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Titanic at 100: Part 1 – The Philadelphia Connections

By Michelle Durham

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — She was billed as “the unsinkable ship,” but history tells quite a different story about the RMS Titanic.

There are many Philadelphia connections to the ship and the story that has captured the hearts of millions around the world.

edgette 3 Titanic at 100:  Part 1   The Philadelphia Connections

(Dr. J. Joseph Edgette. Photo provided)

Dr. J. Joseph Edgette of Widener University (right) has studied the Titanic for years.  On the night of the ship’s fateful accident, the Wideners — then the richest family in Philadelphia — had decided to throw a dinner party for Captain Edward Smith, who was preparing to retire after that voyage.

“The captain was at the party and many of the other officers were,” Edgette says, “so you had the ship under the command of some of the minor officers.”

That, and issues with the ship’s steering, may have contributed to the Titanic’s fate.

“The men did not realize that the steering system had changed. So they kept going in the wrong direction, taking them closer to the iceberg rather than away from it.”

George Widener and his son Harry died when the Titanic sank.  George’s wife, Eleanor, survived.

And Edgette says that steamy scene in the James Cameron movie “Titanic,” featuring Jack and Rose in the car in the cargo hold,  had a real-life backstory — also with a Philadelphia link:

“That Renault was purchased by William Carter in Philadelphia. And of course that went down with the ship.”

Just some of the many Philadelphia connections to the Titanic!

Listen to KYW Newsradio 1060 all week long for Michelle Durham’s entire series, highlighting the Philadelphia links with the RMS Titanic as we mark 100 years since that historic disaster.

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