessness. Also recommended for colic, diarrhea and dysentery

8. Creosote used for severe vomiting and for toothaches

9. Elixir of Vitriol (Acidum Sulphuricum Arontaticum) For diarrhea

10. Epsom Salts (Magnesce Sulhas) a purgative for constipation

11. Tincture digitalis heart medication

12. Blue Pill (Pilula Hydrargyri) useful in bilious attacks (probably gall bladder attacks)

13. Cough Pill (ipecacuanha, squill & ammoniacum) for dry coughs and neglected colds

14. Lead and Opium Pill (Pilula Plumbi cum Opio) useful for diarrhea and stomach and bowel bleeding. Contains one grain of opium

15. Dover’s Powder (Pulvis Ipecacuanhae Compositus) used for pain, restlessness, dysentery and diarrhea.

16. Salicylate of Soda (Sodii Salicylas) for high fevers and rheumatic fever

17. Aspirin (Acetylsalicylic acid) for high fevers and rheumatic fever

18. Spirit of Chloroform (Spiritus Chloroformii) used to relieve stomach pain and flatulence.

19. Sulphur (sublimed) for piles (hemorrhoids)

20. Sweet Spirits of Nitre (Spiritus Aetheris Nitrosi) used for palpitations, flatulence, cold with fever, kidney medication, and in cases of dropsy (an excessive accumulation of fluid in a body cavity or in the tissue).

21. Landanum (Tinctura Opii) used as a pain reliever and sleeping medication, containing I gram opium

22. Nitre or Saltpetre (Potassii Nitras) to reduce fever and increases urination.

23. Landanum (Tincture Opii) used as a pain reliever and sleeping medication, containing I gram opium

24. Nitre or Saltpetre (Potassii Nitras) to reduce fever and increase urination

25. Paregoric (Tincura Camphorae Coniposita) used to treat coughs, colds, chronic bronchitis and consumption; contains one-fourth grain of opium.


This necessitated triple smoking rooms, lounges, dining saloons and promenade spaces. Third class passengers occupied the least desirable sections of the vessel, the bow and the stern.

It is believed that first-class passengers found a booklet in their staterooms with information on everything from meal times to how to reserve deck chairs. This booklet states that an experienced physician is attached to the ship.

This doctor is allowed to charge for treating any illness that did not originate on the ship, but would not charge for treating any sickness that developed on board. Also, there would be no charge for medicine regardless of the circumstances. The booklet, which alluded to health, was intended for the wealthy aboard ship.

The poor and unhealthy were kept apart from the affluent in first class. Medical facilities aboard ship further told a story of class separation. According to the British Board of Trade regulations, in effect when Titanic was built, both steerage passengers and crew were to have separate hospitals, of not less than eighteen square feet for every fifty steerage passengers (Great Britain).

The hospitals were to be as far away from the living quarters, as possible, well ventilated and well lighted. They were to have beds, bedding and utensils, and be maintained throughout the voyage, under the supervision of the emigration officer, who is also responsible for the isolation portion of the hospital (Burlund 12). Although it appears that no records or photographs of the medical facilities on board Titanic are known to exist, we do know that there were hospitals aboard ship. Kenneth Anderson, the curator of photographic collections at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in Belfast, Northern Ireland, states the museum has the original blueprints of Titanic, and these do show the medical facilities (Anderson and Glenner).


The first and second class hospitals were on the starboard side of D deck near the galley. (Plan adapted from Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy. (D 1994 John P Eaton and Charles A. Haas)

He further said that the museum possesses the entire photographic archives of the Harland and Wolff shipyard, which has over 800 photos of 0lympic, Titanic and Gigatitic/Britannic. Anderson said the museum does not have any photographs of the medical facilities on Titanic. He believes that the reason photographs of the medical facilities were not taken and no mention made the public of medical care was so as not to alarm the passengers, by telling them that they might get sick aboard ship or have an accident. It is interesting that today much is said to tell passengers that medical care is available.

Could the attitude of the public be different today, or was it the attitude of the White Star Line not to worry the passengers in any way? They did perpetrate the idea that the ship was unsinkable, but not that the passengers might get sick and need medical care, which would be available. From studying the plans of both the Titanic and her sister ship Olympic, we can see the ship’s hospitals. There was a hospital on D deck, with twelve beds and an infectious ward of six beds in two rooms. This infectious ward was important because it contained disease that could easily spread on a ship. No records exist to know whether this ward was actually used.

There were also four beds in the crew hospital under the after part of the forecastle at the bow on shelter deck C, where the crew’s quarters were located.

Both of these hospitals had a surgery or a place where the ship’s surgeon could treat patients. A treatment room was also available on the aft or rear side of the #6 hatch on D deck. On C deck, there was a surgery and the surgeon and assistant surgeon’s quarters (Ticehurst). The physicians, both the Surgeon and Assistant Surgeon, did have small quarters. They each had a small room, on C deck, near the surgery.

Though it will never be known what medical treatment actually occurred, doctors were prepared to deliver babies and a few did give birth shortly after the disaster, proving pregnant women were aboard. One woman gave birth approximately nine months from the date of departure, perhaps a baby inspired by the romantic surroundings of the Titanic. (Charity Organization Society of the City of New York. Red Cross Emergency Relief Committee and American Red Cross 31 .) Only one medical incident is known to have occurred before the Titanic sank. On the morning of April 14, according to one source, first class passenger, Mrs. Henry Birkhardt Harris, 36, had tripped and fallen down one of the stair cases, breaking a small bone in her arm, which had been covered in a plaster cast by Assistant surgeon Simpson. Another account states that Mrs. Harris fell down the first class (grand staircase and broke her elbow. This account states that she had her arm set by Dr. Henry William Frauenthal of New York City, not by the ship’s surgeon or assistant surgeon. The woman found out that Dr. Frauenthal was on board and requested his services.

He was considered one of the country’s foremost pioneer joint specialists (orthopedic surgeon) (Butler 40). Dr. Frauenthal studied medicine at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. He established a hospital for joint diseases in 1906. Mrs. Harris survived the sinking of Titanic, as did the doctor and his wife. In the morning, after being taken off the lifeboat, she was observed to have a broken arm.

On May 11, 1912, Ada Patterson interviewed Mrs. Harris for the New York Evening Journal said she was “black garbed, with her right arm immovable in a plaster cast. Titanic, Women and Children First, states that in 1958, Mrs. Harris, who had previously met Walter Lord, the author of A Night to Remember, went to see the movie of the same name (Geller 51). She couldn’t sit through the whole film because of the memories it brought back. She remembers sitting in her stateroom with her husband Henry. Earlier in the day she had slipped on a teacake coming down the stairs to her cabin from the reading room and had broken her arm. The pain was intense and she was unable to sleep. As she sat with her arm in a sling across her chest in two bath robes to ward off the chill that had invaded the ship, she noticed that her clothing on the hangers in the wardrobe were swaying. They continued to sway until the engines stopped.

Medical treatment for the crew members was probably performed in the crew hospital and treatment for passengers, in their quarters, the hospital or the surgery.
Most likely the doctors treated the first-class passengers in their cabins. It is likely the stewards and stewardesses helped the doctors. It was just as easy to look after people in the hospital as in their own cabins. If more hospital space was necessary, spare cabin space could be appropriated and used as required,

There was not a dentist aboard Titanic. There was, though, a passenger traveling to New York to become a dentist (Charity Organization Society of the City of New York. Red Cross Emergency Relief Committee and American Red Cross 27). The surgeons had a set of dental forceps wrapped in a canvas roll among their instruments and were expected to extract an aching tooth if necessary. At the turn of the last century, it was not unusual, for physicians to carry dental forceps in their bag. (Sharp & Smith 521-523). The surgeons also had medicines, such as creosote, for treating an aching tooth. They could lance the gum over an abscessed tooth to relieve the pressure. There is no record of anyone being treated for a dental problem aboard Titanic. The only dental episode that was recorded is that of a woman who had a toothache in a lifeboat as the ship was sinking. In fact, she had the toothache all the way to New York, where she finally had the tooth extracted. And kept it most of her life.


The Medical instruments carried aboard Titanic were proscribed by the British Board of Trade regulation.

Many of the medical and dental instruments were made of hardened tempered steel, including the handles. Some were nickel or silver plated and kept in metal cases. These instruments will eventually disintegrate. But, probably they have not, since tile metal cases would have to break down or at least be penetrated first. Also, the plated or un-plated hardened steel is better quality steel than the ship. Instruments made of aluminum and metallic alloys may have survived. Items, such as needles, made of gold or platinum, would be untarnished.

Ship’s medicine chests usually contained a large assortment of porcelain containers and glass medicine bottles. These may have survived, but not items made of ferrous metal and especially wood (Juster).

One artifact, a porcelain toothpaste container, was recovered and has been included in several publications. Health rules and regulations established in the British Board of Trade’s Merchant Ship ping Acts of 1 894 and 1906, stated that the Board shall issue a list of medicines and medical supplies for different classes of ships and voyages leaving the United Kingdom (Great Britain).

These Acts instructed the owners of every ship carrying immigrants to provide the items on this list, as well as medical comforts, instruments and disinfectants. The Merchant Shipping Act of 1894 stated that the Board of Trade was to issue a list of medicines and medical supplies, appropriate for different ships and voyages (Great Britain). This list was to be updated periodically and the items placed on every ship leaving the United Kingdom by their owners.

The list was revised in January 1912 and contained a list of 62 medicinal agents for internal and external use, which were required to be in the medical chest. Listed were remedies in common use at the time. Every medicine chest contained an authorized book of instructions for treating diseases and accidents. The book that had been in use for many years was The Ship Captain’s Medical Guide, (Burtund) first written by Dr. Harry Leach in 1868.

These medicines were meant for a ship without a doctor. For emigrant passenger ships, with a doctor and large number of passengers and crew, such as Titanic, the list of medicines, supplies and instruments required, were extensive, being over seven pages long (Smith and Chaplin 33-40). This was in keeping with the state of medicine at this time. The medicines were kept in medicine chests or on shelves or both. This was probably the situation on Titanic, since, with the large number of crew members and passengers aboard, there were more supplies than the minimum required by law.

But not enough evidently for Charlotte Drake Cardeza, a first-class passenger, who had 14 trunks, 4 suitcases, 3 crates and a medicine chest (Charity Organization Society of the City of New York. Red Cross Emergency Relief Committee and American Red Cross).

Either she was fearful of running out aboard ship or doubtful of the remedies available in the United States. The British Board of Trade gave instructions to druggists how to package medicines for ships. Most of the medicines were required to be kept in stoppered glass bottles. These bottles were to have a red poison label, along with the name of the medicine, in both Latin and English. The dose was also to be on the label. There were also green fluted bottles that were labeled for external use only. Three medicine dispensary bottles have been recovered (Geller 51).

Besides medicines and instruments, the medicine chest also contained two metal hypodermic cases, containing all glass syringes and two nickel plated syringes all for injecting cocaine, atropine, and morphine, a mainstay of treatment. Included in the list were disinfectants, such as carbolic acid and formaldehyde, as were bandages, wooden splints and plaster of Paris, for setting, broken limbs. Since hernias were quite common among the crew, trusses were also required aboard ship. Finally, there was a set of scale and weights and two glass measures. In 1912, the medicine used and methods of treatment were essentially the same in Europe and America. The list of medicines for large passenger ships, including Titanic, contained medicines for treating common ailments such as colds. diarrhea, constipation, relief of gas, indigestion, heartburn, coughs, sleeplessness and nervousness. The list also included medicines for treating a variety of serious infections, as well as medicines that were useful for treating accident victims with wounds, sores and fractures (Smith and Chaplin 327-333). Some of the medicines, such as a bicarbonate of soda, are Still Lised today.

It is believed that even though a large variety of medicines were available, if a patient did not respond to the prescribed treatment, painkillers were probably given to keep the patient comfortable until they reached port. The supplier of medicines and instruments to Titanic is unknown. It appears that Burroughs Wellcome may have been the largest supplier in England. According Glaxo Wellcome Co., they probably supplied ocean going liners, which may have included Titanic, before World War I (Flynn).However, the company archives have no references to the Titanic or to shipping.

Correspondence with the Southampton City Council reveals that some of the medical supplies may have been supplied locally in Southampton (Noss and Glenner). They state that the book shown in Titanic Voices,the Surgeons Instrument List S.S. Titanic (part of a private collection), belonged to a chemist who supplied some of the pharmaceutical equipment and products to the ship. They go on to say that the book has blank pages. Its purpose was to record needed supplies; unfortunately the book was never used.


While there is little evidence of medical care from the wreck, much is learned from review of era books. There were medical textbooks for the surgeons aboard and books on medical care for the ship’s captain in the event there was not a doctor available. From the era before the Titanic sank, three popular books for ship captains were, Harry Leach’s The Ship Captain’s Medical Guide, revised in January 1912 by Charles Burland (Burfund), William J. Smith’s 1912 Medical and Surgical Help for Shipmasters and Officers in the Merchant Navy; including First Aid to the Injured (Smith and Chaplin), and Benedict W. Ginsburg’s 1903 Highlights on the Legal Duties of Shipmasters (Ginsburg). Smith’s book, published in January 1912, contains a complete list of medicines and medical supplies for North Atlantic emigrant ships traveling fewer than 26 days with over 1,000 people aboard. (This included passengers and crew.) For every additional 500 passengers and crew over 1.000, an additional 10% of medicines and supplies were added.

It is believed that these were the medicines and supplies aboard Titanic as the ship was sinking, and the water reached C deck, the assistant surgeon, Dr. Simpson, stood quietly with the surgeon, Dr. O’Loughlin, purser McElroy, assistant purser Barker and, for a brief time, second officer Lightoller.

They shook hands and said good-bye. Survivors say they saw Dr. O’Loughlin on deck going from one frightened passenger to another, soothing them and helping them into life lifeboats.
As the last lifeboats left the vessel he was seen standing in a companionway beside the chief steward, the purser and another officer, swinging a life belt. He was heard to say, “I don’t think I’ll need to put this on” (New York Herald). He was last seen in the companionway when the vessel went down.

Most of those who lost their lives died from hypothermia, rather than from drowning. The water was so cold, about 28’F., they were only able to survive a short time.

Of the eight doctor passengers, four survived, all were from first class. Of the four who were lost, two were in first class and two were in second class. Among the passengers was Dr. Washington Dodge, the assessor of San Francisco, who received his medical education at the University of California. He survived when a crew member recognized him and pushed him into a lifeboat to help him handle those aboard, including many children. Dr. Ernest Moraweck was an internationally recognized eye surgeon. He had been in Vienna and Berlin on medical business. He was widowed with no children. It is known that he removed a piece of soot from the eye of a young woman passenger. He asked her to tour New York with him, but she was engaged, but said she found him “very agreeable (Geller 100). Dr. Henry William Frauenthal, the orthopedic surgeon, previously mentioned, made a dramatic escape from Titanic. Having seen his wife take a seat in lifeboat 5, he jumped with his brother from the deck to join her as the boat began to be lowered. The boat was only two-thirds full.

Even so, the doctor managed to land on Mrs. Stengel, a first class passenger. His boots broke two of her ribs and knocked her unconscious. Despite the pain and the cold, she survived (Gardiner 105). The rescue ship Carpathia had three surgeons aboard. Captain Arthur H. Rostron assigned Dr. Frank McGhee to treat first class passengers; an Italian doctor treated second class passengers and a Hungarian doctor supervised third. First aid stations were set up in each dining saloon and the doctors had stimulants and restoratives along with other medical supplies. As the passengers and crew of Titanic were brought aboard, their names and classes were noted, so that each could be sent to the correct dining saloon for a medical check (Butler 116). One aboard ship, Bruce Ismay was in shock and placed in Dr. McGhee’s cabin. Harold Bride, Titanic’s junior wireless operator, was placed in Carpathia’s hospital with crushed and frost bitten feet.

Many of the passengers were exhausted. Some suffered shock and exposure they were wet and shivering. Others had injuries, such as a broken arm and leg. After necessary medical treatment, Titanic’s first and second class passengers utilized public rooms and officers’ cabins. Carpathia’s steerage passengers were placed in one section of the third class quarters and the vacant berths given to Titanic steerage passengers. The bodies of those that were recovered were numbered and all personal items inventoried. Complete descriptions were also recorded for each corpse.

Their height, weight, hair, eyes birthmarks, scars and tattoos were noted. According to the Record of Bodies and Effects: Passengers and Crew, S.S. Titanic a few of the corpses had cholera belts (Hind). These belts were made of warm flannel, generally red and popular in Europe (Bettmann). Apparently the idea was to keep their intestines warm in order to ward off sickness, such as dysentery. They were worn underneath one’s clothing, next to the skin. It is believed that young women traveling alone would keep their valuables in this belt.


In reviewing the records of the bodies and effects of the passengers and crew of Titanic, many medically interesting things were observed. For example, two young people, third class female and a male bedroom steward from Southampton, Arthur Hayter, were observed to each have a gold tooth. A gold front crown also was observed on the millionaire, Isidor Straus. There were also several passengers who had full upper dentures, including a thirty-year old bedroom steward. It was not unusual to see people this young, with dentures, because at that time it was not unusual to extract a tooth rather than treat and restore it. Dental details were sometimes observed and documented, such as the sailor with prominent teeth.


After arriving, in New York on April 18th on the Carpathia, many of Titanic’s surviving passengers were in need of help. Some of these survivors suffered from and needed hospitalization for a variety of medical problems, including injuries, exposure, shock, and heart problems. Money was immediately raised to provide medical attention, temporary shelter, clothing and transportation for those survivors who needed assistance. When the ship arrived in New York, the usual customs formalities were suspended for all passengers, including steerage passengers. They were allowed to bypass the rigors of an Ellis Island inspection (Eaton and Haas 179-180).

Unfortunately, some of these survivors had difficulty obtaining citizenship because of the lack of papers. In 1913, the Red Cross published a report of their work in a book, Emergency Relief b), the American Red Cross after the wreck of the S.S. Titanic April 15, 1912 (Charity Organization Society of the City of New York, Red Cross Emergency Relief Committee and American Red Cross.). This report is replete with case studies of survivors of the disaster. In many cases, the relief organizations learned of the needs of widows and children of immigrant passengers from surviving friends and relatives.

Each case went into detail as to what happened to the survivor, usually the wife, and what financial help they were given. Some of the survivors were helped in America; others received help from English relief funds. Some of the financial help they received came from different groups. Case after case discussed the physical condition of these survivors and how they were helped. According to this report, some suffered from shock, grief and exposure to such an extent that hospitalization was required for varying amounts of time.

One woman who lost her husband, Case No. 107, suffered from a sprained ankle and bruises from being thrown into a lifeboat. Her injuries laid her up for many months.


Another woman, Case No. 1, was taken to a New York hospital, where she remained for three months. Her arms and leas were badly bruised and she was in a bad emotional state. She eventually recovered and went back to work as a dressmaker. Case No. 131 is of a 22-year-old woman, a music student, who lost her voice; there was a question, for sometime, of whether she would ever recover it which she eventually did. Case No. 330, was that of an 18 year-old woman, who lost her husband, was in serious physical condition due to shock and exposure, and was confined to her bed for many weeks. She gave birth to a child in December 1912, which meant there was a good chance the child was conceived on Titanic. She received over $3,000 in aid from several funds. Case No. 346 This young woman lost her husband. She was confined to a hospital upon reaching New York. She had a baby in September and was given money upon her release from the hospital. She also received additional aid. The cholera belts found on the floating corpses of the passengers and crew give testament to a commitment to health and a fear of death; in the end they impart upon us the inevitability of mortality despite our best efforts.

When the ship sank, people died because of blind trust in a man-made machine. The ship’s owners and the British Board of Trade, who had established the Merchant Shipping Acts of 1894 and 1906, had complete confidence in the ship but prepared for the inevitable dysfunction of man; therefore medical care aboard ship was more than adequate.

Because of the interest in Titanic, we have had the opportunity to learn more about health care and health-related subjects on this ship than any other ship of that era. It is a benchmark in history. We have learned that medical care on Titanic was state-of-the-art and comparable to that practiced in America and England. There were hospitals aboard ship and medicines and supplies for each class aboard ship. We were also able to obtain medical information about many of the passengers and crew. More thou-ht went into establishing a high level of medical care for the passengers on Titanic than went into establishing a high level of safety in case the ship was to founder. There was a certain amount of arrogance on the part of the owners of Titanic, to think their ship was unsinkable. State-of-the-art medicine, although not up to today’s standards, was practiced on Titanic and was considered acceptable or better. It is interesting to note that state-of-the-art medicine included the use of powerful addictive drugs such as morphine and opium, which were considered safe at that time.

Much has changed since Titanic sank. Ships have been made safer and the state of medicine has greatly improved, so that those who could not be treated adequately or were treated with unsafe medications can be treated better today. We hope that medical artifacts will be recovered that will give us additional information about the people and their health care.

Accolades to Brian Ticehurst, British Titanic Society, Southampton, England, and Jerry Gregoris, Evanston, Illinois for their help with this project.


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  3. New York Herald. New York.
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Reprinted from Voyage, the journal of the Titanic International Society, Inc.,- Autumn 2000
ISBN 1054-9269, P.O. Box 7007, Freehold, New Jersey.
copyright ©2000 All Rights Reserved
Titanic International Society, Inc.