I nd ust al Disasters at Sea Around Newfoundland

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Ind ustri al Disasters at Sea Around Newfoundland


Historicizing Maritime Peril: 1914-1918

Sl. John's

fly W,lITcn Olivcr Bush

/\ thesis submilled to the School of Graduatc Studies in partial fulfillment


the rcquiremcnts for thc dcgn:c of


Dep<lI"tlllclll of Ilistory, MelllOriallJnivcrsity of Newfoundl,lIld July 20 12



Developments in seafaring labour coincided with changes in other industrial sectors, notably coal mining and railroads. ,\ global evolution from merchant to indus(r"iai capital connected the three industries, and they shMed a broad range of Slmilariti('_~. As the workplace became increasingly organized and concentrated, workel's became subject to new occupational hazilnls, including industrial dis~lstel-s Such disasters have becn a common theme in Atlantic Lliladian history, and have ex,lCted a p<lrticuiarly he,1Vy toll on NewfouildbIld, as demonstrated hy the SS Ncw{rJUndillnd dis;lster ()f :~l M;lrch ]')14, when 1:~;! crcwmen found theillselves stranded 'on the icc' in a blizzard (this disastcr provides insight into the gendered dimcnsions or facing risk at sea). DUI'ing the saIlle stOl"l1l the SS Soutilern Cross disappeared with()ut ;l (1',1ce carrying 174 se'llcrs. 10'0111' years bter, Ihl' SS r/ori:a:i ran aground al Cappahaydcn killing 94 people, many of who belonged \0

~ewfuundland's UJl1lme['ci;d ami social elite. I':xplol'ing eJch disaster ,Ind comparing the I'l'speclive social impacts ,lIld ensuing processes provides insight into eI;ISS I-elations in Newfoundl;lIld


This investigation could not h;lVe been undertaken lVithout the direction, patience and support of Illy supel'visor, Dr. Scan Cadigan, who has taught me more about the field of history than I lVould have thought possible for a single ;Katicmic yC<li"

Special thanks also goes to the nHlsiC;ll Dr. Chris Youe for te.ll"hmg me ,dJUut hiSlOriGll theory, illY long lost I"c!dtivp Ill'. John I Llrl;md tOl" helping Illl' IUCdtl' elusive sources sp('cific to the SS SO(lllwm Cross, ,md especi;dly to Dr. lelf Webh fur unknllwingly resolving my rcl1her dcute w,lsheli-up gr'adudte stndcnl ph;lS(, l.ikl'lVisL'. thl' support of Fran Wanen dnd Ilenec Ciowe is Inllch ;lpprcci;lted. ,1nd the gradU.ltl' coilol! of 2()11/2()12 W.lS ,I iJlcasurc 10 sUtdy with. I"lst but cl'rl.ltnly not le,lst, th.lllks to my Lltlwl- for ,111V,1YS believing in t1lL'



Tdble 01 Contents


l\b~ll·ad .. . . . . 11

Acknowledgcmcnts ... iii

List of Figures

Chapter 1 -Introduction .. . ... 1

CI!;lpter 2 Ilistoriography .. . ... ..()

Ch<lpler:l -55 Newfound/om} Disaster


I'J 11... .13 Chapler4 -SSSouliJem Cross Dis<lsterof 1914 ... 87

Chapter:' -S5 F/orize/Disasterof 19IB... ..117

Chapter6-Conclusion. . ... 155

Hibliography ... 15')



Figure 1.1 ~ Tahle ofSS Soulhem Cross's Scaling I{ccord ... 91 Figure 1.2 ~ Table orthe SS Horixel's Scaling Ikconl ... . ... 119



"S<lilors, there is reason to believe, WNe simply wOl'king men who got wet,"

al'gued David Alexander while investigating the social composition of nineteenth century seafarers. I Developments in seafaring l;lhour coincided with changes in other industrial sectol·s. notably coal mining and railroads, 1\ global evolution from merchant to industrial capit;ll connected the three industl"ies, ;md they shal'ed a broad range of similarities. As the workplace became increasingly organized alld conccllll'<lted, workers became subJcct to new occupation;ll hazants, including industrial disasters. Such events did not havecomp;lrablc equivalents in citherthcir

destructive power or visibility.2 Maritime disasters have been import;mt in flti;lntic Can;l(lian history, and have exacted a particul;1)'ly heavy toll on Newfoundland, as demonstrated Ihl"Ough the 55 Newfoundlilnd disaster of 31 M;lrch 1914, when 13:l crewmen found themselves stranded 'on the icc' in a blizzdl'd. DlJI"ing the same storm the 55 SOli/hem em.IS disappeared without a trace carrying 174 scalers. Fow yeal's I;ller, the 5S Fhwizc/ rail aground at Cappahaydcn killing 91 people, m,my of whu bcionged to Newfoundland's c0ll1l11erci;11 ;llld social clite. ExplOl"ing each disastel' ;lnd comparing the I'espective social impacts provides insight into class rciatiol1sin Newfuul1dland

'Men who 1;0 down to the se;l in ships' lal'gely conducted trade in Newfoundland during the nineteenth ,uHI early twentieth. and the inherent ddngCl"s ofse,lf;lringare renected through Ihe island's tr,lck I'ecord for nautical dis<lstcrs. As the pl'c-industrial nautical workplace transformed into its more illdustri;11


counterpart, dis;lsters at sea evolvcd accordingly. The writing of Ncwfoundland author· Cassie Hl"Own hJ~ memorialized many of the island's wcll·known shipwrecks and maritime tragedies, and her hook ,Ibout the Newfoundland disaster iJ{!o/h on/lie

!ccisimpot·tanl.llmvcver, whilc Brown's investigations areas renowncd ;IS they are prolific, her wot·k is not consistent with scholJrly standards. Ilrown·s research aside, disasters <It sea arc the subject of intense popular attention, an extension of which is a very large historiography of almost exclusively limited value. Similarly. despite thc importanccofproccssesfoliowingsuch evcnts, industrial dis;ls ters;lI sea have not r·cceived significant scholarly attention in a historical capacity. The unfot·tunatc events associated with the New/ilUndland, SOlilhem Cross and f-"lon7.e/ offer the object ora structurally promisingex<lmin;ltion

All threc ships belonged to Newfoundland's sealing neet, and very different types of disasters hefell e<lch vessel in a remarkahly short period of time. The Ncwf(Juml/aud disaster caused ;In environmentally specific type of suffering which,

comhined with the political economy in SI. John·s. resulted in thc colony's 1110st notol·iO\ls disaster ,1I sea. lInlike previous se;lling tr'lgedies. the disaster·s aftcrmath str;lIncd class relations because much of the island\ seafaring contingent could voice their discontent dhout social inellllality through the Fishermen's Protective IJniol1 and its fiery president, William Ford [oaker. The event also provides insight into the gendered dimension of risk <It se;l. The SOl/them Cross s;lI1k in unusual circumst,lIlces Glrrying;1 similar lahour force to that of the New/(wl1dlaml, and the vessel's cOllllllemoratiull is effectively absent from the historical record ;lIld


collective mcmory. The F/o,.;ze/ wrecked under hOl"rific circumstances and rcpresents an industrial disaster in which civilians dicd as opposcd to a strictly working-cl:lsS l:lhour forcc - the event's reception drJIll<llically differed than the NewjiJlllldlum/ Of Southern emss disasters due to the social status of the victims. ami

toa Icsserdegrce hecause of wartime sociai rei at ions.

l.::lrgcly r·clying on Newfoundland's newsj)::lper-s, this investigation will trace the aftefmath of each disaster to assess their· r·espective SOCi;li impacls.:1 The colony's citizenry reacted diversely to the vat·ying nature of the tr·agedies, and class dimensions and the evolution of World War· One heavily influenced them. lJy cxploring the environment and individuals thc New[uund/ond, Southern Cross and Flo,.;zc! intcr:lctcd with. it is possible to open a window into thc colony between 1'J11 and 19W to historicizc nilutical )lel"il lor a concise pel"iod in the island's history. The thr·cc incidents provide a singular ojJjJor·tunity to navigate the comlllelllorational unfoldingofdiffcrentsorts ofdisastcrs at sea - thecvents cannot be repliGlled, ami r·cpresellt very distinct Lir"Culllstances. While thc disasters whiLh befell the Newjiwml!und ami r/orize/ otTer insight into class relations in Newfoun!iI'lnd. the dimension added hy the Southern (ro.IS stands alone. The n;)uti«li workplace is subjecttoa typco/hazard without a terrestrial COlrnterpart- disap]le:lring without a trace, and the loss oi"tlieSoulhern (ross ]Jr·ovides;l deeply chilling instance of 'oul of sight. out of mind.' The triu of divefse disasters and the varying social status oftheir·victirns present a tantaii/.inl; opportunity to investigate


both the essencc of an industdal dis;Jster ;It sea Jnd a plethorJ of classisl and socioeconomic processcs thJt JI'C unique in Newfoundland's tragedy-ridden history.

,'n exploration of the Newfound/und disaster COnfil"lllS that a mainspring of the tragic evcnt can he connected to the gcndered dimension of risk. or the need to 't,lke it: largely owing to a blend of paternalism and masculinity, FUI·ther, a comparison of the New/olll1dlul1d, Southern Cross, and Florizel dis:lsters proves beyond a I'easonable doubt that sOlia] inequality and class-relations strongly influenced the COrl1lllclllol'ational unfolding of industrial disasters at se;l around Newfoundland.


Endnotes -Ch;]ptel" One

I /);wid Alexander, 'Literacy Among Canadian and Foreign Seamen: J!l6:l-Ill')')" in l~oselT1ary Ol11lT1er ;]IHI Cerald l';lIlting, cds., WorkinlJ Men Who Got Wet (SI. John's, 1980),3

l The exception to this would be events related to w<lrfal"e ~md other lal"ge-scale


O!.i!IJter Two -Historio!W!.~

The Indu~trial Revolution fundamentally changed the workplaces in the shipping, COJI mining. alld railway industr'ies. The thr-ee indll~tries are dassifiable as means of production, and played an integral role in the gloh;,l shift from merch;mt to industrial capitaL Coal needed to be mined to power ships and railways. which integr',llet! markets into the network of capitalism on a global scale. lis comparatively inexpensive and efficient means of transporting large volumes of goods. shipping and railways revolutionized global trade and altered pr-eviousiy existing market systems_ Excluding textile manufacturing, no othcr commerci;,1 activities h;lVc made as IMge a contr"ihution to the spread of industrial capitalist relations of produOion over space and time as the coal-dependent shipping and railway industries.

,\s these three industries helped bring about modern capitalism. the labour forces lIl,lillt,lining thclll also evolved, I.ar"ge-scale industrial enterprises required significantly lar"ger volumes of lahour than previous forms of productive activity, resulting in lVitiespre,Hi collectivity dillong lVur"kers. jJcvelopments in the workforce r"equired changes in m<lnagelllcnt: over time, strictly capitalist relations replaced paternalistic lies between employer" and employee. l I,ikewise, hi~toriGllly p,lIernaiistic disciplinary measurcs shifted tuwdI"ds options consistent with modern forms of scientific management. The shipping, rdi!way, and co;1I mining industrics all underwent sin,ildl" socioeconolilic changes during roughly the same time period.

and they shared another similarity -a univel"sally unsafe lVorkplace for labourers.


It is well known that toilers engaged in early industrbl lahour worked in extremely dangerous ronditio)ls, although to summarize the hazal"ds they faced falls outside the scope of this paper. II. common theme of disastrously high death and injury I";lles unites the historiography of early industrial 1;lhoul·. Shipping, Illinin~

and r;.lilway work shared notoriety for being the most dangerous occupational secturs, followed by textile manufacturing and logging.l hlrtltcr, the isolated and gendel-ed nature of labour at sea, undergnJllnd, or on a railway bred <111 ethos uf l1l<lsculil1ity, <I theille reflected through the histol'iography of each subject. Each occupational gl"UU]J faced different ellvironmentally specific haz<lJ"ds, hut all found theillselves embroiled in <111 ev('["-present struggle against nature whilst exhibiting a collective I"eliance on technology. The technological and environillental h,1Zards associ;lled with shipping, railways, and coal mining further bind each industry together when the potential for 'disaster' is addressed

Unlike the logging or textile industries, the co;l1 mining and transport industries had immense potential for disasters of an industrial SC'IIe. Ships frequently s;lIlk or bUl"Ilcd with enormous loss of life, II'ains could eaSily derail 01 (;olli(]e creating impressive scenes of destruction, and mines collapsed ;lnd exploded.

These events simply did not have equivalents before the industrial el"a, and marked the beginning of the histol'iogrJphy 01 industrial disastcl"S.:1 The scale of industri;ll diSJsrcrs within these sectol's is the tin;ll cog in the wheel connecting the three indllstries


For the purposes of this thesis, shipping, railways and coal mining :1re classifiable as all industrial trinity. Industrial capitalism and technology inextricable connected the industries" They also shared simil;!r gelldered and class-based labour forces operating in typically perilous conditions or environment"s -a dynamic th,1\

frequently led to industrial disasters. Finally, investigating the historiography of each subject for insight into disasters reveals remarkahle similarities, some notable difTerences, and an interesting avellue of research ror scholarship into industrial disasters

rhe histuriography of industrial safety in the workplace begins with the construction of r"ailroads" liistorians have tended 10 foclls on the completed railways

<lnd their cultural meaning as opposed to the men employed in building them and their wInk, thus making the railway labourer a frustratingly ob"~cure entity to research -some scholars evell question if r~lil constnlCtiuli workers he long in the

field's historiogr"aphy,'\ While there is de hate on where wurkCl"s belong

hisloriogr;lphically, scholars agree on tile exceptional dangers ,lssociated with rail cOllstr"uclion, as the process r"equired considerable m;Jnu;lllabour and often ent<liled working with pr"illiitive tools in inbospitable environments"" Indeed" contcmporary llelVsp;lpcrs and recent scholarship both agree un the high frequency of rail constl"tlClion ;Jccidellls6 Additionally, r;lil employees rarely left records or memoirs, unlike those engaged in other occupatiolls.?

The historiogrJphy of rail trallsport is extensive, but suffers from;l strongly natiollal perspective: the majority of sources eitilCl' deal with Ill"itlsh r;lilways


during the VictOrian El'a or with the rail hoom in the United States, hut never an amalgam of the two, The British possessed a thorough geographic knowledge of their environs, allowing I'ail companies to lay down an ,lstonishing 7,000 miles of tr;lCk between HUO and lIl!iO, Itlil construction pl'ogresscd more slowly in United States, although AmeriC'lI1S could boast of twenty-three miles of track by I r13o, growing to over 1,000 miles of track by 1U3S,H After the Civil War concluded a railway fever gripped the country, resulting in massive (()nstruction projects, This historiCill foray is necess;lry heGlI!se it shaped how the historiugraphy of rail tl'ansport has been innuenced -each country underwent the railw;IY experience in fundamentally different ways

Due to the regional differences betweell Britain ;lI1d the United St;l\es, the e;lrly historiography of rail transport is chrollologic,llly difficult to synthesize, hut generally concerns track construction and engineering achievements across isolated terrain. Titles including 11 Short llis/my of Americull I?uilways: Cuverill,1J Ten fJecodes with 100 lI/us/roli()I1s by Slasoll Thompsoll, /lailroads: their Ori9ills(l1J(1 Problems by Charles Adams, and Iliylnvays


J>royress by J<lmes Ilill, <Ire ,!II eXdmples of rail travel's early historiography, lIowever, the ,wtllors of mdny early works did not concern themselves with rail safety 01' the abundant dis<1stcrs of lhe period, and typically dismissed them as "scllsational reports of ,lccidents,"') Whereas e.H'ly WOl'ks associ'Hed with other industries - notably se;lfMing -romanticized the danger of everyday life alld portrayed dis,lster as a heroic strllm~le ;lg,linst the



elements, the early historiogr"<Jphy of railways (lirk!'s (soille authors go as fat as dedicating their works to the safely of rail tr'lIlsport).JO

Early author"s exclude disastct"s and seem principally concerned with the devciopment and l'xpJllsion of IlJtioll<l1 railway appM<lluScs (including associated politics) Jnd subsequent socioeconomic ·progress.']! /I paycheck from railway companies likely influenced them to [<Ike such an approilch: the IIUI"Call uf I{aiiway News & Statistics and promoters frequently published lilies [h,lt fall within the eMiy American his\oriogr;lphy of I"ail travel, while the British litcr;Hurc cOl1ccl'Iling disasters is sparse, with a notahle exccption.12 AdditionJlly, the commonplace nJtlln~ of rail disasters cannot be accepted as a rationale for their histol'iographic exclusion -plenty of rail disasters OCCUlTed in the llnited States and Ill'itain, many 01 which the press covered exhaustively

Primary source cross referenCing confirms that overwhelming publiC fascination surrounded I"ail disasters, and as many as 5,000 people sometimes traveled to dis;]stcr zones to gawk at sccnes 01 dcstl"llctiol1 during the time period emomp;]ssing rail historiography's early works"13 Likewise, 1";lilway promoter William Crush conceived a publicity stunt in 18')6 ill which he planned ,11111 facilitated;1 head-on rail collision" The stunt brought 40,000 spectators, circus tents from Hingling Brothers, and made the town of Crush, Texas, the state's second IMgest city for one day (the stunt backfired and killed three pcople}"14 The early historiogl"aphic exclusion of I"ail disasters is frustl·aling -such evcnls could have becn interpret cd as humanity"s struggle to dominate nallll"e, forcing natul"al telT;lin



to wIlfum1 to technology as rail lI"ave] shnHlk the natural world. When viewed within this ethos of expansion and mastery. rail dis<lstcrs would emphasize technological hubris while providing a sl;Jl"k contr;lS\ to the omnipoteIlce of nature In <lny evenl, the sdlOlarly historiography of r;lil transport is more reliable

The scholarly historiography 1'01" rail transpol'l hegins with Peter Kingsfoni's Victoriull lltll/LVuymcll: The J:'mcrycnce {Jnd (;rowlll of [{ai/rood I,abour,

uno -


published in 1'J7(J.l~ Kingsford's \vOI"1< h;lS spawned a modest hut respectable volume of lilcralul"C on railways, the vast majority of which is classifiahle as economic or business history. Fot" the PUI'poses of this paper, two important American lll()nogr~phs require Jttention, hoth hecJuse of their contrihution to the field's overall historiography, ;lIld for insight into contemporary conceptll,lliz;llioIlS of dis;lster dmong the raill;lhour force (ollveniently, one focuses all the e;lst while the other concerns itself with the west. Earh work represents a semin~1 investig;Jtion into l;Jbouron IImerican rJilways

Walter l.icht's Working jor the Iloilroo(/· Tile Ol90l!ixotiol! oj" Work in the Nillclccl!liI [ellwry is;m excellent starting point for the scholarly historiography oj IImerican rJilways (it won the Phillip Taft l.aboul· llistory Book IIward for 1'J1I3j Lil.:ht is the Walter Il.lInnenberg Professor of liistory at Princeton Univcr-sity, and he specializes in l<lbolll· hislOI·y with strong interests in l,lhour m,lrkets and lahour econoll1ics. I(, llis work sought to build on Kingsford's Victoriall study by examining the organizatioll of labour on railways ill the eastern United Slates. 17 lifter I·cading Kingsfoni's work, Licht madc thc "discovery of an almost complete V,ICUUIll ot



scholarly litcrJture" 011 American railways, whid! gn.'atly influenced his desire to contribute to the field's scholarly historiography. III Although he knew II("I'Y little about railways, Licht began studying the American r;lil industry between 1830 Jnd 11177 -a forty-seven year window intO;1 pre-union labour market. By studying rail lVorkers and their relationship with the first industry representing 'big business' in AmcricJ, Licht opened a unique window into the historical rccMd to explore the rise Ofl"Jilulliollislll

Licht's work is;] fal"-reaching illvestigatioll urlhe American I"ail industry, ;lIlt!

his reseat'eh into varying ,lSPCCtS of rail labour and occupational h;rt.anls remains unsurpassed. lie bdSCS his WInk on "railroad corporation papers, government reports, trade journals, union newspapers, and published reminiscences."l') Chronologically organized, the exploration begins with the birth of Americ;m r;lil tr;lVc\ in Baltimore UTI 12 Februilry lRlU and ends in !B77, when major strikes and union agit.llion altered the mdustry's structure?O Lichtestahlishes turning points in Amel'ican rail history in an extremely detailed fashion, covering areas I'anging from I,!buur recruitment ,md retention, age requirements, disciplinary measures, ;md changes in the sync!nonization of l"bOllr with America's shift to itl(lustrial capitalism, Ilowever, perhaps most important arc Licht's conclusions on occupational safety, which illuminate shocking insight into the dangers of filii culture, Hisky wOl'king conditions constantly endangered rail men -they faced exceptionally dangerous hazardous, evident through appallingly high death ;lIul injury ratcs21 Unfortunately, I.ich! does nut explore the abundant rail disasters of



the period, as they killed a small numher of railmcn compJrcd to everyday accidents. While I.icht's r'('search lCilvcs little doubt about the dangers associated with r<lilway employment in the c;rslcrn llnited StJ\CS, the western contingent of the country faced its own perils. demonstrated through James Ducker's scholarly work, Mell of the Slcciflu!ls; Workers Oil the lIte/riSOIl, Topeka & Sunto Fe Nui/roud, 1869 - 1900.

LJucker's work [illl he seen as the western counlcrpJrI of Licht's, although with a stronger focus Oil cOlTlmunity-centered labour history as opposed \0 the organization and industdal composition of America's railway workfol"Cc. His I"CSCilrch represents <l historiogrilphit: shift away from labour ecollomics toward ;1 more holistic approach to thc histor"icill I"ccord in all altelilpt to belter understand the r"ailway labour forTe in the American west. An institutional bhoUl" histori;lI1 dnd offici;ll with Alaska's Bureau of LJnd MJl1agement, Ducker turned his PhD thcsis fl"Om the IJniversity of Nehraska into a comprehensive study of r;lilways in the American west. Ill' explor"cs the 1\tchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railway (1\TSF), historiG1lly one of the largest and most important railroads in !\merica, through ;1 chl"O!lological exploration of working peoples' everyday lives" Ile also gives signific;lnt ;lttention to the formation of Ililions and how they affected rcl;l\ionships between workers and employers" Ducker <Hgucs that 'old l;lhour history' 1,1rgcly viewed unionsfrol1l lhe top down, thustaking;m institutionalst ance,lIlddedicating disproportion,lle ilgency to union le,rders who may lIot have represented <lny given uniun's various objectives or memhershipv Ducker chooses to contextualizc



t"ailway employees as a group ripe for study that "exemplified the growing size and complexity of business opcr;ltions," espcciJlly in contrast to othel" working-class oc[upations.23

By completing an in-depth study of the IITSF 'from the botlom up' (IMgcly I'dying on newspaper accounts) Ducker establishes a framework through which he can advance the argument that the specifics of the IITSF madc it distinlliy diffcn:nl fr"om other r<lilways ,HId industries. 1\ cornerstone of Ducker's thesis is spatiJi isolation. lie sl<ltcs Ih;J\ bCCJUSC isol;J\ion placed rJilmcll very 1;11" from lhcil employers, the latter party could 1101 typically undertake disciplinary action. Ducker argues thilt the isolation associated with the ATSF spawned a unique form of inform<11 patern<1lism compared with railways in the east, which in tUI'll fostel-ed a less hostile relationship between employee and employer.!.4 Thus, the I\TSF represented the c!"edlion of a unique -alheit dangerous -workplace in which employel"s understood and respected wOl'king people. According to Ducker, the widespread implementation of scientific management shatterell this dynamic, signiriGmtly illcredsing tension hetween unions <ind employers_ P<1rellthetically, legislative intNferencc and the increasing ,l\Iail:ibilily of automohiles subjected the econoillic clillwte for railnwding to rtlnssive nllC\lIations/-" Ducker concludes by arguing that the collision of scientiric 1ll,lIlagelllent and unf.wournble economics ocnit this unique workplace its deathblow

Ducker's work suffers Irom a m,ljor downfall: aside fl"()m brieny descrihing the (bngerous naf\lre of raillahour and thJt unions frequently petitioned for bettel



wIlI'kingconditions. hceffectively disregards hazards and disasters. (ol1sidcring his background, the exclusion of Ihis aspect of the workplace is unusual -he IIlCl'cly takes the industry's dangers for granted. However, the exclusion of rail disasters is understandable: no ('ail disasters oecuHcd 011 the ATSF, and rail disasters did not frequently happen in the American west (with a notable cxception),26 Where Lichl succeeds in informing the reader about the wllcctivc dangers faced by railmcll,lhc main strength of Ducker's research is his ability to hring the everyday lives of Winkers In the fore. ultim,lIcly making his work;1 commendahle contrihution to the historiography uf ("Jil 1l',wel. lIis findings ("eveal d more thorough historiographic window into r<lillllen, their world view, and their similarities with other occupational sectors than other sources. Ducker's scholarship into I"ailmen <llso suggests that they sometimes ignored occllpation'll risks

A unique esprit de corps with origins in the collective and dangerolls nature of railway labour hound the workers of the ATSF together, and they he;lr rem;lrkable similarity to miners and seafarers"Z7 The men often told 1<111 lales, or terrestri,ll versioI1s ofsailurs "yMns: thought up creative nickn;mles, ;uu) wOI"ked in exlreme wealher.21l Extl"eme transiency defined railmen, who frequently left olle I"ail lob and travelled to anothel" (many of them changed names constantly), they enjoyed indulging in the liberal use of alcohol despite the best efforts oftemper;mce unions, and exhibited <l1"Cane superstitiolls.2~ Engineers became known as a breed

,lpart fl"orn other tr<linlllen, the rails spawned a form of :lrgot, off-coloured jokes

ahounded and the men enjoyed workplace-themed music as a collective p<lstime"lu


Nevertheless, perhaps no aspect of railway labour' had as llluch he<lring on the workers as did the isolated and gendCl"ed natul"e the workplace, which facilitated


distinct sense of Jllasculinity from the executive level to the lower 1",mks.lI V,lI"ious scholarly approaches have applied historical rigor to


class-hased approach to 1',lil history, while unfortunately neglecting the gendered dimensions of lahour. This interpretatioll is limited for assessing rail disasters. as gender -in this C<lse, masculinity -intluenced how labourers conceptu,llized the notiolls of I'isk ,md disaster.

The historiogl';rphy of rail history can be seen a~ a continuulII beginning with early literature ~haded in imtiqrrarianism and notions of progress and civiliz;llion.

Ibil dis<lsters are nut included in this early historiography. Largely excluded from thi~ paper, the historiography evolves into a popubr approach of limited usc (even where it concerns disasters). Interestingly, academic sllIdy is ,I compar;ltively recent trend. The schoial"iy appl"Oach to r<lilways originated with a widespread interest in the organization of bhour and a large, understudied, and illlpol"lilnt occupational seclorY Scholarly interest shirts from org<lni/"llioll to working·clas.s agency, which is understood within the context of capitalistic paternalism and worker-employer relations. Hand in h,md lVith this appro,lch is a focus on collectivism and unionism and how workers fit into the capitalist structure of the r,lii industry. Due to an emphasis 011 a class-based interprct,llioll, the gendered nature of 1·,lil labour h,ls Ireen overlooked, including the impact of gender on risk ,mel disilsters. 1\ promising mcthod to cmploy for follolVing up this unsatisfactory dynamic is to study the



liller-section of class and gender within the induSII"ial workplace. and then assess how such an intersection relates to indusll'i<ll disasters. lIowever, despite being structurally Vi;lblc this approach is difficult 10 adopt frOIll a historiographic standpoint, as the sccoillbry literature lilrgcly ignores rail disasters.

The exclusion of rail disasters fromlhc scholJrly and popular historiography of I"ailways is difficult to assess. 1\ rcason;rblc argulT1cnt (ould be that popul,])"

appro;lChcs arc concerned with locomotives thcmselves and the romanticism

<1SS0Ci,llcd with rail travel, while reccnl scholarship is concerned with how rail workers fit into a capitalist framework Jnd their everyday lives -not necessarily how they died (especially considering that general workpl;l(e hazards killed f:u more \I",linillen tl1<111 disasters). Another possibility could be that the rail industry

;mel its socioeconomic ramifications simply warrant more attention than the comp;lratively few limcs a horrific disaster intelTupted the hubbub of everyday life.

However, scholarship on such events would almost certainly reveal tantalizing insight into contempOI·ary conceptualizations of technological integrity and the v;ilue of properly in cuntrast to hum;m life. A cursory pl"im;lIY source investigation into two rail crashes in Atlantic City, one in lW)(, al](1 another in 1906, reveals a remal·kable shift in reactions over a mere ten year pcriod.:n The psychological fascination with rail dis;lsters is onc dimension, but equally as fascinating is why rail wOl"kers wiliinglyf,l(cd potcntial disasters.

Givcll the working conditions emph;lsized by Licht and the collective brav;ldo and masculinity discussed by Ducker, a tcnlativeexplanatioll lies in the desireto·bc



a l11arl' and face whatever risks might he encountered. Is it not lIllrcilsonablc to propose that railmcn probably saw their technological conquest of the natural world as ;1 masculine and dangerous 'laming' of n;1turc? The collective, gcndcrcd.

,md isolated workplace bred a !'csilicl}{;c and sense oflcdlllOlogical superiority over Mother Nature -now physically illtcrcd by dY!1ilmitc and iron, the natural landscape no longer held railmcn to its Illel'cy. The men instead acted as the vanguard of progress labouring ill an unsafe lVorking Cllvimnmcnl in which 'h;lcking down' frolll d,Hlgcr and disaster would have been to admit dcfc<ll in the very struggle against nature represented by the railway alld its masculine workforce. In SlIlll, the contirHlUIll of rail historiography has not focused on a scholarly understanding of industrial disasters, and hils dedicated minim,ll attention to r"isk -even in light of the schol<lt"ship on unionism alld working conditions" This continuum follows ;1 similar" histor"iographic trajectory ;IS that of other industl"ial sedors, notably co~11 mining

CO;II mining has been integral to the Industl"i;11 Hevolution and has, therdore, heen an imponant area of study in rnodCl"Il lahour history. lJnivers<llly regarded ;IS a dangerous occupation, co<ll mining boasts a large historiography typically divided into British, American, and to a lesser degree Canadian realms" The industry has been synonymous with the working class since it became 'big business." Co;!1 mining"s historiogr";lphy has gone thr"ough several evolutions, with labour history

<lndunionism bcingrecent trends"


The occupation;:ll hazards and disasters associated with coal mining arc relatively well known and require little elahoration. Labourers worked in primitive conditiolls with heavy machinery in an unstable envirOlllTlent, and the constant use of explosives ensured ;In exceptionally dangerous workspace" Hoof collapses and accidents relating to the deployment of hedvy mdchinel"y in a spatially limited workplace claimed many victims. Flooding, falling down mine shafts, and e"\plosions uf varying intensity also pi<lglled miners" Although falls, 1"001' wllapses, ami "choke damp' killed the vast majol"ity of miners, mining explosiolls captured a sigl1iriGlllt level of public attention"H Impressive affail"s with devastating potential for sl1l,ll1er

mining communities, mine explosions hecame chal";1Cteristic of early industrial disasters. Such explOSions typically resulted in laq;e loss of life, significant dam;lge to property" impressive scenes of destruction Ilot Iisually associated with the workplace, and the public misunderstood them in terms of c;llIsdtion (evell in the early 19()Os people I"emaincd unaW;lre of the cxplosive properties of coal dust)":!i Indecd, thel"C C;111 he IlO qucstion that cO;ll mines rcpl"csclltcd a dangerous wOl"kplace" However, a foray into the subject's historiography provides furthel insight into diffel"ing collceptualizations of industrial disasters"

lJnlike the e,lr1y historiography of rail disasters, works published dlll"ing the same period Oil coal millillg are candid Oil the OCCup,Hional dangers and potcntial for disaster. FUI"thcl", they h,)Ve a tendency to be prugl"essively labour focllsed 1'01 their t.ime, as opposed to the literature on other industries which is mainly

"intCl"ested in perpetuating the prescnt system of exploitation Jild ill piling tip more



profits tor powerful corporalions,"j6 Sources 011 mining sometimes cOllle "from the workers vicwpoint."J7 Such is the case in Anna Hochcstcl"s Coal alld /,(lbor.

l~ochestCl"'s innucllcc for penning her scmin<ll title 01\ American coal milling is a gross sense of injustice ,ll the cxploilJtion of millers 011 behalf of grasping corporal ions. Ilcr strong opinion provides J rctllJI"kJblc contrast to views of other industries, especially when explaining the anatomy of mining disasters:

crimillaliy clHbngcr wOI"kcrs but actually day-hy-day the lines, difficult. It

Clearly. this approadl to the historical record is more useful for historians than that fOlllld in Illllch of the cady literature on railways. Historians of COJi mining often place J strong emphasis on working-class <lgency ami est;]hlishing J record of olle of

the most important workplaces in the industrial age, its bhour force, and associated oppression II()wever, the historiography of coal mining is similM to th;lI of r;lil tr"~1Vel when it comes to disasters: despite their" heing heavily publicized events, scholarship into the actual disaster~ i~ minimJI.

Th(' I'l.'ason that the histor'iogrJphy of coal mining does not address the

"massively puhlicized undergnlllnd explosions" is l)('ciluse such explosions killed a very small percentage of miners, which heellne evident in industry's early days.]') John Uensun's excellent contr"ibution to the historiogr"aphy of coal mining, /iritis/)



CoolmilJ(:rs ill Ihe Ni,wlcclIlh Celli Illy. ;\ Social llistory, proposes a new path fOJ historians to foliow when studying indus\ri<ll disasters. Benson is influenced by his desire to strip away the bMbJriSIll and stereotyping which typiCillly paints co,11 miners in an unfavourable light. lIis fundamental argument is ti1;lt miners should not be seen as backward, primitive entities 1'l.'lcg;l!cd to a subterranean world, but rathel" as a generally misunderstood group that had much in willmon with other contingents of society -principally wOI"king hard to increase their stamlMd of living through a variety of means. Through the 'new saei;!i history' \hJ\ spJl"kcd a torrent of research into mining and represented a shift from antiquMian inten~st to sociocultural scholarly study, Bensoll tdls the story of British coal miners 'from the bottom up: by investig;lling the everyday lives of miners and their families Benson's wurl( succeeds in revealing insight into miners themselves -d category of worker frequently subjected to induslri;li disastCl"S alld previously not well known

liistorians can use such information to deepen their understanding of labour forces

in similar occupational sectOl"S prone to disaster

Various sources in the hislOriogr,lphy of coal mining employ the S,Ulle approach as Benson in <In <lttell1pt to study the everyday lives of workersyl Miner"s worked in ;1 lmlquc and unstable environment where constant exposure to potentially lethal conditions combined with collective labour to form a distinct sense of community,'!! The mcn inhahited a spatially limited wurkpl,lcc, IVol'ked spccilk hours. ;md tire public associated them with the wOI"king-ciass. The publi(

often misunderstood miners hecause of their sooty appearance, makmg them



occupationally visible.42 Miners did not have close contact with their employers.

which induced an ethos of independence. and they dealt with disagreeable working conditions through strikes, work stoppages, and violence. Finally -social isolation and a completely gcndcl"cd workplace spawned a distinct fonn of masculinity Jillong mincrs,41 While miners faced differing types of disaster than other occupatiollill sectors, the subject's historiography has not yet addressed the gcndcred dil1lellSiollsofrisk or disasters

On the topic of safety and mining disasters, lIel1sol1 specifically MguCS (h,1\

histori;lJls should COIICC)llllali'~c industrial safety outside the context of disasters, as the events arc cngraincd in popular memory but al"C not l"cprcscntJtion,ll 01 mining labour or industrial accidcnts"44 Ill' argues that instead 01 industri;11 disasters bcing cornerstones ill mining histol"iography, it is hetter to conccptualize workplace accidents as "colliery disaster in installments," as a mincr was 4(,() timcs more likely to be injured ;1t work thJIl be killed in .1 minc explosion"1<; Thus, while mining explosions captured;l significant level ofpublicaltcntion -similar to rail dis<lstcrs- for historians to stl"CSS their importancc when compared to over,1l1 mine safety would not be relJreSenl<ltionai of the industry, 01" of disasters within the industry"

Despite Benson"s reasonablc intel"pl"etation of mining disasters (shared hy Illilily historians), the publicity such cvents received is indiGltivc of historiGli relevancy"'6 A cOdl mine I"cpresents a manllfJcturcd void in the n;lIural world -a void I"cspollsihle for the driving forcc behind industrial capitalislll" Without COill millCs, railways and steamships, the harbingers of tlte industrial age, would he


t"endered inoperative. The coillmine can he seen as a starting point for indu~try and expansion, and is a vi~cer;J1 form of struggle between humanity's commercial momentum ,lnd natllt"e. Minet"s literally eviscerate MotileI' Nature to powet technologies that repn:scilt em;H1cipation from the natural world atHI conquest ovel it. Further, unlike railt"Oad~ or steam~hips, mine~ do IlOt travel anywhere but further underground, or to il realm wherc thcy are even morc t'cl11oved from SOCiety. This ncthcrworldly isolation ,md unfamiliat"ity to n()n-Illiner~ likely meant tit,ll when dis,lster did strike in the fOI"l11 or an explosion, it must have been difrjcult not to draw the comparison between the subterranean fires of hell and the more n~l1l1t"ill wodd outside the mine

The exclusion of mining disasters froll1the ovet"all histol"iography in anything ll1ol'e than a passing mention is frustrating (t'cgMdless of their distinction as compariltively minor killers).1l An examination ofsllch events could provide insight into differing conceptll~llizati()ns of humanity's industrial struggle against nature, and early insight into the inhet"cntly unnatural and gcndcrcd forced entry into Mother N,llul'e" ts it not unrcason,lble to ,l(lvancc the argument that the collective, isolatcd, and masculine natut"e of coal mining bn:d an ethos of resilience ag:lillst nature, thus being an irHegral dimension of mining disasters'! Scholarship into sIKh events would reveal contemporary thoughts 011 cady industrial dis,lsters. hut ;llso how minet's measured their OWl I lives against the illdustl'y and c<lpitalist nexus they lahoured within. tn any event, as carts I,Hlen with co;ll emerged from mines <lnd


found their lVay onto trains bound for the cOdstallocations (knuwn as 'tidals'), the final aspect of the disaster prone industrial tdnity falls into place: seafOlring

Unlike rail labour and mining. the histol"iography of se;lfaring has long heen romanticized -although the industl"ial trinity is united through many silllililr historigrdphic themes, seafaring is the most exploited. Early fictional works including MoiJy J)ick, I.ord jim, Twenty Thuusund /,eugues Under the Sea, and The Narrative o/lir/hur Gordon Pym of Nontucket, Edgar Allan I'oe's only complete novel, all hal"l1essed public fascination with the narttical realm_ They do not hOlve equivalents within the historiography of tile mining or rail industries.

The early historiography uf seafar-ing has roots in antiquarian fascination with tile sea, and typically begins with Frederick William Wallace's Wooden Ships oml Iron Men, published inI9:~7_ Wallace employed a shOlmelessly rom;lntic ,Ipproacil to

~eilfal"ing, and he steeped tile proud Britisil North American legacies of shipbuilding

;llld seafaring in a fierce nationalism. Ill' nostalgically recounted the tdals and ll'i!JuIOltions of various ships in dn encyclopediC fashion, and cle;lrly did not feel th,ll steamers could cum pete with the spurting nature of 'lVooden ships and iron men' Wallace noted as his major intluence a desire to 's;]Ve from oblivion the facts regarding iln era of maritime cffol"t and industry," but he also represented the pioneering ende,\Vours of early Not·th American seafarers as a heroic struggle against "~tonl\y se<ls ... hostile Indians and primeval forests."1H

Wallace sensationalized dis;lsters at sed to the fullest extent, evident through his recounting ufthe Cale/; G,-imslwIV, il mack Stal" Line Packet that caught fire on 11



November 1819 (JHying 429 passengers. Ilis lllclodramJtic recollnting of the event

~ complete with heroes and villains -emphasizes the romanticism associated with the carly works Oll seafaring, and the imposed lionhearted relationship hetween imll men and their imperiled wooden ships_4~ Unlike disasters within the r:1ii 01' mining industries, n.lllticai dis<lsters within the carly historiogt"aphy of sCJf<lring :ll"(' consistently portr3ycd as courageous tights hetween Mother N~ltLJn: and sailors.

Wallace's legacy ot madtime antiquarianism remains well known in Canada, and his

w(lI'ks, alheit of limited usc, :lrc CUltUI-,ll tOllchstones in the early historiogl"aphy of disasters at sea. Thankfully, sC<lfaring's historiography has iIll~noved,

['he histot'iography of seafaring has tr;tnsitioned from authors driven by

nationalistic antiquarian hobbies to those with morc academic interests, An evolution from 'the r'omance of the se;l' to a focus on the economic importance of shipping and the illdll~try"s transition froll1111erchant to industrial capital took place in the mid 1,)70s, The Atl;lI\tic Canada Shipping ProlCct (Ar.S!') at Memorial lJniversity of N('wfoundland, which look place hetween 1')76 and 1981, is perh,lps the most distinct episode in this economic ph;lse, Scholars designed the ACSI' <IS ,\11 economic investigation of the rise and decline of merchant shipping and shipbuilding in Atlantic Canada dul"inglhe nilll'll'enth centut")'

The ACSI' generated ~ix cunfercnce volumes cncompassing a wide variety of content, and remain seminal works in Atiantic mat'itinteresc<Hc h",UI':ricSageracted as one of the dt'iving forccs behind the ProJect. and he wrote SeojilrillY /,o/Jrwr: The Merchant Morine ()f Itt/antic [onado, 1820 -1914, The study begins Wilh a hrief



exploration of pn~-indllstrial ships and the patcrn;ll system of relations surrounding them, but quickly tl",msitioIlS to larger vessels. As the industries of shipbuilding, shipping, and ship owning intensified in Atlantic Canada, the composition of 131"ilish North AmcriGl's merchant marine evolved considerably. Deep-sea tonnage I"cprcscntcd the bulk ofshjps being built, and the increasing need for spccializiltiull in such vessels began a trend through which a smaller number of crewlllen completed it larger number of tasks. Formally p,llern,llistic tics became incrc,lsingly [ll"Ofcssionalizcd through regulation and CdUGltional requirements, which intmdllccd modern scaf<ll"ing labour. lIowever, Sager's work docs not dcchcate Significant attention to maritimc risk or industrial dis'lsters. Shortly afterwards, the Silmc Juthor produced a work typically associated with <I sociocconomic Jppro;lch to maritime history.

1\long with Gerald !',I!lting, Eric Sager wrote Murilimc Copilu/-File ShippillD Illduslly ill iltlrllltic CUlJ(u/u: 1820 1914. The work is IKlrtly a sumlllalY of the


hut Jiso ,HI extellsion shifting <lway f!"Om a sll"ictly economic approach in In Jltem])t to draw farther-reaching conclusiollS. The ,Iuthors argue that no technological advances or sinlpJe economic study can succeed in explaining the industry's (011 apse. Instead the decline occurred quickly within the context of the slow transition fl-Olll IIlerClialit to industrial capital. an evolution retMded by cconomic conditions ,lI1d relations ofproduclion on thc (oloni;11 frontier,S! Marilime Cupillli is ch,lracteristic of the iitcl'<lture fOCUSing on the economic importance of shipping {although it went to the press in 1990. well Jner the ACSPj.<;2 While the lies!'



sp<lrked alorrcnl of maritime-cconomic rcsc<lrch, during the same pcri()(] scholdt-s began to approach scafJring from J ll1orcsoeial standpoint.

SOlidi aspects 01" seafaring Ciln he S(,(,11 through Judith Fingilrd's jack ill Port,;1 'largely descriptive" <IS opposed to argumentative exploration of the ports of Quebec, Saint John and ]Idlifax puhlished in 19H2.-" The work primarily relies on I1C\VSpapcrs, ;md is ;lImost excluSively dependent on primary sourtCs.,'1 !'ing<lrd desired to study the pn'viollsly unknown sJilors who frequented the tht"ce pOI'\S in orderloillvcstigalehow\clTcstrialsociai rci<ltiol1saffectt'd scaf;lring, which in tllrn shaped the experience ofsaiiors in port.c,s lief work provides a critic.!] window into the everyday lives of SJilors, Jnd ClTlphJSif.cs how thc collcctivc, CI,lSS-b<1sed <1rH1 gellliered nature ofseafaringintlucnced th('activities ojsailors in port

While scholJrly research illto differing aspects of IllMitinJe history flourished in the mid 1980s and early 19,)Os, seJfari[Jg'~ historiogrJphy took a cultural ttli'll, [JotJbly through Marcus I{eliiker's 19B7 work Hetween the Devil alld the IJeep nlue Set! (which begins with the crew of the eMly modern s;riling ship f)ove battling a r'aging storm alld narrowly avening disaster').',r, I{ediker's argument is that sailors in the cady modern period repr'esented a seaborne proletariat who r'epresented the

~ucial. technological. and economic forbearers of I~rbourers in other industrial sectors, with ilotable exception,'·7 Interestillgly, Hediker tics supern,ltural beliefs into maritime peril - he Jrgues that sailors employed MCHle superstitions (and some genuinely scientific observJtions) as methods of understanding Mother NaIllI'(;' thus making the oceans' omnipotence less imposing,'>!! Sailors sought to



make sense of their situ;.ltion through their own "~lmalgam of religion and irreligion, magic and materialism, superstition and self help" -they knew that disaster could strike at any moment, ,lIld sought to have some level of influence over the oce,m's unpredictability,S') Hediker's work rem;lins a tollchstone within seafaring's schol<H"ly historiography, but is limited to the early modern period and docs not address maritime disasters in a significant way"

Similar to so many of their rdilroading ,md mining brethren who died while

\Vor"king in unsafe environments under pl"imitive conditions, industri;ll dis;lsters claimed the se<tfaring labourel"s who lost thdl" lives in Newfoundland"s maritime catastrophes of 1911 and 1918. The literature Oil the industriJI trinity supports that research into disasters within each sector has been minimal, and no specific work on any of the industries provides JIl Jdequate assessment of associated disdsters

Further, the historiogl"aphy of industrial disasters is surprisingly neglected -such an amalg;Hll;Jted historiogl"aphy is waiting to be written. While it docs need to he acknowledged that everyday workplace occupational hazards caused the maj()I"ity of

deaths" dis<lsters can hardly be written off ,IS negligible. Studying them can reveal insight that cannot be obtained through more typical workplace dangers" l1ased on

the historiographies of railways, mining, and seafaring covered throughout this chapter, focusing all the intersection of gender <lllti cldss is il compelling approach to employ for investig~lting indllstl"ial disast('rs

I.ittle scholarship hds assessed the inlersection of gender and class within the context of occupational safety or disaster" A notJblc contribution to this



historiographic sub-catego!"y is Adele Perry's work Oil the h"dge uf L'mpire: Gellder, Ilacc, Gild the Mukillg o!IJr!tish Co/umiJio, 1819 -1R71.60 The rnoJ1ogra~h addl"esses

the evolution or British Culumbia's SOcidl composition. ;md fO[llsCS on government implemellted development schemes. Perry's j'undamcnt:ll argument is th:lt variOllS unsuccessful governmental projects sought to civilize the nJUgh-and-tumblc hotnosociai frontier culture <lssociatcd with the overwhelmingly masculine demographic nature of Bdtish Columbia. liN WOt"k docs not address disJslers in <lny Wily (she docs not even mention the logging industry), but <IS illl CXJminJtion in;1I1 isolated and l.L\ngcrolis IllJsculine enclave it stands alone, dnd docs address the intersection ofclJSS Jnd gender with an emphasis on masculinity.!>! Iler findings reveal the eXleptionally d;lI1gerous nature of British COllllllbia. and thJt both class ,md gentlet' h;ld malor bcarings on ronceptualizations of masculinity and violcnce In slim. Perry notcs lh(ll danger "could solidify the mall' community,"' which is


Another wOI'k that explores the inter~eclion of class .lnd gcnder with an cmphasis on se;lfaring ;md risk is "Shipwrecked: 01' MdsClllinity Imperiled:

r.·1ercantile !\cpI'esentation of Fdilul'e alld the Gcndcred Self in Eighteenth Century

I'hil~ldelphi(l." by Tohy ])itz. The article examines colTespondence between

mer[hant~ in Philadelphia dnd asscsses the language employed tu MgllC that a gendered discoursc <lccompanicd instances of mercantile faillll·c. Ditz's work fOCllseson financial failure <llllongst elites (JII arc in thc mostsu ccessful15%olthc I'hiladelphia's wholesalers). bllt docs look at two instances of shipwrcck."1 She



records the fate of the schooner Snow Chollce, which lust an arduous 1!l-hoUT struggle after being crushed by in.' that encompJssed the vessel within sight of the city's harbour. The ship's owner Henry [)rinkcr recorded the vessel's misadvcntlln~

as <1 vJlian\ stnlgglc against the clements. Throughout ;1 l"cmarkJbly gender"cd

prose, he repeatedly portt"ayed Mother Nilturc dS an aggressor to the feminine ship, and a vuyeuristic dimenSIOn is added hy the presence of people on shore urJ:lblc to

I"cndcr assistance (similar to the SS Florize/ dis;lstcr), Dilz then examines the salvage ot another ship owned by Drinker (this one uiliramed), which is represented in similar gendercd terms. although the actual act of salv<rgc is inlCt"I_lI"fclCd ,IS a paternalistic cnlsade against Mother Nature to rescue the GII'gIJ, seen as the 'child' 01 the 'motherly' ship. lJitz's work strays frolll the thellle of industriJI disasters. bllt docs address the intersection of clJSS and gender with <In emph;l.~is on mal"itime l"isk. Indeed, gendered dialogue is only one of the many recurring themes throughout the ilistoriography on the industdal trinity, which transitions into a fundamental aspect of industrial disasters: a unique occupational ethos 01 masculinity

Huth Lisa Norling and Margaret Creighton have conducted excellent research on the gendered dimellsions of seafaring. Despite the pt·oloundly important socioeconomic roles that women played in assorted maritime sectors and the v<lrying feminine COllilections exhibited by sailors at sea and on l~md, men conducted the vast majority of seafJring labollt·. Collective labour and dangerous working conditions hound seafarers into tightly knit, spatially limited, and isol~lled


communities" This resulted in <l very masculine working culture -similar to rail labour and mining -th;ll spawned a unique esprit de corps amongst sailors

Creighton is a pl"Ofessor ot !lmerican and women's histur")' at Bates College" In her article '"American Mariner"s and the IWes of Manhood: 1830 - 1870," she Jr"gues that social and labour historians have rdied too heavily on a class-based approach to seafaring, Jnd that scholars should now approach the ""maleness of the sailing ship" as a social construction"M Creighton investigates m<lsculinity in the n,llltical wor"kplace through different appro;lChes, and her study is predominantly based on ext;ll1t diaries" One method she employs for interpreting gender is analyzing the usually unsupportive reaction sailors exhibited toward women on the vessels" This aversion could be attributed to a number of reasons, but Creighton emphasizes that the addition Of;l woman to a typiGllly ail-male workplace interrupted the way men could interact with each other "as mell:"r,~ She notes that sailors saw going to sea as a rite of passage ana a method to "'enhance a m:rture m<lsculinity: which conflicted with effectivciy anything femininef,('

Creighton advances that many sailors saw seafaring labour as a 'test' 01 manhood and as a way to engage in an excluSively masculine undertaking which valued tdsks of physical daring in a dangerous working environment. Sailor"s would

"survive" or rJil the test, either leading to their assertion of dominance over Mother Niltul"e or their emasculation."; Throughout this Ilillitical conquest, "old salts' exposed younger hands 10 the crass activities USU;I!!y associated with sailors



(drinking, g~rnbling. profanity, sexual promiscuity. e\c), which exacerbated conceptions of masculinity in an already testosterone laden workpla<.:e.

Bound through danger. isolation, and collectivity, seasoned sailors strongly encouraged less l'xpcricm:cd crewmen to sever tics with their families, and specially ostracized and emasculated them for expressing emotion;]1 tics with fCIllJics.1AJ These seasoned sailors employed gcnd{'n~d indoctrination to intlucnce their ullversed counterparts 10 exchange terrestrial residence in f<lvOUI" of the llauliGll I"c;lIm, represented as <l place of true 'independence,' which formed an inform;ll

"deepw,lle!" brotherhood." The impol-t:IIlCC of slich a brotherhood can be seen through ()ccup~ti()nal rituals, including ;1 sailor's first equOltorial crossing, To celebl',lle such all event, the most experienced marinel' would be appointed 'King Neptune: ,md the ensuing p<lternalistic exchange would involve shaving, symbolic baptism, Jnd various evaluations of character. Such a I'itual emphasizes the extent to which seafarers considered themselves a family of men, "complete with pl'ocreative powel's" evident tlmlUgh the fathel'like King Neptune dtual.!>'1 This interpi"etation of masculinity is an intel"esting CUlltl'ast to how sailors conceptualized femininity.

II. leading scholal' of women's maritime history is I.isa Norling, il professor ,1t the University of Minnesota and recipient the 2001 Frederick Jackson Turner Huok Aw.mi. She ;llso received the North AmCl"ic;m Society for Oceanic History's John I.yman ]Jook Award in 2000 fOl' hel' work C(Jplain 11/1(111 !lod /I Wile: New /;'lIg/(m(/

Women lind the W/w/ejishery, 172U-/lJ70. In her article "The Sentimentalization of American Seafar-ing: The Case of the New I·:ngland Whale Fishery, 1790 -1870,"



Norling argues that evolving gender roles dirl1inished women's involvement with the whale fishery, ultimately giving them less <lgency and spawning a trend of emotional depriv<ltionlG The ar'ticle is bJscd on J plethof<l of primary sources, including correspondence, magazines, and diaries. Norling adv;lIlCes lhat sealJring husbands increasingly relegJted women to their homes to raise families and pl'Ovide emotional support, completely removing them from the fishery in which they had historically been active at the community level. This dyn~lInic led to sailors cO!1ceptualizing'I:1I1d' as the apex of feminine delic<lcy, which IllJde residence al sea the pinnacle of 'independence' - and thus manliness. When this mindset is connected to the potential for disJster, itemph<lsi'l.es the gendered ;lspect a/risk at

Similar' to other industrial pursuits, se;lfaring labour' can be inlCl"pr'eled as;1I1 exclusively masculine campaign Jgainst Mother Nature, with men determined to 'lake it'or fight the elements, often in the face of extreme danger. Sailofs inlerpr elec!

a successful weathCl"ing of envil'Onrnental fury as asserting Jllthol'ity over til(' natural world. The gender'ed dimensioll of this struggle wilh Mother Nature C<lrHlOt be played dowll. The p;lll'rnalistic practices within seafaring culture and the ethos of occupational masculinity adopted by sailors through gendered indoctrination frolll the forecastle to the C<lplains cabin sp<lwned an atillosphere of infJ<ltcd rn;lsClilinity BellJamin Franklin offered insight into seafarers reception to danger by writing,

"our sedfaring peopl!- are brave, being cowards in only Oll(' sense, that offedfing to be thought ;lfl'aid,"71 Likewise, sailor [hades Nordhoff, who, while riding Ollt ;1



storm, wrote in his diary "the puo)" devils 011 ShOI"C, who cannOl illustcr courage enough to leave their Mammas for J week h;lVe all my pity."12 Finally. a 1":11"(' <lnalysis ofshipboilrd ll1;lsculinity from the 1830s stated

An overstrained sense of manlincss is the charallcristic of seafaring men. Or rather, of life on hO;11'(1 This often gives an appC,lrancc of even of cruelty. this, ira IllJIl comes within an ace of his neck and escapes it. it is made a joke of. and I\()

notice must be taken of a hl-uisc or cut; Jnd of pity, or any show of JUcntion, would look sisterly, of a man who has to face the rough and tumble of such a lifeJl

SCJfarNS SilW incurring dangel" as the essence of masculinity -thus just hours before the scaling disaster of 1914, when 31 scalcl's l'ctlln1cd to thc 55 Newj(wllfJ/and after predicting trC<lchernus lVeather instead of 'taking' the elcments, popular literature claims that they faced the question, "lVhat ,1I'e YOll, a crowd of grandmothers"!,'74

The various themes emerging throughout the historiography of raillVays, mining, ;lIlt! sC<lf<lI'ing rcvolvc around the isolated and dangerous nature of the 1V0rkpl;lce, and the ethos of m;lsculinity associ,Hed lVith each occupatiollal sector. A m<ljor subject throughout the Ii;ll'ious historiogr:1phies is resilience against effectively anything that can he seen as an obstacle. This is influenced by environmentally isolated i;.lhouring conditions. The notioll of resilience is similar to

the theme of <l masculinc struggle against Mother N;Hme, which usually portl'ays dis,lstcr as a hNOic UTHlerL<lking in an oscill,lting power dynamic (although more so lVithin sCilfarinn than r:1ilways or mining). When the dangers associated lVith industrial lahour al'e added to the lhenw of isolation, collectivism and lTl<lsculinity


also become prominent" Each industry sp;nvned (In occupational ethos amongst its labour force, defined hy gendered, spatially limited, dangel"Ous, and fin;mciiilly unstable working conditions" Such conditions, combined with <l masculine coJlception of self-identity and the paternalistic practices of employers, often cqU<ltcd to disaster" These themes provide wnvincing touchstones for studying the gcntlcl"ed dimensiolls of risk. and can be elaborated upon to further understand the

<lnatomY<lnd implications of industrial disasters"

\ .... 'hile the continuulll ofseafMinc'sschoi;lrly hislOriogr,lphy h;15 undergone a number of cvolutions as histori~lns i1ppl"Oach v<lrying suhjects fl"Om different vantage points, one topic remains essentially uncharted: a criticalumicrst<lndingof risk ~md disasters at sea" Interestingly, unlike I"ail and milling disastcl"s, public fascination with shipwl"l'cks and 'peril Oil the high seas' has Sp,lWIlCd a massive populal" historiography" Popular wInks on disasters ,ll sea arc typiC<llly concerned with thc morc sClls<ltionaimMitime tragedics, and are <llmost always limited in time and spacc" The "i"ilOnicand /'usiIOlliodisastNsh,lVchistoriogl",lphiestothemselves, and books Oil ndutical mysteries dnd ghost ships MC as 1l11lllCl"OUS they arc fancifui.!' Ilowc\'el", such works are usually encyclopedic oranecdotai ill lI<lturC<1nd seek to entertain instead of educate or arguc" Mor"cover, popular Juthors ral"ely ilpproach t"hc historical record with thc necessary nelltl"ality of scholarly study and do not place disasters;1\ sea ;lgains\ a hl"Oad social background to draw any type of meaningful conclusion" The I"csult is all ,llmost compll'te vacuum of scholarly litcrature on disasters at sea" llo\vever, as this investigation will arguc, rhe cvents



associated with the Ncwfowldland and S5 Suu/hem Cmss during the Newfoundland scaling disaster of 19H. ;llong with the wreck of the V/on;:ei in l')W, present all ideal framcwod( to study dis(lsters at SC';J in;l scholarly «lpaci!),

The literature on the industrial trinity of rJilways, milling. and seafaring provides a window into industdal labour forces bound by rCIll<H"k<lblc similJri\ics IsoLltioll, masculinity, <1)]d collectivism arc reclining themes, and industdal disasters consistently occurred in cileh sector. Such themes suppurt <l frillllcwork for UlHlcl"slclnding the effects of a gendercd wOI"kpIJCC on a labour force, and can contcstualizl' industrial disasters. Further, approaching industl'bl disasters in the historical record with ;j focus on the gcndered dimensions of risk is an avellue of l"csc:JI'('h th;l( has not received scholarly attention. This appro;lch pi"esents l<tntalizing possibilities for studying disasters at sca. Howevcr. what lllal\Cs the disasters of 1911 and 191 fl distinctly diffcrellt from other industrial disastcrs is the loss of the SOlililern Cru~s. In no other industrial sector is a baOllr fOITC and its workpl,lCe capable of literally dis<lppe<lJ"in~. Indeed. such ;1Il event is effectivcly impossihle to replicate, and combined with the differences and simi!al"ities betwcl'n thc victims' of the Newj(iUmllllnd and F/ori;-:el disasters, the trio of tragcdies I'emaill an unparalleled historiogr'aphic phenomellon with singulal'ly promising potential for re~cardl into both industrial disastel's, and wInking nlen who got wet



Endnotes -ChJpter Two

I Erk Tucker. Administering Danger in the Workplace: Tile l.ow ami IJ()lilics of ()cHlpotir)l!al heulth and Safety i?egulati()11 ill Ontario. 18.')0 -IYl1 (Toronto. 1<)<)0).


2 See Peter Scholliers. ··Wol·k l'loors Under Tension: Working Conditions Jml International Competition in Textiles" ill

Tex1ile Workers, 1650 - 2000.

Quarantelli, cd .. /Jisosters: Theory (lnd Uescurch (Beverly llills. 1978).2

\ W;111er I.ieht, Working fur the Uuilroar/: Ti,e OIBanizatio/J olWurk in tlie Ni,leWell/1i Celllury (Princeton, 1(113). xvii. Light records that his study ·'would not deal with the UJnstnlctio[J crews who built the railroads. hut rather focus Oil the mell who ran



'J Slasoll Thompson. 11 Short/lis/OIY of American {(oi/ways: Covering Tell Decades with 400 Illustrations (Chicago, 1925).212.

10 Thompsoll dcdic<ltcs his work to "our continental transportation service with in the history of the world "


n,' p""""" "Jee" 1910), L-4. I{ill writes, "The

secondary literature that c)(cludcs slich disasters.

J4 Vincent Masterson, The Katy Nul/rond (1m/the iBSl Fmntier {Missouri. 1 ')88).261·





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