Limitation of Liability Hearings


New York Times, Friday, June 25, 1915


J.B. Thayer testifies the White Star Director Proposed to Use Two More Boilers.




Women Tell of Empty Boats at Hearing of Steamship Line’s Suit to Limit Liabilities.


Direct testimony of witnesses who were on board the Titanic when she went down in April, 1912, was given in the United States District Court Annex in the Woolworth Building, in the suit brought by the White Star Line to have its liabilities limited. What happened during the last few moments the steamship was afloat was vividly described by several survivors.

The first witness was Captain A.T. Lundin of the Welin Marine Equipment Company, which furnished the boat davits on the Titanic. He testified that the davits were capable of picking up and lowering four lifeboats, one after another, and that each davit could swing four times the weight of a full lifeboat. This testimony was brought out in connection with the assertion of the claimants that the crew was unorganized.

John B. Thayer of Haverford, Penn., whose father went down with the ship although his mother was saved, told of saying good-bye to his mother when women and children were ordered to the port side by an officer while the men were sent to the starboard side. He and his father were constantly in the company of J. Bruce Ismay on the first few days’ run, he said. Mr. Thayer said he talked often with Mr. Ismay, and told of a conversation he and his father had had with the Director of the line on Sunday, the day of the sinking.

Talked with Ismay.


During the course of a conversation with Mr. Ismay regarding the speed of the ship and the time she would reach New York, the witness said Mr. Ismay made this remark: “Two more boilers are to be opened up today.”

Mr. Thayer’s father was Vice President of the Pennsylvania Railroad. The witness was returning from school in England. He is now assistant coach of the University of Pennsylvania crew on the Hudson River, and came down from Poughkeepsie to testify. He was allowed to continue his testimony, and said: “I left my mother on the port side, said goodbye to her, and then went to the starboard side. I saw my father and I went to about eight different boats and inquired of the men in charge which boats would take first-class passengers.

Each officer sent us to another boat, so we gave it up. When I saw my mother before she got into a boat there was a great crowd about her, and they were told to go below to the promenade deck. I saw a boat lowered, and believed my mother was in it. There were crowds around all the boats. I did not see any one who didn’t want to get into the boats.

Leaped from the Titanic.


“I stood on the boat deck until we were about fifteen feet from the water.

Then I jumped and swam to an overturned lifeboat, to the bottom of which twenty-eight men were clinging. I did not see any ice during the night, but next morning I saw icebergs at four points around us. I saw officers working on two collapsible boats, trying to launch them. One of them fell and was broken. Neither was launched.”

The next witness, Mrs. Lillian Renouf, broke down and wept when she recited the details of the disaster, which cost the lives of her husband and two daughters. She said: “My brothers ran down to the stateroom where my husband and I were in the second cabin and told us to get dressed. Soon we were out on deck My brothers could not get into the boats, which were very badly lowered.

The boat I was in was tilted almost to a vertical position. There was no light in our boat and no water. I saw quite a lot of women and children on the deck.”

Mrs. Marlon Kenyon of Noank, Conn., whose husband was drowned, said she was told to put on a lifebelt, but everyone laughed at the suggestion.

“No one warned us of the danger,” she said, “and it was not until my husband went up to and spoke to Captain Smith that we knew the truth. Then my husband made me put on a lifebelt and get into a lifeboat of which Captain Smith personally had charge.

Seamen Bad Oarsmen.


The witness said there were only twenty-eight persons in her boat, which had a capacity of fifty-six. She told of incidents aboard the lifeboat, and said the Countess de Rotche took an oar. When she wanted to return and pick up survivors in the water she said every other woman objected.

Mrs. Horace S. De Camp, whose husband was lost, testified that the two seamen and the fireman who manned her boat did not know how to row. She said her husband was not allowed to enter the boat with her. There were only thirteen persons in her boat, she said.

Richard H. Robinson, managing director of the Lake Torpedo Boat Company, maker of submarines, who had had experience in the construction of war and merchant ships, testified that for $150,000 longitudinal bulkheads could have been put into the Titanic which would have kept her afloat. Even transverse bulkheads could have been put in at a cheaper figure, he said.

The hearing will be continued today.