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The Career of Captain E. J. Smith of the Titanic

The Late E. J. (Edward James ) Smith, RNR, Captain of the RMS Titanic and Commodore of the White Star Line

The Late E. J. (Edward James ) Smith, RNR, Captain of the RMS Titanic and Commodore of the White Star Line (27 January 1850 – 15 April 1912). The Sphere (27 April 1912) p. 69. GGA Image ID # 110a8ff688

The Voyage of Disaster: Exclusive Captain E. J. Smith At Last Falls Victim of the Dangerous Berg, the Bane of the Seasoned Mariner's Life — Remarkable Career.

NEW YORK. April 17.- Captain E. J. Smith, Into whose hands the passengers on the Titanic entrusted themselves on the voyage which will never be forgotten In the list of great sea disasters, had followed the sea from his boyhood.

For 40 years It was his proud boast that he had had an uneventful life. That is why he was promoted to the highest post in the gift of the White Star Line. Events came crowding upon him only in the winter of his life, and with events came misfortune.

He rose from the ranks. As a boy, in l869, he went on the American clipper Senator Weber, serving as an apprentice. In 1876, he shipped with the square rigger Lizzie Fennel as the fourth officer, and in 1880, he had risen to the rank of fourth officer of the old White Star Line steamship Celtic -- the nominal ancestor of the present vessel of that name.

In 1887, he went to the Republic as captain and later to the Baltic. Thus he saw service and held command on the old vessels fro which the present giants of the White Star Line are named.

More afterward, Captain Smith took command of the freighter Cufic and then the Runic. Then he went to the old Adriatic, the Celtic, Britannic, Coptic, in the Australian trade; the Germanic, Majestic, Baltic, and then to the Adriatic.

In all this time, he served the line quietly, and his name was seldom heard. His rise in rank and importance was commensurate with the same uneventfulness of his command.

When, in 1907, he came to this port in command of the Adriatic on her maiden trip, he said:

"When anyone asks me how I can best describe my experiences of nearly 40 years at sea, I merely say uneventful. Of course, there have been winter gales and storms and fog and the like, but in all my experience,

"I have never been in an accident of any sort worth speaking about. I have seen but one vessel in distress in all my years at sea, a brig, the crew of which was taken off in a small boat in charge of my third officer. I never saw a wreck and have never been wrecked, nor was I ever in any predicament that threatened to end in disaster of any sort.

"The love of the ocean that took me to sea as a boy," he added, "has never left me. In a way, a certain amount of wonder never leaves me, especially as I observe from the bridge a vessel plunging up and down in the trough of the seas, fighting her way through and over great waves. A man never outgrows that."

Captain Smith maintained that shipbuilding was such a perfect art nowadays that absolute disaster, involving the passengers on a great mammoth liner, was quite unthinkable.

Whatever happened, he contended, there would be time before the vessel sank to save the lives of every person on board.

"I will go a bit further," he said. "I will say that I cannot imagine any condition which could cause a ship to founder. I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel. Modern shipbuilding has gown beyond that."

The first misfortune came into Captain Smith's life but recently. That was when the great Olympic, sister ship of the Titanic, was rammed by the British cruiser Hawke, off the Isle of Wight, on 20 September 1911.

A great hole was stove into her steel ribs, and she was forced to put back in Southampton. The Hawke, even more severely damaged, put over to Portsmouth for repairs.

The Hawke was at first blamed for the accident, but the British court of admiralty, after a lengthy investigation, decided that here commander was blameless in the matter, inasmuch as his ship had been drawn out of its course and toward the Olympic by the tremendous suction of the Olympic's engines and the swish of water alongside her as she passed.

In February last, on her way over here, the Olympic under Captain Smith, suffered another accident, when she lost a propeller blade at sea. She was able to complete her journey here, nevertheless, under her own steam.

The fact that despite these recent misadventures, the old captain was not only retained in the employ of the White Star Line, but even was entrusted with the biggest and most responsible command in their power as soon as their largest vessel, the Titanic, was launched, showed the esteem and trust in when he was held by the line.

Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio) Wednesday, 17 April 1912, p., 12

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