The 1912 Titanic movie riots

I was very proud this week to contribute a guest post to the consistently wonderful Silent London blog.

My post describes the riots that broke out in three movie theatres in Bayonne, New Jersey, on April 26, 1912 – that is, just 11 days after the Titanic sank. The theatres had advertised that they were going to show “sensational” moving images of the disaster. The local police chief, knowing no such footage existed, forbade the showings to go ahead. And the audiences rioted…

To read the full story, on Silent London, click here.

And if you’re wondering how I came across this snippet, it was when I was researching my post So what SHOULD you do with the deckchairs on the Titanic? Hoping to find eyewitness reports of Baker Charles Joughin’s activities, I searched for newspaper stories from 1912 that mentioned “Titanic chairs” – and found this instead.

So what SHOULD you do with the deckchairs on the Titanic?

“Re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic” has come to mean making a pointless gesture in the face of certain catastrophe.

When the Titanic really was sinking, and all the lifeboats were gone, baker Charles Joughin hit on a more practical plan for the deckchairs: he threw them overboard.

As he told the British Inquiry into the disaster, he threw fifty chairs into the icy Atlantic through the ports of B deck. “Was it to give something to cling to?” he was asked. “I was looking out for something for myself, Sir”, he replied.

In James Cameron’s Titanic, Joughin appears as a comedy drunk; he’s right there clinging to the rail next to Jack and Rose as the ship goes down.

In real life, he had the last laugh. He let go of the rail at the very last moment, and told the inquiry “I do not believe my head went under the water at all. It may have been wetted, but no more”.

Joughin never needed his floating deckchairs; he managed to clamber onto an upturned lifeboat, and survived the sinking.