The early part of the 20th century saw a fierce competition between ocean liners and shipping companies, which strove to build the biggest and fastest ships. Upon its launch, the Titanic was the largest ship ever built. The jewel in the White Star Line's fleet was 882 feet long and had to burn 600 tons of coal to keep running. On its fatal maiden voyage, it held 2,240 passengers, but it could accommodate 2,435 passengers and 900 crew members at full capacity.
The Titanic was not only notable as a large ship, but also as a first class luxury liner. It boasted a pool, gym, Turkish bath, squash court and its own newspaper. Its lavish interiors drew inspiration from London's Ritz hotel and featured an oak-paneled Grand Staircase decorated with paintings and cherubs.
The ship was deemed "unsinkable," but despite this claim, it had a critical design flaw. Although the ship included watertight compartments in the bulkheads, water could spill over each individual bulkhead into the next. In addition, the Titanic only housed enough lifeboats to accommodate 1,178 people, which was roughly a third of its total passenger and crew capacity.
The Titanic met its end on April 15, 1912, after it struck an iceberg off the coast of Newfoundland. Famous victims of the disaster include the ship's captain, Edward Smith, its first officer, William McMaster Murdoch, Benjamin Guggenheim and John Jacob Astor IV, who was the richest passenger onboard. Famous survivors include Noel Leslie, Countess of Rothes and Molly Brown.Learn more about US History