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Letter from J. Bruce Ismay to R. B. Nixon, Esq., acknowledging receipt of payment, June 8, 1912

J. Bruce Ismay was one of 82 individuals called to testify before the Senate subcommittee in its investigation of the Titanic shipwreck. The witnesses were reimbursed for their travel expenses. Both the Senate investigation and one conducted by Great Britain concluded that although the ship’s sinking was “an act of God,” better safety measures were needed.

Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration

Letter from J. Bruce Ismay to R. B. Nixon, Esq., acknowledging receipt of payment, June 8, 1912

The Sinking of the RMS Titanic

On April 14, 1912, the British ship Titanic collided with an iceberg and sank. More than 1,500 of those aboard died, including scores of Americans. To understand the cause of the accident, a Senate Committee on Commerce subcommittee acted quickly to obtain testimony from survivors, witnesses, rescuers, and officials. The subcommittee concluded that the catastrophe was an “act of God,” but criticized certain actions of the Titanic’s builders, owners, and crew. Congress responded with the Radio Act of 1912 and other legislation to improve maritime safety.

Our course was simple and plain—to gather the facts relating to this disaster while they were still vivid realities. . . . It was vital that the entire matter should be reviewed before an American tribunal if legislative action was to be taken for future guidance on international maritime safety.

Senator William A. Smith of Michigan, Speech to the Senate, May 28, 1912