National Archives and Records Administration

"Not even God himself could sink this ship."
-- Employee of the White Star Line, at the
launch of the Titanic, May 31, 1911
When the British ship Titanic steamed out of Southampton bound for New York on April 10, 1912, it was the largest and most sumptuous luxury liner that had ever sailed. It was a monument to the promise of technology and to Victorian elegance, magnificently appointed with oriental carpets and crystal chandeliers. It was thought to be unsinkable.

First-class reception room of the Titanic, published in The Shipbuilder, 1911
National Archives--Northeast Region, New York City, Records of District Courts of the United States
Confidence was so high that the owners and builders rejected plans calling for as many as 64 lifeboats. Although the number of lifeboats on the Titanic (20) exceeded government standards, the boats would only accommodate about half of the 2,228 people aboard. In one of history's great ironies, the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage, after colliding with an iceberg off the banks of Newfoundland. More than 1,500 people died in the accident.

U.S. Navy daily memorandum reporting the Titanic's collision with an iceberg,
April 15, 1912

You can see a high-resolution version of the Navy memorandum (111K JPEG).

Lifeboat filled with survivors of the Titanic waiting to be rescued

This photograph was taken by a passenger of the Carpathia, the ship that received the Titanic's distress signal and came to rescue the survivors. It shows the last lifeboat successfully launched from the Titanic.
National Archives--Northeast Region, New York City, Records of District Courts of the United States

Records relating to the Titanic are in NARA's Northeast Region (New York City). They are in case files of a limitation of liability suit brought by the ship's owners 3 years after it sank.

Additional images related to the Titanic are available in the Online Catalog.

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Last updated: April 15, 1998