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Titanic Introduction

This Web page provides links and suggested resources that can be used for doing research on the sinking of the Titanic on April 15, 1912. The Titanic was a White Star line steamship.

Contemporary and Primary Sources--CSU Resources First                             Books                                    Indexes & Abstracts

Contemporary & Primary Sources

These are fascinating not just for the news they contain about the sinking of the Titanic, but for a snapshot of what was considered news and how newspapers varied in how they reported the same event, along with how they were arranged. Front page news in New York was page 9 or page 12 in London.

CSU Databases & Print Index

JSTOR. (available to CSU affiliates via A-Z Database page) 

There are 110 articles that mention the Titanic in that were published 1912. Many of these refer to the sinking of the ship in passing. However, at least one article, "The Lesson of the "Titanic" by Lewis Nixon (The North American Review June 1912: 748-53.) addresses heads on why the vessel sank, while others discuss ship safety in general, and there are obituaries of specific people. For example, Harry Elkins Widener started a book collection while attending Harvard; he had a great love of books. (Widener Library is today the main library at Harvard.) Both "he and his father met their death--rather die than take a place in a lifeboat, so long as a woman remained to be saved." (Gustav Kobbé. "The Death of a Young Scholar and Book Collector." The Lotus Magazine 3.8 May 1912: 231; article 227-231.) The next few years of articles would also constitute contemporary and primary sources. Contemporary vocabulary is essential for success when searching JSTOR.

New York Times Historical

See full text images of New York Times (NYT) newspaper articles about the sinking. After searching "Titanic sinking 1912" (without the quotation marks) (and finding approximately 590 results) change the sort to "Publication date (oldest first)." Interestingly, the first article, published the day the ship hit the iceberg (April 14, 1912) is on new markets; John Buckle of New York City is hoping to provide the Titanic "with asparagus, kale, and all other delectable garden truck." ("Plan New Markets Near the People" New York Times 14 April 1912: 10). The reader of this article who is conversant in history will note that Mr. Buckle supplied the Lusitania, among other ships. (Don't know your history? Look up Lusitania in the New York Times Historical.) The first NYT article reporting that the Titanic is sinking is printed the next day (April 15, 1912, page 1). The final wireless was blurred. Limiting the publication dates to 1912 returns approximately 229 results.

Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature. AI3 .R48 Reference (print index) Vol. 3 covers 1910-1914. 

Find contemporary magazine accounts of the sinking. Scribner's Magazine, Scientific American, Engineering Magazine, Independent, Edinburgh Review, Literary Digest, Current Literature, Harper's Weekly, Outlook, Nature, Nation, etc. covered the event at the time. Same set of shelves has the Essay and General Literature Index (AI 3 .E752 1900-1933), which lists two articles on the topic.

Times Digital Archive (London Times newspaper) 

 31 results after doing a search for: Titanic and sinking. The first article reports that the Canadian Government Marine Agency learned that the ship was sinking. Efforts were being made to get the ship into shoal water "in order to beach the vessel." ("Canadian Reports. (From Our Own Correspondent)." The Times 16 April 1912: 10.) The next article, dated April 17th is titled "The Titanic Disaster." (Reported on page 9--far right hand column; page 1 reports births, marriages, deaths, and hospital announcements; page 2 is shipping--companies and where their ships are headed along with hotel advertisements.) The sinking was confirmed and details awaited the arrival of the Carpathia with surviving passengers in New York. 868 saved, 1328 lost. A more lengthy article appears the next day, April 18th, on page 12, which focuses on notable victims. An April 20th article reports the loss of 1632 lives and 705 survivors. Survivors are named in another April 20th article on page 11.

U.S. Congressional Serial Set

There are fourteen entries with "Titanic" from 1912-1916. For example: "Titanic" disaster. Report of the Committee on Commerce, United States Senate, pursuant to S.Res. 283, directing the Committee on Commerce to investigate the causes leading to the wreck of the White Star liner "Titanic" together with speeches thereon by Senator William Alden Smith of Michigan and Senator Isidor Rayner of Maryland.

Web Sources

A very brief subset of what is available is listed here, but these are of particular interest.

R.M.S. Titanic: 100 Years Later. An Exhibition at the Library of Virginia. 

Comments on the newspaper coverage of the event: inaccurate or misleading reporting; headline coverage; editorial cartoons; high society on the high seas; man vs. nature; nature wins; aftermath and inquiry. General reference list; range of dates for articles, but not pages.

Titanic and Other White Star Line Ships.

An In-depth Examination of the Ships of the Legendary White Star Line. White Star Line.   Scroll down to see entire section on the Titanic: What Happened That Night; The Rescue and the Carpathia; Titanic Technical Facts; Titanic's Passenger List; Titanic's Crew list; Titanic's Deck Plans; Titanic Photo Archive, 1912 News Media; and more.

Titanica. Ulster Folk & Transport Museum. National Museums Northern Ireland . 

"Get closer to Titanic with incredible personal stories and discover 500 original artefacts [British spelling]." Timeline, photos, stories from the people who built the ship in Belfast.

Other Web

Researching the Wreck of the RMS Titanic. The Library of Congress. 

Links to material on the Library of Congress Web site and external sites. Web page lists books (check the library catalog for local holdings; Prospector for regional) by eyewitness accounts, secondary sources, and for younger readers.


Items may be requested from other libraries in Prospector, the Colorado Union Catalog, by Colorado State University affiliates. Do a LC Subject (Subject) search for these terms in the library catalog(and Prospector) to identify books. Also check WorldCat for additional resources.

Here are terms that focus on the Titanic, surviving shipwrecks, and shipwrecks in the northern Atlantic ocean in general. Be sure to look at subdivisions of these LCSH terms.

  • Shipwrecks
  • Shipwrecks North Atlantic Ocean
  • Shipwreck survival
  • Titanic Steamship

Indexes & Abstracts

See How to Find Articles in Journals & Magazines for an overview of how to find articles. Indexes listed below would be identified as part of Step 1. See also How to Evaluate Journal Articles.

CSU Indexes (Databases). Affiliates only.

While some of the articles are available electronically by CSU or in Morgan Library (might be in Bound Journals) or Storage, you will probably need to use InterLibrary Loan to acquire some of the identified materials. There are multiple aspects of the sinking to explore.

  • Academic Search Premier. Years vary. 
    • Do a subject search for: Titanic Steamship (use drop down NOT in second line and put film to eliminate articles about the film).

Titanic Steamship NOT film

America: History & Life

Do a subject search for: Titanic Steamship. At least two of the articles retrieved mention the film, but the majority are about the disaster itself, survivors, collective memory, exhibitions, investigations of the sinking, and more.

Historical Abstracts

Do a subject search for: Titanic Steamship. NOT out the three film entries. Interesting articles, but you might need to plan on using InterLibrary Loan to acquire them.

Web of Science

Search Titanic and sinking; narrow to these categories (or those that interest you most): HISTORY OR INSTRUMENTS INSTRUMENTATION OR OCEANOGRAPHY OR ENGINEERING CIVIL OR ARCHEOLOGY OR ENGINEERING MECHANICAL. Find articles such as "The Lights of the Titanic" that stayed lit whist the ship sank. (Marine Technology and Sname News 30.2 April 1993: 100-5.)

These databases are also listed above under Contemporary & Primary Sources. They can also be used for retrospective and secondary sources. Contemporary vocabulary is essential for success.

  • New York Times Historical
  • Times Digital Archive

It is essential that you carefully evaluate whatever you might find, no matter the format. See: How to Evaluate Journal ArticlesHow to Evaluate BooksHow to Evaluate a Web Page, and How to Evaluate a Movie, Video, or Film Clip.

Author Information

Content: Naomi Lederer


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