Titanic’s Legacy: The Year That Time Forgot

Disaster overshadows strong economy, founding of iconic companies

The R.M.S. Titanic leaving Southampton on its maiden voyage April 10, 1912. (Photo: AP) The R.M.S. Titanic leaving Southampton on its maiden voyage April 10, 1912. (Photo: AP)

Is a calendar year forever sullied by the disaster which it contains? Is 1941 a “year” that lives in infamy and will 1994 forever belong to Orenthal James Simpson?

On this centennial anniversary of the disaster of the Titanic, as people gather to mourn the lost passengers of the unsinkable ship and all it represents—glamour, hubris, excess, classism, the futility of man’s fight with nature—little will be said of other, more positive events  that occurred during that time in our history.

We’ve helpfully listed a few as you remember that night.

If you like your Kingfield shirts made of soft 100% Portuguese flannel that’s “easy-to-wear and pairs well with jeans and chinos alike,” you’ll be interested to know avid hunter and fisherman Leon Leonwood Bean of Maine developed a waterproof boot. It marked the start of the company that bears his name (how did we ever locate wild turkeys in the brush before the “William Penn Cherry Owl Hooter Turkey Call?”).

Ditto to those who can no longer live without satellite TV’s six home shopping networks and a plethora of shows about treasures to be had in abandoned storage lockers; Lockheed Aircraft Manufacturing Co. was founded in 1912, later to merge with Martin Marietta in 1995.

Other items of interest? 

  • In January of that year, The Republic of China (now Taiwan) was declared.
  • March saw Albert Berry make the first parachute jump from an airplane (he lived).
  • In May, the United Kingdom established the Royal Flying Corps. (eventually changed to the Royal Air Force).
  • In August, the United States got its first taste of Nicaragua, occupying the country at the behest of its conservative government.
  • In December, Merck files patent applications for 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine (more commonly referred to by kids today as Ecstasy).

On January 2, 1912, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rang in at 82.36. That month that also brought the births of the actor/singer Danny Thomas and the painter Jackson Pollack. Pat Nixon joined us in March, as did Kim Il-sung in April (no connection). The world of literature gained John Cheever in May, and the folk music legend Woody Guthrie was born in July.

The writer Bram Stoker died in April, as did the nurse Clara Barton that same month. Forgetting ourselves, industrialist John Jacob Astor IV, the wonderfully named presidential aide Archibald Butt and the violinist and band leader Wallace Hartley were among those that perished on the Titanic that fateful night.

So take heart, 1912; being known for the Titanic isn’t great, but probably beats “the year of Danny Thomas.”  

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