Missing the Titanic

Allan Line PosterMy cousin Sheila recalled to me a childhood story told to her by our aunt, Edith… that when the Peers Upton family emigrated from England to North America in early 1912 they had tried to buy passage on the Titanic but were unsuccessful because all the tickets for the maiden voyage were sold out. Sheila asked if I thought there was any truth to the story. Here is my speculation on this family legend.

From the perspective of time and place, our ancestors could have been on the Titanic when it struck the iceberg on April 14, 1912. Grand Uncle Thomas Henry Upton crossed the Atlantic only one month later, sailing through the very waters where the Titanic had gone down. Stephen, Sarah, Edith and Stephen Jr. as well as Sarah's sister, Edith made the North Atlantic crossing on the Victorian in early August 1912.

When the family was planning their trip there was likely a lot of publicity about the upcoming maiden voyage of the Titanic and they very well could have looked into the possibility of sailing on that ill-fated ship.

But we don't actually know if Thomas Henry Upton and the other members of the family intentionally headed to Canada and if their planned destination was Montreal or if they just wanted to get out of England and head to America. We know that a few years later, Thomas Henry moved to the United States, so this may have been his intended destination all along.

The Titanic sailed from Southampton headed to New York so if their planned destination was Montreal then the complexity and extra cost of rail tickets from New York to Montreal would have been a factor. The Victorian and other ships of the Allan Line sailing to Canada departed from Liverpool. Stoke-Upon-Trent, the family departure point was much closer to Liverpool than it was to Southampton so there would have been extra expense involved with train tickets on the UK end as well.

The steerage class tickets for the one-way crossing on both the Titanic and the Allan Line ships would have been about the same, about £7. This would have been more than a month's wages for a coal miner, even after the Minimum Wage Act which came into effect as a result of the national Coal Miners's Strike in the winter of 1912. For Stephen and Sarah and family the price would have been high.

Assuming cost would have been a substantial factor, and assuming their destination was Canada, then practical considerations would suggest that the Peers Uptons would not have chosen the Titanic. But we can't know for sure. One thing we know is that relatively few steerage class passengers made it into the lifeboats…

Image from www.allposters.com


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