On the Water

RMS Titanic Life Vest

Five days into its maiden voyage in 1912, the White Star ocean liner Titanic struck an iceberg at full speed in the North Atlantic, en route from England to the United States. For the next few hours, the giant ship took on water and began to nose down into the sea. At 2:20 a.m. on April 15, the gigantic ship sank in 12,500 feet of water 350 miles off the coast of Canada. Within about two hours, the ocean liner Carpathia arrived and rescued the Titanic’s 705 surviving crew and passengers. Around 1,500 people aboard were lost.

Chicago physician Dr. Frank Blackmarr, a Carpathia passenger, helped with the survivors suffering from hypothermia, exposure, and shock. He collected a Titanic life vest during the voyage as a souvenir, and later donated it to the Chicago Historical Society. In 1982, the CHS donated it to the Smithsonian’s National Watercraft Collection. In 1985, the wreck of the Titanic was discovered by a French-American scientific expedition, and the deepwater wreck site has been visited frequently since then by tourists and treasure salvors.

ID Number:
23 x 12 in.; 58.42 x 30.48 cm
Gift of Chicago Historical Society (through Teresa Krutz) and Dr. Frank H. Blackmarr

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