Passenger Baggage and Effects, and Insured Cargos
Passenger Baggage and Effects, and Insured Cargos

Passenger Baggage and Effects, and Insured Cargos

Liability of the owners of each vessel to their passengers for the loss of personal effects and baggage was limited by the terms of transport as stated on each ticket.

3. Neither the shipowner, agent of passage broker shall be liable to any passenger carried under this contract for loss, damage or delay to the passenger or his baggage, arising from the act of God, public enemies, arrests or princes, rulers or people, fire, collision, stranding, perils of the sea, ... beyond the carrier's control even though the loss, damage or delay may have been caused or contributed to by the neglect or default of the shipowner's servants or of other persons for whose acts he would otherwise be responsible, and whether occurring on board this or any other vessel on which the passenger may be forwarded under this contract.

TITANIC Limitation of Liability Case, 1912

Liability of the owners of each vessel to their passengers is also limited, each ticket stating explicitly the maximum liability. Beyond this the passenger has no claim. Any action for further damages on the part of the REPUBLIC's passengers would be, therefore, not against the White Star Line, but against the owners of the FLORIDA. ...

New York Post, January 25, 09, 2:2

The passengers who were on the REPUBLIC have lost everything they had with them, except the few articles of clothing they wore when they were transferred to the FLORIDA and later to the BALTIC. As far as could be learned at the company's offices and at the offices of the underwriters and insurance companies that make a specialty of insuring passengers baggage, not a single policy was issued. Travelers across the Atlantic have become so accustomed to trips and are so confident that the risk is slight, that they do not take the trouble to take out a policy of [baggage] insurance.

The company is liable only to the extent of $100, unless a special declaration is made and these conditions are printed on each ticket. ...

Just what the value of the passengers baggage on the REPUBLIC was cannot be estimated. Seventy per cent of the passengers were women. They were mostly winter excursionists bound for the Mediterranean, some to visit there and some to make the trip as far as Alexandria and back so these must have taken many trunks of clothing. ...

New York Commercial, January 26, 09, :3

Notwithstanding the liability limitation specifically for baggage, additional and superior protection against claims was afforded to the White Star and Italian steamship companies by the Harter Limitation of Liability Act [previously discussed]. The Lloyd Italiano Societa Di Navigazione, owners of the FLORIDA, filed a petition in the U. S. District Court, Southern District of New York, which sought to limit their exposure for legal claims under provisions of the Harter Act. They were successfully given this protection.

Under the Harter Liability Act, both steamship companies were specifically exempted from any liability for lost items of "platina, gold, gold dust, silver, bullion, or other precious metals, coins, jewelry, bills of any bank or public body, diamonds, or other precious stones" and other singularly valuable objects "contained in any parcel, or package, or trunk...[shipped] as freight or baggage" unless those items were specifically entered on a bill of lading. For declared valuables, the steamship companies' sole exposure for any legal claims brought against them as a result of the REPUBLIC-FLORIDA collision was limited to the FLORIDA's value; no other assets of either company could be compromised. The FLORIDA's sale at auction provided only a small pool of funds to satisfy a comparatively large number, and value, of claims. The majority of claims which were filed in this case were for the loss of personal effects and baggage, but, by the terms of the Harter Act, singularly valuable items within their baggage, unless declared at the time of voyage, could not be claimed. Claims were presented on behalf of the majority of passengers by the attorneys of the White Star Line.

The first responsibility of the Captain of a vessel at sea is to insure the safety of his passengers. Captain Sealby allayed any fears of his passengers; they were told that their physical removal from the REPUBLIC was a precautionary measure only and that the REPUBLIC would not sink.

[General Brayton Ives discussing the disaster.] 'You see, when the lights went out [within a few minutes - "six seconds"- after the collision] orders were given to the stewards to see that all of the passengers had left their staterooms and were assembled on the promenade deck' ...

N. Y. Sun, January 26, 09, 3:1

... Officers and stewards took up the task of getting the passengers out of their cabins and assembling them on deck with the least possible delay and confusion.

N. Y. Sun, January 24, 09, 1:7

... At about 6:30 o'clock in the morning, shortly after the passengers save the injured were gathered under him on the promenade deck, Capt. Sealby made a short speech, talking as calmly as if he were telling a story at his own dinner table.

'I want you to know,' he said, 'that there is no immediate danger, but prudence dictates that the passengers be transferred to the vessel which struck us.'

N. Y. Sun, January 26, 09, 2:5

White Star Line and Captain Sealby believed almost to the end - in fact, White Star Line believed that the Republic was still afloat until Capt. Sealby informed them otherwise - that the Republic would be saved. See also: The Practically Unsinkable Republic, infra.

[After the first transfer of passengers to the FLORIDA...] Captain Sealby had addressed his men from the bridge, speaking to a muster of the entire crew. 'I am very proud of you,' he said. 'You have acted like men. There is no coward on this boat. The passengers have gone and you have the right to leave the ship. She may sink - she may not; I cannot say. You have done your duty and more and the boats are at your disposal.' ...

N. Y. Sun, January 26, 2:6

[Before the BALTIC bade her final departure...] Capt. Ranson held the Baltic near the Republic for two hours fearing that Capt. Sealby might need rescuing himself, but at 10 o'clock [a. m. Sunday, January 24], when Sealby seemed to think that he was safe enough and could keep his ship above water, the Baltic sounded a rousing good-by, dipped her colors and made tracks for New York. ...

N. Y. Sun, January 26, 09, 2:6

... 'Before six o'clock on Sunday night,'[slightly more than just two hours before the Republic settled to the bottom] said the [REPUBLIC's] Captain, 'we knew that the Republic would never live to reach Martha's Vineyard. By seven o'clock she was way down in the stern and wallowing with long, painful rolls that meant there was very little more life left in her. Williams (R. J. Williams, the second officer) and I stood on the bridge and kept our eyes ahead on the lights of the Gresham and Seneca, which were towing. The ship was so low in the stern that the waves were breaking over her at that point, and the water was swashing clear up to the ladder of the saloon deck aft.

'I think it must have been just about eight o'clock when we both saw that she was going to drop under us within a very few minutes. ...'

How Captain Sealby Stood by His Ship,
Harper's Weekly, February 13, 09

An attempt was made to tow her directly to repair facilities or, at least, into shoal water where she could be salvaged. The passengers were aware of this coming attempt and the likelihood - assumed likelihood - that they would have access to their personal belongings at some future date. A scramble by passengers to collect their personal belongings could not be allowed.

[Republic passenger Gen. Brayton Ives said,] "I sent my valet back to get some of my clothes. He came back without them, saying that orders had been issued that no one was to be allowed to return to the staterooms.

Evening World, January 25, 1909, 5:6.

All agreed that the sunken Republic is little less richly laden than a galleon. Costly jewels, furs, gold and bank notes and personal belongings for which the owners were forbidden to return are covered by fathoms of water. Orders were given by the Republic's Officers within a few minutes after the collision that the passengers must not return to their cabins. ...
[Republic passenger J. F. McCarthy, said, after the collision,] "Stewards were dispatched to notify the passengers to assemble on the upper decks, and thither they groped their way in the darkness.
"The next order was that passengers must not return to their cabins, but be prepared to enter the lifeboats immediately. ..."
[Emphases supplied.]

New York World, January 26, 1909, 3:1.

[Baltic passenger R. H. Ingersoll said,] "They were not permitted to return to the staterooms of the Republic after they went on deck after the collision. [Emphasis supplied.] They could not. If they would, for the ship was pitch dark, I am told, and it would have been at the risk of life and limb. They were much safer on the open deck, though they suffered from exposure. …

New York World, January 26, 1909, 4:3.

[Republic passenger Dr. J. Arthur Lamb, discussing the period immediately following the collision and arrival of passengers to the Republic's deck,] [The stewards] immediately examined all rooms and locked the doors of those that they found empty. This was done in order to keep any one from entering some one else's room and either accidentally or intentionally taking the valuables within. There was no panic to speak of, except for the clatter and clash as people collided in the dark. Those who had not lost entrance to their rooms were able to gather sufficient clothing for both themselves and those who needed clothing. …

New York Evening Sun, January 25, 1909, 2:6

"I occupied stateroom 79," said Mr. William J. Prendergast of Worcester, Mass., who with his wife was aboard the Republic. "When the crash came we donned what first came to hand and together we managed to get on deck. There was a mass of people there and all kinds of wild rumors were afloat. The Republic's crew showed most remarkable and praiseworthy coolness, and had it not been for their efforts in quieting the passengers I am sure many more lives would have been lost. We were but poorly clad when we reached the Florida, for no one had been able to get any clothes after once leaving their rooms. …"

New York Evening Sun, January 25, 1909, 2:7

[After the collision,] we realized we would better dress ourselves completely and be prepared for anything.
When we were dressed, I asked my daughter where our jewelry was. We had a small amount of jewelry which we had not turned over to the purser, but which had been placed in a steamer trunk for the night, our intention being to place it in the care of the purser the next morning.
"We have not time to think of that now," my daughter answered. "We'd better go on deck at once."
So we picked up our rugs and golf capes and went on deck at once.
Soon we finally landed on the Baltic, with nothing but the clothes we had on our backs.
[Emphasis supplied.]

Mrs. Smoot, Washington Evening Post, Jan. 26, 09, 2:1.

... Once on the Republic's main deck after the collision her passengers were not permitted to go below; the engine room was flooded; the ship was in darkness, they would have trampled each other. ...

N. Y. World, January 26, 09, 1:7&8

The transfer of the passengers, who had been nearly thrown out of their berths by the force of the collision and who had rushed to the decks as the gongs clanged out the signal to close the compartment doors only to be reassured by the officers, was made under unusually favorable conditions. Of course, no one took anything in the shape of luggage in those trips in the lifeboats, but everyone seemed thankful when the deck of the FLORIDA was gained. ...

The [Boston] Sunday Herald, January 24, 09, 1:7

[Describing the REPUBLIC's passengers after transfer to the BALTIC...] there were women wearing the carpet slippers of the engineer's department or shivering in overcoats which they had picked up in their rush from their staterooms. Others wore sweaters twisted in the form of hoods, which covered their heads and necks. ...

Not only were their clothes missing, but their valuables, jewelry, letters of credit, and money. ...

N. Y. Post, January 25, 09, 1:6

[Describing the REPUBLIC's passengers after transfer to the BALTIC...] Here was another great national contrast [between the wealthy Americans on a pleasure cruise, and the Italians venturing to the earthquake devasted regions of Italy]. One heard a good deal about the probable total loss of passengers' baggage. Americans seemed to grudge mostly the loss of jewelry, of money, valuables, or of lately purchased articles of attire, whereas Italians - no matter how poor - mourned chiefly, and in a sentimental way, over some family souvenir which 'babbo ' or 'mamma ' had given, the association for them being more important than the monetary value of anything they possessed. One young Italian told me he had lost everything except one hundred dollars which he had in his pocket, and which he would gladly give if he could only recover from the wreck an old photograph of his dead father. 'Quella era l'unica, ' he moaned, pathetically, 'non si puo pia rimpiazzare ' ('That was the only one I possessed and [it] cannot be replaced').

Henry Savage Landor, a passenger aboard the
BALTIC, "The Latest Drama of the Sea,"
Harper's Weekly, February 13, 09, 96:3

Remember, as a rough rule, values in 1909 can be multiplied thirty fold for a very rough yet conservative estimate of current value (gold in 1909, $20/ounce, gold in 2006 $625/ounce). The current value of antique jewelry, coins and other valuables would be much higher.

A St. Louis Family Lost $25,000;
'Cheap to Get Off So Easy'

Although the wreck cost them jewels worth about $25,000, Samuel Cupples, the St. Louis millionaire, philanthropist and manufacturer, and his family, consisting of his daughter, Mrs. William Scudder, and her daughters, describe the behavior of the officers and crew of the ill-fated Republic as brave and heroic.

'Everybody behaved nobly, and the gallantry of the officers was only excelled by their cool headed bravery,' said Mr. Cupples.

'When we were being transferred to the Baltic, the crew of the ship behaved gallantly. The women were transferred first and despite the hazardous method of the work, the men made light of it.

'The ramming of the Republic awakened me and tossed me out of my berth. For a minute I could not think. My mind seemed blank. Then the thought rushed into my head that we had struck a rock.

'My daughter and my grandchildren had reached the door of my stateroom, in a sadly undressed state, with the exception of their heavy wraps and shoes. We linked arms and made our way to the upper deck. It was pitch dark in our rooms and cabin, for the shock had stopped the electric machinery.

'Once on the upper deck the officers forbade our return to our rooms. Imagine my predicament, having not a stitch to wear except my bathrobe. Dr. Wagner very kindly went into my stateroom and got my overcoat. My daughter and granddaughters were a little better off, but they lost all their clothes for the eight months' trip and all their jewelry. I guess the lot was worth about $25,000, but it was mighty cheap to get off that easy.'

N. Y. American, January 26, 09, 6:3


Guests who left in affluence three days ago returned destitute. Most of the big hotels last night housed survivors from the ill-fated REPUBLIC; In many cases the guests had left the same hotel only three days ago full of enthusiasm and with quantities of baggage bound for the Mediterranean. Their enforced return was in striking contrast to their departure. In not a single instance, so far as could be learned, did one of them return with so much as a handbag. They wore a motley assortment of clothing and were easily recognizable by all other guests as being the survivors of the wreck at sea.

New York Times, January 26, 1909, 6:2

Mrs. Herbert Griggs was the only one of the injured Republic passengers who was taken to a hotel. Her husband, who is a banker, met her at the pier with a closed carriage and drove to the St. Regis.
There is some mystery as to just how Mrs. Griggs suffered her injury. At the hotel last night it was said that she was trampled by one of the men passengers of the Republic when hurrying to her stateroom to save jewels valued at $10,000, after the first alarm. Her husband refused to discuss the matter last night nor would he put any valuation on the lost jewelry.

New York American, January 26, 1909, 1:4

Mr. Lynch Ignorant of Wife's Fate.

"You may talk a few words with him," he [the Florida's doctor] said in Italian to the newspaper men who crowded about with inquiries, "but for pity's sake don't tell him that his wife is dead. He knows nothing about it. And, look here," he added, as he piloted the visitors down through the crew's mess quarters toward the hospital, "If he says anything about a bag full of money which he had on the Republic tell him it's all right and safe, won't you?" [Emphasis supplied.]

New York Times, Jan. 26, 1909, 1:1
also Boston Journal, January 26, 1909, 3:1.

[Mrs. Earl speaking about valuables lost] I lost valuable jewels and a sable coat which were left in the REPUBLIC. ...

New York World, January 26, 09, 3:3

"Much property was lost. I personally know of several women who abandoned their jewels in their staterooms and never recovered them. In several instances these valuables amounted to two, three and four thousand dollars. One man lost $4,000 cash and $25,000 in bonds. ... "

Republic passenger Rev. Dr. John W. Norris, Trenton Evening Times, January 26, 1909, 3:2

'We are glad to be here [having safely arrived in New York],' said Mr. Mellon. 'We brought nothing away from the wrecked boat except the clothes on our backs, and even those were a varied assortment of odds and ends, but nevertheless we are happy and thankful - thankful for many things ...'

N. Y. Sun, January 27, 09, 5:2

One of the passengers who called at the [White Star Line] office was Dr. Oscar Wittstock of Budapest, who lost everything in the wreck, including $500 in cash. ...

New York Evening Sun, January 27, 1909, 1:5

[Mrs. O. A. Washburn speaking about valuables lost] None of us was allowed to go to the staterooms after we were summoned to the deck although there was time to get our possessions, the reason for this I presume was that the FLORIDA was already so heavily loaded with her own passengers and freight that no extras could be considered. Jewels, watches, money and other valuables were simply locked in the rooms and all went to the bottom.

Providence Journal, January 27, 09, page 2

Passengers locked their valuables in their rooms with the expectation, no doubt, that they would have access to their valuables once the Republic had been towed into port.

That on January 23rd, 1909, at about 5:50 o'clock in the morning, when said steamship "Republic", as deponent is informed and verily believes, was about twenty-six miles southwesterly of the Nantucket Shoals Lightship, said steamship was run into by the SS. "Florida" and severely damaged; ... that deponent was taken from said SS. "Republic" to the said SS. "Florida", and thence to a third vessel, the SS. "Baltic", which had come in the meantime; that by reason of the seriousness of the damage done to SS. "Republic" and the necessity of immediate departure, deponent was unable to remove or cause to be removed any of her said baggage, but was compelled to leave everything, except such clothes as she at that time was wearing, on board said SS. "Republic"; that, as deponent is informed and verily believes, on the 24th day of January, 1909, between the hours of eight and nine o'clock in the evening, said SS. "Republic" sank in deep water some fifteen miles w.s.w. from said Nantucket Shoals Lightship, and everything on board, including deponent's baggage aforesaid, became and is a total loss; ...

A "form" deposition, FLORIDA Limitation of
Liability proceedings.

I passed out more life preservers, then headed for my room, two decks down. Except for a candle here and there I found the passageways inside the ship all dark. A steward held me up at the foot of grand staircase, saying: 'You cannot go below, sir.' I said why not. He said: 'Orders!' I kept on going. I wanted to get into more clothes. ...

Sea-Borne, James B. Connolly, REPUBLIC
passenger, Doubleday, 1944, Page 165)

The loss of personal effects suffered by the Republic's passengers will, according to the estimates of well-informed marine insurance men, be for 360 passengers from $250,000 to $300,000. Little insurance was carried on this personalty.

NY Times, Jan 27, 09, 2:5

There is some doubt as to whether the sunken vessel Republic, the value of whose cargo and of the passengers' luggage that went down with her is estimated at half a million sterling [$2.5 million] , can be raised. Whether an attempt will be made or not will depend upon the official report of the company's representatives, but at present it is thought that the vessel lies in too deep water for her to be other than a total wreck.

London Times, Jan. 27, 09, 6f

Close to 500 claims were filed by passengers for the loss of personal effects and baggage, to the aggregate of nearly 500,000 in 1909 dollars. Unfortunately, a detailed itemization for the vast majority of these claims was never filed with the court and only forty itemized claims survive as a part of public record.

...under this proposed settlement [which was accepted], the various claims will be awarded a percentage [of the proceeds derived from the sale of the FLORIDA] on the basis of the value as filed whereby the claimants will be relieved of the burden that would otherwise rest upon them of proving in detail under cross-examination before a Commissioner all the different items making up the respective claims. ...

Correspondence - Wallace, Butler & Brown, Esq.
5 November, 1910.

Although itemizations do not exist for the majority of claims, for the claims that were filed, at least each passenger's individual claim total is listed. 96 claims exceed $1,000 each and, from this group, 17 families filed claims of over $5,000 each, for the loss of personal effects, with the largest single family claiming $31,688 - the Scudder family - just four women! Out of the $427,547 in claims for personal effects filed in connection with this case, perhaps conservatively $80,000 to $90,000 would be in the form of hard, salvageable items such as jewelry or tangible cash, conceivably worth from two to three million dollars at today's market prices. It must be understood, however, that the claims filed by the passengers as a part of this litigation were for items that were declared and not privately insured; the claims represent only uninsured baggage and declared, uninsured personal effects.


A Safe is provided in the Purser's Office in which passengers may deposit money, jewels, or ornaments, for safe keeping.

The Company will not be liable to passengers for the loss of money, jewels, or ornaments, by theft or otherwise, not so deposited.

Notes for First Class Passengers
on Board Steamers of the White StarLine,
page 26, 6th Issue, April, 1913

The steamship companies, under the Harter Act, were not at all liable for any valuables which were originally undeclared and, consequently, these valuables would not/could not be entered as claims in this litigation.

Reports that the REPUBLIC carried a large sum of money collected for the sufferers from the earthquake at Messina were denied yesterday at the offices of the White Star Line. At least Manager Mitchell of the Mediterranean Service said that no such money had been turned over to the steamship company for transportation; it was of course possible, Mr. Mitchell said, that some individual passenger had such a treasure in his personal belongings.

N. Y. Sun, January 25, 09, 2:2

The personal jewelry and valuables of wealthy passengers embarking on a two month trip to the Mediterranean (an area stricken with poverty and recent disaster) would certainly be substantial and, primarily, privately insured. And, of course, other cargos of significant value would also be insured in the same fashion - by private insurers.

[The Republic] had on board a full cargo of general merchandise and foodstuffs. Many of the shippers carried insurance on their shipments.

New York Times, January 24, 09, 2

That part of the cargo owned by private consignees was probably fully covered by insurance.

New York Post, January 25, 09, 2:2

The loss of the Republic's cargo where it was insured will be paid by insurance companies. Where not insured it will get a pro rata share of damage money collected against the Florida...

N. Y. American, January 26, 09, 4:1

In a 2000 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' opinion concerning the 1901 wreck of the SS Islander, Yukon Recovery, LLC v. Certain Abandoned Property, et al, 205 F.3d 1189 (9th Cir. 2000), the failure to file claims by insurance companies in a limitation of liability proceeding was discussed. That court stated:

Yukon argues that two pieces of evidence conclusively demonstrate that [Marine Insurance Company] MIC abandoned any interest it may have in the cargo of the Islander. Yukon argues that MIC's failure to file a claim in the 1901 admiralty limitation of liability proceeding brought by Canadian Pacific Navigation Company [owner of the Islander] conclusively establishes that MIC abandoned its interest in the cargo. The district court found that it was not unusual that MIC declined to file a claim, which was supported by testimony from an expert witness on insurance practices. This conclusion is not unreasonable given that the limitation fund included only the value of the Islander's lifeboats and a small amount of freight due on the voyage. The only preclusive effect of failure to file a claim in the limitation proceeding is that it bars recovery from CPNC, which is not the equivalent of abandonment of title to lost property.


There was no incentive for private insurers to enter into litigation against the FLORIDA nor could they if the items that they insured were undeclared. In addition, for items that were declared, the legal and administrative expenses of a private insurer would clearly out-weigh any possible [the case may not have been settled] gain from an already dwindling fund. The expense for passengers whose claims were filed, however, was non-existent; they were either represented by White Star's attorneys or a handful of other law firms working on a contingency basis. There was no out-of-pocket expense for them to attempt to secure some compensation for their uninsured but declared articles.

It is anticipated that the salvage value of privately insured and/or undeclared passenger effects, and other cargos as yet unknown, should be some multiple of the amount for the items claimed in the Harter Act litigation; some multiple of $3,000,000 current market value. However, to the extent that property was left in individual staterooms or otherwise sparsely dispersed throughout the vessel, rather than stored in specific baggage compartments, cargo holds, with the purser, or in other areas where concentrations of valuable items may be recovered, location and recovery of this property would prove difficult and, in some cases, prohibitively expensive.