This week in history: Confusion abounds in reports of Titanic disaster

The great ocean liner sank on its maiden voyage on April 15, 1912, but wire reports in the Chicago Daily News incorrectly state that the ship stayed afloat.

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A photo of the Titanic on the April 15, 1912 edition of the Chicago Daily News.

A photo of the Titanic on the April 15, 1912 edition of the Chicago Daily News.

Chicago Daily News

As reported in the Chicago Daily News, sister publication of the Chicago Sun-Times:

On the morning of April 15, 1912, Chicagoans awoke to an astounding headline on the cover of the Chicago Daily News.

“TITANIC PASSENGERS RESCUED, BUT LINER REPORTED AS SINKING,” the headline read.

But the actual reports on the disaster that day likely left many readers scratching their heads.

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The Chicago Daily News ran several short wire reports together. The first two short bulletins from Canada stated that the Titanic remained afloat. The second reported that the Virginian towed the great ship and that all passengers were safe.

A third report from New York City said the Titanic was “still afloat and is reported to be making her way to Halifax” and assured readers that “it is probable that all of the passengers of the Titanic are safe.”

The Daily News also included a short list of well-known passengers aboard the ship, but even that list had an error. The first passenger listed was Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt. Though he wasn’t on the Titanic, Vanderbilt later died when the Lusitania sank.

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