During these winter weekends and evenings, I’ve been navigating though some of my rainy-day projects. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to finish digitizing my photo albums, some of which belonged to my parents. The oldest photographs date back to the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. They showcase very different times.These family albums came from an era when photography was done sparingly, often just for special occasions such as weddings. Most photographs were taken inside studios and no doubt were expensive, since the technology was relatively new. Years would elapse between some of the photos. I often wonder about the real personalities behind some of these formal, seemingly reserved, poses and expressions.
It’s an interesting contrast between the colorful smiling selfies of today’s fast-paced digital world, and these fragile black and white or sepia-toned prints of people, places and ships that were taken longer ago. Today, nearly everyone takes photos (thank goodness for waterproof cameras!), and a collection of hundreds or thousands of photos is commonplace.
I came across this photo of the R.M.S. Celtic in one of my father’s albums recently. I must have seen it before, but had never noticed it, much less given thought to why it was included. After carefully removing the photo from the album to look at the reverse side, I realized that my father had immigrated to the US aboard this vessel. I suddenly found myself immersed in an internet search for more details.
I was surprised to learn that the Celtic was a sister ship to the infamous Titanic. Both were among the large state-of-the-art passenger ships that launched in the early 20th Century, both owned by the White Star Line. We know well the history and the sad ending of the Titanic, and might assume that the relatively-unheard-of, slightly smaller, Celtic, had a happier and less dramatic fate.
Sadly, that was not the case. The Celtic experienced several close calls, including collisions (yes, plural) in the years prior to my father’s passage in November 1926. Just two years later, the Celtic ended up permanently grounded on rocks. Fortunately, all of the passengers were rescued, but the vessel and cargo were a total loss.
I wasn’t able to locate the passenger list from my father’s voyage, but am happy to see so much other maritime memorabilia and history online. It has spurred my own efforts to preserve and archive those photos and other items that are meaningful or might have historic value to others in the future.