William Thomas Stead

(July 5, 1849 - April 15, 1912)

Perished!

Background

William Thomas Stead, Victim of the Titanic, 1912One of the most notable of the foreign passengers was William Thomas Stead. Few names are more widely known to the world of contemporary literature and journalism than that of the brilliant editor of the Review of Reviews. Matthew Arnold called him " the inventor of the new journalism in England." He was on his way to America to take part in the Men and Religion Forward Movement at Carnagie Hall (at the request of William Howard Taft)  and was to have delivered an address in Union Square on the Thursday after the disaster, with William Jennings Bryan as his chief associate.

Mr Stead was an earnest advocate of peace and had written many books. His commentary "If Christ Came To Chicago" raised a storm in the early 1890's. When he was in America in 1907 he addressed a session of Methodist clergymen, and at one juncture of the meeting remarked that unless the Methodists did something about the peace movement besides shouting "amen" nobody " would care a damn about their amens!"

Fateful Night

When tragedy struck the Titanic, Stead was seen helping several women and children into the lifeboats before retiring to the 1st Class Smoking Room to read a book. A survivor, Philip Mock, swore he saw Stead  clinging to a raft with John Jacob Astor, declaring "Their feet became frozen and they were compelled to release their hold. Both were drowned." It may have been Stead, but it definately wasn't Astor, he died after one of the funnels fell on him.

Stead And His Premonitions

Interestingly, Stead had written two articles that hinted at a premonition of tragedy concerning the Titanic. In 1886 he wrote an article aptly titled How the Mail Steamer Went Down in Mid-Atlantic, by a Survivor, about a steamer which collides with another ship but has a lack of lifeboats to rescue everyone. He remarked after the publication "This is exactly what might take place and will take place if liners are sent to sea short of boats". The second article was titled From the Old World to the New and it was about a White Star Line ship, The Majestic, that is called to rescue survivors from another ship that has collided with an iceberg (how ironic!).