United States Senate Inquiry

Day 13

Testimony of Melville E. Stone

(The witness was sworn by Senator Smith.)

Senator SMITH.
State your full name, please.

Melville E. Stone.

Senator SMITH.
You are general manager of the Associated Press?

Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
How long have you held that position?

I have held the position of general manager over the existing organization, or an organization which preceded it, for 18 years.

Senator SMITH.
In such capacity, what were your duties?

I am the executive officer of the Associated Press, and it is my duty to supervise, in a general way, all of it's relations, subject to the president of the board of directors, with it's members and with the public, and gather the news of the world, or supervise it's gathering and it's distribution to the 800 members who compose the Associated Press.

Senator SMITH.
In such capacity, what part did you take in the receipt and dissemination of the news concerning the accident to the Titanic?

In general, I had charge of the entire work. Much of the news came automatically from the established processes of the organization. Some of it came in response to immediate inquiries of mine.

Senator SMITH.
Can you tell the committee how you were first apprised of this catastrophe, and from whom you obtained your information?

The first information we had - I speak of the Associated Press - came in two dispatches during the night of Sunday and Monday, April 14 and 15. These two dispatches came from the Marconi station at Cape Race. I shall be very glad to furnish you the dispatches themselves.

I have in my hand a copy of the Anaconda (Mont.) Standard of Monday morning, April 15, containing the two dispatches to which I refer. They are merged in one, but they read as follows:

Sunday night, April 14.

At 10:25 o'clock to-night the White Star Line steamship Titanic called "C.Q.D" to the Marconi wireless station here, and reported having struck an iceberg. The steamer said that immediate assistance was required.

Half an hour afterwards another message came, reporting that they were sinking by the head, and that women were being put off in the lifeboats.

The weather was calm and clear, the Titanic's wireless operator reported, and gave the position of the vessel as 41.46 north latitude and 50.14 west longitude.

The Marconi station at Cape Race notified the Allan liner Virginian, the captain of which immediately advised that he was proceeding for the scene of the disaster.

The Virginian at midnight was about 170 miles distant from the Titanic and expected to reach that vessel about 10 a.m. Monday.

The Olympic at an early hour this Monday morning was in latitude 40.32 north and longitude 61.18 west. She was in direct communication with the Titanic and is now making all haste toward her.

The steamship Baltic also reported herself as about 200 miles east of the Titanic and was making all possible speed toward her. The last signals from the Titanic were heard by the Virginian at 12.27 a.m.

The wireless operator on the Virginian says these signals were blurred and ended abruptly.

You will note from this dispatch that the steamship Virginian at midnight was reported 170 miles distant from the Titanic and expected to reach the side of Titanic at 10 a.m., on Monday.

Early on Monday morning I began pressing in every direction for additional word. We telegraphed to Cape Race, to Halifax, and particularly to the Allan Line at Montreal, and we waited, moment by moment, for some word from the Virginian, which was expected to arrive at the side of the Titanic at 10 o'clock in the morning of Monday.

During the day of Monday there was a most exasperating silence in every direction. We connected our New York office directly with Halifax, and called our Halifax correspondents to the wire, and asked them to secure any possible information. We telegraphed to Cape Race to ask them to secure any information.

Then began a series of rumors and dispatches floating through various news agencies throughout the world.

Of course we also put ourselves into immediate touch with the White Star officials at their office in New York, and we asked our London office to see what could be gotten there, if anything.

At 10 minutes past 9 o'clock on Monday morning it was reported to me that Mr. P. A. S. Franklin, vice president of the White Star Line, had said that the Olympic, of his company, had talked by wireless with the Titanic at 4:24 o'clock Monday morning; and our office confirmed this statement, which first came through what is known as the New York City News Association to us, by personally calling on Mr. Franklin's office and receiving assurances by our Mr. Helm, a reporter for the Associated Press, that that statement was correct. Thereupon we sent the statement out to our members.

At 9:30 o'clock on Monday morning there appeared on what is known as the Dow, Jones & Co.'s ticker, which is an automatic machine for reporting news and stock quotations, the following announcement. I quote from the original, which I will give you:

A dispatch from Halifax reports that all passengers had left the Titanic in boats shortly after 3:30 o'clock this morning.

At 9.43 the Montreal Star reported that an official dispatch from Halifax stated that word had been received there that the Titanic was still afloat and was making her way slowly toward Halifax. These and the other following messages were sent out, crediting them to the sources from which, so far as we know, they first appeared.

At 9:53 a. m., on Monday morning, Mr. Franklin said:

There need be no alarm for the Titanic's passengers.

He said:

The Titanic is now in latitude 41.16 north and longitude 50.14 west. She is being approached by the Olympic of the White Star Line, which we figure will be alongside by 8 p.m. today. The Olympic has just been reported as having been in direct communication with the Titanic.

Mr. Franklin was most emphatic in his assertion regarding the safety of the passengers and the steamer.

At 10:17 the same morning our London office reported a message received and sent out in London by the Exchange Telegraph Co. saying that a wireless through Halifax reports that all the Titanic passengers were safely taken off at 3:30 this morning.

That was, of course, a repetition of the dispatch I had already reported having appeared here on the Dow-Jones ticker. That went to London and was repeated back to us.

At 11.03 Monday morning, the following appeared on the Dow, Jones & Co.'s ticker. I furnish the original:

Dispatch from Montreal received by White Star people says Titanic was afloat at 8:30, and that women and children had not yet been taken off, though the lifeboats were ready in case of emergency.

The steamship is heading in direction of Halifax, from which the Virginian is approaching. It is thought that bulkheads will prevent ship from sinking. Titanic is moving under her own engines.

At 11.05 a. m., Monday, the following dispatch appeared on the Dow, Jones & Co. ticker. It is dated 10.39, at Montreal. I quote:

Wireless received 10 o'clock this morning said that two vessels were standing by the Titanic and that the big vessel's passengers had been taken off.

At 12.07 we received this dispatch from the Canadian Press (Ltd.), an organization engaged in receiving and distributing news to the newspapers of Canada. The dispatch is dated Montreal:

The local office of Horton Davidson, one of the Titanic's passengers, has received the following message: "All passengers are safe and Titanic taken in tow by the Virginian."

At 11.23, based on a statement by Mr. Franklin, which he said was contained in a wireless message he had received from Capt. Haddock, of the Olympic, but the text of which he declined to make public, this dispatch was sent out by the Associated Press:

Transfer of passengers from disabled Titanic is under way and 20 boat loads have already been taken aboard the steamship Carpathia.

This dispatch which I have just read was the first and only truthful dispatch between the hours when our two morning dispatches from Cape Race closed at this hour of 11.23 a. m. All the dispatches intervening, which I have read, were false, as were all of the statements of the White Star officials respecting the safety of the passengers on the Titanic.

Senator SMITH.
Do you know the sources of this disinformation, or by whom it was inspired?

I only know the sources as I have indicated them in my testimony respecting them. I have given the source of each one of these. The Montreal Star was the source of one dispatch; the Canadian Press (Ltd.) was the source of another dispatch; the Dow, Jones & Co.'s ticker was the source of several dispatches. Dow, Jones & Co., publish what is known as the Wall Street Journal, in the city of New York, and it would be an easy matter for the committee to find out from their source of information.

At 1 o'clock on Monday afternoon, Vice President Franklin, of the White Star Line, issued the following statement:

The Allan Line, Montreal, confirms report that the Virginian, Parisian, and Carpathia are in attendance, standing by the Titanic.

In the light of the fact that it was reported that the Virginian, which belongs to the Allan Line, of Canada, was standing by and first was to reach the side of the Titanic at 10 o'clock and then that she was there, I telegraphed to the Allan Line at Boston and asked them to let me know the instant they heard any word from the Virginian, and about noon, and, I should say, fully an hour before this statement of Mr. Franklin's, I received a message from H. and A. Allan, of Montreal, saying that they had no word whatever from the captain of the Virginian.

There was a dispatch given out in Boston by the Boston American, April 15, which you can find in the issue of that day, reading as follows:

A Boston dry-goods house which employs Herbert H. Hilliard as buyer received the following wireless from him this afternoon:

"Passengers all saved. Transferred to Baltic and Virginian."

There was a curious blunder in a dispatch from London. A message was received by the father of Phillips, who was the wireless operator on the Titanic. Phillip's father lived at Goldalming, and he received a message saying:

Making slowly for Halifax. Practically unsinkable. Don't worry.

This was supposed, for an hour or more, to have come direct from Phillips, the Titanic operator. Instead of that it came from an uncle of Phillips, who lived in England, and was the docket which he fixed up in London and which he was sending to Phillips father to comfort him.

In response to the telegram which I sent during Monday, on Monday night we received from our Cape Race correspondent the list of first and second class survivors on board the Carpathia.

About 7 o'clock in the evening of Monday we received a dispatch announcing that the Titanic had sunk with great loss of life, and that was, so far as we know, the first authentic information that there was a disaster.

Senator SMITH.
Do you know of any attempt upon the part of anyone connected with the White Star Line or the International Mercantile Marine or the Marconi Co. or any telegraph company to suppress the actual state of affairs which occurred at 11.50 Sunday evening?

I have no knowledge of my own on that. I do not know that there was any attempt at suppression on the part of anyone.

Senator SMITH.
How can you account for the failure to get reliable information concerning this disaster on Monday?

I can only account for it on the theory that this disaster occurred something like 400 miles from any land station of the wireless company, and the radius of the Carpathia, which was the only boat upon the scene, was not sufficiently great to reach any land station.

I have been told, and I assume that it is true, that such messages as we did get through - for instance, the list of survivors - came through because they were received by the Olympic, which got into that field, and had a radius of several hundred miles, and transmitted to Cape Race - that is, they were sent from the Carpathia to the Olympic and from the Olympic to Cape Race.

Senator SMITH.
Do you believe that the value of this information which was largely in the control of the wireless operators of the Marconi Co., Bride and Cottam, and the possibilities of reward to them personally, operated to work a suppression of the actual occurrences in connection with this disaster?

You ask me if it is my opinion that it did. I think the opportunities to make money on their part would tend in that direction, but I have no knowledge that anything of that kind was done. I do know this: That we were striving from Tuesday morning until Thursday night, when the Carpathia arrived, by every known means to get some word from the Carpathia.

I recognize that, after the sinking of the Titanic and when the Carpathia came up, she was probably out of range of any station, and could not send any messages, and that they were also very busy picking up the survivors.

They then started for New York. On the way they came in touch, as I understand it, with the Olympic, and gave them the list of survivors, which was repeated and which we received Monday night.

Then the Olympic moved on to the east and the Carpathia moved toward the west, and once more the Carpathia was out of range. She was beyond the reach of the Olympic or any other means of transmitting her news to the shore.

I examined the map to see how soon she would come within range of the Sable Island Marconi station. I thought that she must pass within 150 miles of there and be within range some time on Tuesday. But we had no word. We sent messages to her frequently from the coast stations, which had a long range and could reach her, while she could not respond, but received no response.

I did send a message to the Olympic and did receive a response from a man who was a passenger on that ship, saying that the Olympic had gone on to the scene of the disaster and passed on east, and he reported that they found nothing on the ground except some unimportant wreckage.

Then on Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday we were struggling to get some word.

On Thursday morning a representative of the Marconi Co. came to my office and made a proposition to sell me the news that should come in by the Carpathia respecting the Titanic disaster, and I made the arrangement with him to buy it, and we waited all day long Thursday to get that news, which never arrived.

The Marconi people themselves, I know, were striving in every way to get all the news, to sell it to us, because they came voluntarily on the morning of Thursday and made that contract.

Senator SMITH.
Who came?

Two men. I think the name of one of the men was Hugh. He was one of their representatives. I can not remember the name of the other man. It was not Mr. Bottomley, nor Mr. Sammis, nor Mr. Marconi.

I talked with Mr. Bottomley over the telephone. I am perfectly familiar with his voice and know it was he, and he said:

You understand that there is not anything that we will not try to do to get this news to you. We are struggling as hard as we can do it.

And I'm sure he did do all that was in his power to get it.

Senator SMITH.
Let me ask you whether you approve the practice followed by Binns in the Republic disaster and by Bride and Cottam in this disaster, of approaching to themselves such information as the public were properly entitled to, in return for a reward which they had some reason to think would await them upon their arrival in New York?

I certainly do not. I think in the case of great disaster of this sort the widest possible publicity should be given.

On behalf of the Associated Press, I should not want any newspaper which was not a member of the Associated Press to be cut out of the possibility of getting this information, which is vital to the whole country, and I think, and so expressed myself alike to Mr. Marconi and Mr. Bottomley, that it was a mistake to allow anyone to make merchandise out of that thing; subject to this exception, that I recognize that the Marconi Co. would be entitled to a fair compensation for the messages that were sent out from there, and I was ready to give it.

Senator SMITH.
Was any endeavor made to get from the White Star officials the information they received over the long distance telephone in their office at Montreal at 2.30 Monday morning?

No; because we had no knowledge until very recently that they had received any such information. In fact, we have no knowledge now that they received any such information. We know nothing about it.

Senator SMITH.
That is all, Mr. Stone. We are very much obliged to you.

(Witness Excused.)