17 historical photos that show how the wealthy once travelled on ships just like the Titanic

  • The Titanic sank in the early hours of April 15, 1912 – killing over 1,500 people and becoming one of the most famous maritime disasters in history.
  • But the Titanic was just one of countless passenger liners that dotted the seas and dominated the travel industry during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • These ships carried immigrants, cargo, and, oftentimes, very wealthy travellers.

The period of time spanning between the beginning of the 20th century and the start of WWII can be called the “golden age of ocean liners.” Driven on by immigration to the US and an increased enthusiasm for recreational nautical travel, companies like the White Star Line began building bigger, faster, and fancier ships to accommodate passengers.

The most famous of these ships is the RMS Titanic, which famously struck an iceberg and sank during its maiden voyage in 1912. However, there were countless other liners during this time, plugging back and forth across the oceans and transporting immigrants, cargo, and travellers.

The age of ocean liners was disrupted by the worldwide Great Depression in the 1930s, only to sputter out entirely during the Second World War, which saw many of the ships converted to suit more wartime purposes.

Business Insider plumbed the depths of Flickr to find photos of what life was like for the wealthiest passengers on these ships. Here are 17 photos that highlight the often-extravagant experience:

The RMS Celtic launches on April 4, 1901 on a maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York.

A passenger reclines on a deckchair on an unknown passenger ship. He is enjoying a pipe and a bottle of Scotch whiskey labelled “W. Lumsden & Co, Aberdeen.”The voyage likely took place around 1900.

Passengers pose on the deck of a ship around 1900. The woman seated second to the left is wearing a sailor’s hat with the symbol of the Aberdeen White Star Line.

Crew and passengers playing a game on the deck of a ship around 1900.

A group of men and women gather around a hatch cover on the deck of a passenger ship around 1900.

A ship’s captain —  possibly W.L. Smith — stands on the bridge of a steamship around 1900.

A woman sits on a deck swing, surrounded by a group of her fellow passengers. This photo was taken around 1900.

A deck-side group picture of Aberdeen White Star Line passengers taken around 1900.

Crew members and passengers of the S.S. Damascus pose for a group photo around 1905.

The dome of the HMS Oceanic, photographed in 1914.

Ice clings to the side of the S.S. Havana, a Ward Line passenger steamship. This photo was taken between 1910 and 1915.

The luxurious smoke room of the HMS Oceanic in 1914.

Crowds toss streamers and wave farewell as the SS Ceramic departs the Sydney, Australia suburb of Millers Point around 1925. The ship was operated for the White Star Line and met a tragic fate in 1942, when it was sunk by a torpedo from a German U-boat in the Atlantic Ocean. Only one out of the 657 people on board survived.

An elderly passenger with a large mustache smiles on deck of the SS Runic in the 1920s.

A ship’s captain plays deck games with a child around 1925.

Two passengers enjoy beer and cigars aboard the S.S. Tanda around 1925.

Three passengers sit on deck chairs and read aboard the S.S. Ormiston around 1934.

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