TDIH 1915: Lusitania sunk by German U-Boats

On Friday, May 7, 1915, the German U-Boat U-20 torpedoed the British passenger liner R.M.S. Lusitania, 11 miles off the southern coast of Ireland. The Lusitania had departed New York on May 1 with nearly 2,000 passengers aboard and was headed for Liverpool on its usual route. The ship sank in under 20 minutes, taking with it the lives of approximately 1200 people. Among those who perished were 123 Americans, despite warnings that Americans traveled British liners at their own peril. The sinking of the Lusitania turned public opinion in many countries against Germany and is widely considered to have contributed to the United States’ decision to eventually enter World War I in 1917.

Bishop Milton Wright wrote of the incident in his diary on the day of the sinking as well as  few days afterwards:

Friday, May 7. The great steam passenger ship Lusitania, at 2:00, was torpedoed by submarines and lost in a few minutes with over twelve hundred, crew and passengers!

Saturday, May 8… News of the destruction of the Lusitania fills the papers.

Sunday, May 9. News of the Lusitania disaster comes teeming still in the papers…

Some of the newspaper articles the Bishop probably read, from the Dayton Daily News in May 1915, can be seen below. Click on an image to enlarge it:

Comparison of Lusitania to tall buildings, DDN, May 9, 1915, p3

Comparison of Lusitania to tall buildings, DDN, May 9, 1915, p3 (click to enlarge)

The item at left, from May 9, 1915, page 3, deserves to be highlighted. It shows the Lusitania — which was briefly the largest passenger ship in the world at 790 feet long — next to the tallest building in the world (in 1915), the Wooldworth Building in Manhattan, which was completed in 1913 and reached a height of 775 feet. The DDN also added a local landmark, the United Brethren (or “U.B.”) Publishing Building (now known as the Centre City Building), which at 175 feet tall was the tallest building in Dayton at the time.


The R.M.S. Lusitania had been sailing for the Cunard Line for about 8 years before it was sunk in the notorious disaster. During a few of its many trips between New York and Liverpool from 1907 and 1915, the Lusitania found its way into stories that have since found their way into our Archives.

While in New York on September 29, 1909, the Lusitania and the Statue of Liberty were captured in the background of this photograph from the Wright Brothers Collection:

Spectators and Wright Model A on Governors Island, NY, with Lusitania in the background, 1909 (photo ms1_19_1_19)

Spectators and Wright Model A on Governors Island, NY, with Lusitania in the background, 1909 (photo ms1_19_1_19)

In the foreground of the above photo, spectators, including soldiers, stand near the Wright Model A Flyer and its launch rail. (View photo # ms1_19_1_19 on CORE Scholar.)

Martha McClellan Brown traveled aboard the Lusitania when we she made her final lecture tour to Europe in 1911. There are references to this trip in the Martha McClellan Brown & Rev. William Kennedy Brown Papers (MS-147), as well as the Louise Kennedy Papers (MS-281).

An autograph book in our Local History Ephemera Collection (MS-383) includes some autographs that were collected in a spooky, interesting way aboard the Lusitania.  We wrote about these previously on the blog in “Ghosts of My Friends,” 10/28/2011.


Learn more about the sinking of the Lusitania and the role the disaster (eventually) played in bringing the United States into World War I:

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National Nurses Week Featured Collection: MS-472, Lovetta R. Blanke Collection

In honor of nurses during this National Nurses Week, we’d like to highlight one of our more recently acquired nurse collections, MS-472, The Lovetta R. Blanke Collection.  The collection was donated in Spring 2013 and processed in Summer 2013.

Here is the biographical note and summary of the collection from the finding aid:

Lt. Lovetta Dixon, undated, from MS-472, Box 7, File 4 (click to enlarge)

Lt. Lovetta Dixon, undated, from MS-472, Box 7, File 4 (click to enlarge)

Lovetta R. (Dixon) Blanke (1919-2012) was a member of the Navy Nurse Corps, school nurse, public health nurse, nurse educator Dayton philanthropist, patron of the arts, and advocate for the profession of nursing. She advocated for children’s health, health education, and other issues relevant to school nurses, such as school nurse certification. In 2008, she was named Outstanding Philanthropist by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Greater Dayton Region Chapter. Born in Harrisburg, IL on Nov. 29, 1919, she graduated from the Presbyterian Hospital School of Nursing as an R.N. in 1941 and served as a Navy nurse during World War II. She earned a Bachelor of Science (1950) in Public Health Nursing from the Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville, TN and her M.A. in the same discipline from University of Chicago in 1959. She joined the Academy of American Educators in 1973 and held positions as a School Nurse and Supervisor of Nursing Services in Dayton Public Schools. She was instrumental in founding the Southwest Ohio School Nurses Association. She was also a member of numerous professional organizations, including the Ohio Nurses Association, the American Nurses Association, the Dayton Schools Management Association, the Ohio School Nurses Association, the Ohio Education Association, and the School Nurses Branch of the National Education Association. In addition to her two and a half years active naval service during World War II, she served in the U.S. Navy Reserve, retiring at the rank of commander in 1979.

She was a staunch supporter of nursing education and research. She served as Acting Director of Continuing Education for Wright State’s College of Nursing and Health from 1976-1978. In the mid-2000s, she served on the external advisory board for the College of Nursing & Health. Mrs. Blanke and her husband, Bertram (whom she married in 1960), had made financial contributions to Wright State University over the years, including the Blanke Research Fund (endowment) for the College of Nursing & Health. This endowment has supported activities such as a faculty research incentive grant, graduate student scholarly project recognition, and student research recognition.

Mrs. Blanke participated in and/or contributed to several local civic organizations, including the Dayton Council on World Affairs and the Dayton Opera.

She passed away on December 10, 2012 at the age of 93.

This collection documents Mrs. Blanke’s career as a student, naval officer, school nurse, public health official, and philanthropist. In addition to her personal and professional papers, a selection of her awards and honors is included in this collection. Also included are a few documents from her husband’s experiences as an army officer/ reservist, chemist, and pilot.

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Wright Brothers Collection featured in CBS Sunday Morning

Wright State University’s Special Collections and Archives and its Wright Brothers Collection were featured in an interview with author David McCullough that aired on CBS Sunday Morning May 3. The piece called the Wright Brothers’ lives “a symbol of the power of imagination.”

Watch the report from CBS News >>

Special Collections and Archives hosted McCullough and a crew from CBS Sunday Morning on March 31 to film an interview on the author’s new book, The Wright Brothers.

McCullough discusses a photo with correspondent Rita Braver. Also pictured: producer Jon Carras and cameraman Henry Bautista.

McCullough discusses a photo with correspondent Rita Braver. Also pictured: producer Jon Carras and cameraman Henry Bautista.

McCullough discussed items from the Wright Brothers Collection and the significance of the events they depict. He emphasized the importance of photographs as valuable yet often overlooked sources of information for historical research.  He also read short passages from The Wright Brothers, which will be released May 5.

CBS Sunday Morning also filmed McCullough at a number of other Wright brothers sites in Dayton and elsewhere for the segment, including Huffman Prairie Flying Field, Greenfield Village, and the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum.

McCullough will make a special appearance at a June 8th event sponsored by Books&Co and hosted at Kettering Middle School (3000 Glengarry Drive). Tickets for that event go on sale May 5 at Books&Co.

It was also recently announced that Tom Hanks and HBO are planning a mini-series based on McCullough’s book.

A two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, McCullough visited the Special Collections and Archives last fall to conduct research for his book using Wright State’s world-renowned Wright Brothers Collection, one of the most complete collections of Wright material in the world.  It includes the Wrights’ own technical and personal library, family papers and other documents detailing the lives and work of Wilbur and Orville Wright and the Wright family. It also includes awards, certificates, medals, albums, recordings and technical drawings. Perhaps the most valuable part of the collection are the thousands of photographs documenting the invention of the airplane and the lives of the family.

McCullough received the Pulitzer Prize for his books Truman and John Adams, and received National Book Awards for The Path Between the Seas and Mornings on Horseback. He is also the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award.

This press release was modified slightly from one originally published by the Wright State News Room on May 4, 2015.

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