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Exhibits mark anniversary of historic tragedy

April 20th, 2012 9:26 am by Staff Report

Exhibits mark anniversary of historic tragedy

Each and every day, Titanic Museum Attraction provides a gateway to 1912, where First Class Maids and a variety of officers and crew members bring the stories of the fabled ship and its fascinating passengers to life by retelling their stories in vivid, d

By J.H. Osborne

Sunday, April 15, marked the 100th anniversary of a tragedy often cited in literature, film, and television programming.

At 11:40 p.m. on April 14, 1912, R.M.S. Titanic struck an iceberg in the north Atlantic on the luxury ocean liner’s maiden voyage. Less than 2.5 hours later, the ship - broken in pieces - ended its journey 2.5 miles below the surface.

The public’s fascination with the tragedy has lived on, spawning scores of books, dozens of films or television shows, a Broadway musical (or two), a traveling exhibit of artifacts, and several museums - not to mention newspaper and magazine articles too numerous to easily count.

A search of online auction site, Ebay, for "Titanic" on a recent day returned over 75,000 items listed for sale.

Over 1,500 people died when Titanic sank. Most did not drown, but froze to death within minutes of entering the frigid water. About 700 survived the sinking, most leaving the sinking ship in one of the too-few lifeboats on board, while others managed to enter or climb onto one of those after first being in the water. Percentage-wise, First Class passengers accounted for a disproportionate number of those saved. Of the 1,500-plus who went down with the ship, only 323 bodies were recovered in the days ahead.

Some of the most often asked questions from Biltmore visitors are answered - or at least addressed - by a new exhibit at The Biltmore Legacy, in Antler Hill Village on the estate.

Did George and Edith Vanderbilt, along with their only child Cornelia, nearly set sail on the Titanic? What kept them from being on board the doomed luxury liner, escaping the fate of George’s footman - who went down with the ship 100 years ago this month? During his lifetime, he crossed the Atlantic 60 times. So it is no surprise that George, Edith and Cornelia spent the fall and winter of 1911/1912 in Paris. And for any transatlantic traveler that season, anticipation was high for the maiden voyage of Titanic.

In February and March of 1912, George wrote home, repeatedly, that he and his family would return to America aboard Titanic. But they did not. Instead, George, Edith and Cornelia sailed for home one week prior to Titanic’s maiden run, aboard her sister ship Olympic. Arriving in New York, the family boarded a train for the trip to Asheville and Biltmore. They later learned of the Titanic tragedy, which claimed the life of Edwin Wheeler, 26, hired by George as a footman in 1911. Wheeler is believed to have been on Titanic with the Vanderbilt’s luggage.

At the time of the Titanic’s sinking, even the New York Times reported George and Edith cancelled their booking on the Titanic, on short notice, perhaps because of a premonition or warning by some family member. It has become a part of Titanic folklore. But it isn’t a theory supported by the research of Biltmore curators, not to mention the fact that George and his family boarded the Olympic a week before Titanic was to set sail. Biltmore research has established other possible reasons for the fateful decision not to be on the doomed ship.

Those theories are explained in the exhibit, which also includes a scale model of Titanic, as well as several Titanic-related items on loan from other collections - including a Second Class passenger list from Titanic (one of only two known to exist), on loan from the Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge.

Authentic costumes and other mementos from the film are among items on display in a special exhibit at the Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge, as part of the museum’s marking of the 100th anniversary of the RMS Titanic’s fateful voyage in April 1912.

"It has been 100 years since a lookout in the crow’s next shouted a warning of an iceberg ahead," said museum owner John Joslyn in a media release announcing the exhibit. "In the century since that moment, we have been captivated by the stories of bravery and tragedy experienced by the 2,208 passengers and crew members. Throughout 2012, Titanic Museum Attraction will offer an ongoing series of special events, activities and ceremonies to pay our respects and honor their memory."

As the whole world remembers the world’s most famous luxury liner, Titanic Museum Attraction will continue to open the door to the past in its one-of-a-kind way - letting "passengers" experience what it was like to walk the hallways, parlors, cabins and Grand Staircase of the Titanic while surrounded by more than 400 artifacts directly from the ship and its passengers. As visitors touch a real iceberg, walk the Grand Staircase and third class hallways, reach their hands into 28-degree water, and try to stand on the sloping decks, they learn what it was like on the RMS Titanic by experiencing it first-hand.

Each and every day, Titanic Museum Attraction provides a gateway to 1912, where First Class Maids and a variety of officers and crew members bring the stories of the fabled ship and its fascinating passengers to life by retelling their stories in vivid, dramatic detail. The priceless artifacts throughout the museum shed additional light on the lives of those passengers and crew members when guests see the actual belongings of those on board and artifacts that sailed on Titanic’s maiden voyage.

For more information, including ticket prices and hours of operation, visit or call 1-800-381-7670. Advance ticket purchase is strongly recommended, as some days sell out.

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