GLENDALE The sinking of the Titanic is one of the great markers of America's history. Well before the 1997 movie the ship and the stories surrounding have intrigued many, reaching even into the Ohio Valley to excite interest.
Thomas Krupica Sr., retired history teacher of Glendale, is one such local historian. April 11 he gave a presentation on the Titanic and its birth, life, tragic end and legacy at the Moundsville Public Library.
He added that Titanic one of those events in history that left a lasting impact in America's history.
"It was an event that hit the U.S.," he said.
"In the 1900s there were 10-20 families in the U.S. that had more money than you or I could even imagine, and many men went down with the ship. That made it even more impressive. Especially in New York," he said.
He added that among the items that showcase the impact of the Titanic on the public was 1912 edition of "Sinking of the Titanic," which was released within weeks of the tragedy and sold for $1, or about $23 today.
Krupica noted that he owned an edition, along with 1912 Olympic postcards and a life jacket from the 1979 film Raise the Titanic. To further illustrate the disaster he related the stories of some key figures who had a major role in the ship's building, demise and rescue.
He noted that postcards, correspondence and news clippings were important to help people step back into the mind set of those days.
"It's tough to compare today and 1912," he said.
He said the Titanic was unique for its time in that it expressed the spirit of the age. It was the time of America's industrial revolution. Inventiveness and the advance of technology fueled a growing sense of confidence.
"They thought that even if it was holed it would be its own lifeboat," he said. "It was a different philosophy back then.
"Some people at the very end didn't think it would sink," he said. "You think because it's big, it's invincible."
He also noted some of the stories and legends that grew around the Titanic, including that of Wallace Hartley and his band, who played until almost the very end.
"I consider them heroes," he said.
In the wake of the disaster, several maritime changes have occurred. They include the practice of having lifeboats for all people about a ship and the formation of the International Ice Patrol, a wing of the Coast Guard. The patrol throws a wreath into the ocean every year in memory of the Titanic.
"Titanic set a precedent," he said.
He added that the top-grossing movie directed by James Cameron did an excellent job of capturing the look and the feel of what it must have been like for a passenger on the Titanic when the ship struck and iceberg and commenced sinking.
"The director, James Cameron, really hit it on the head. There was panic. There was confusion. There was commotion. I could not even imagine the terror and the anguish of those who are on the ship that night," he said.
"For the most part it was portrayed pretty accurately," he said, adding that in his opinion the only major disservice was the failure to portray second class passengers.
As a Titanic aficionado, he nearly had a chance to appear as an extra in the film.
Krupica first became interested in the Titanic after graduating from West Liberty and beginning his career as a history teacher. While going through textbooks when his attention was caught by a picture of the sinking ship. Later research illustrated the impact of the tragedy, which in some respects was as significant as the wars that usually mark historical periods in this country.
"This was a different take on history," he said.
He went on to find several reputable books covering the Titanic, including The Maiden Voyage by Geoffrey Marcus, and A Night to Remember by Walter Lord. He eventually joined historical societies dedicated to the Titanic and events surrounding it, as well as the Olympic class ship.
"I just became engrossed in the event itself," he said. "It has been my hobby and my passion. For 30 plus years I've been involved in the Titanic."
He added that while he has gone to conventions and met survivors, regrettably the last survivor of the Titanic, Millvina Dean, who was nine months old during the tragedy, has regretfully passed away.
Krupica has made presentations at schools, Lions Clubs, and other organizations.
To learn more about the Titanic, Krupica noted several books including "Titanic, Triumph and Tragedy" by John Eaton, and groups such as the Titanic Historical Society and Titanic International.
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