Impending Disaster: Footage of the Lusitania’s Departure from New York

One hundred years ago, in the midst of the First World War, the RMS Lusitania left New York for Liverpool, England with nearly 2000 passengers and crew members aboard. In the film below, passengers arrive in a flurry of a cabs and board the ship. Less than a week later, most of them were dead, victims of Germany’s escalating wartime tactics.

Footage of the Lusitania as she departed from New York May 1, 1915. Intertitles have been extended for increased readability. (111-H-1221)

On May 7, 1915, just off the coast of Ireland, the ship crossed paths with a German U-boat and was struck by a torpedo. 1,191 passengers and crew would lose their lives. 128 were Americans, including writer Elbert Hubbard, who is seen in the featured film at 3:00. Many attribute the sinking of the Lusitania with increased hostility toward Germany in isolationist America. The United States entered World War I two years later.

For more on the Lusitania, see posts on our sister blog, Prologue, including a piece about the ship’s difficult-to-launch lifeboats that resulted in increased fatalities, and an interview with the Lusitania’s captain, William T. Turner, following the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.

About Audrey Amidon

Audrey works in the Motion Picture Preservation Lab, which is responsible for performing conservation and preservation work on motion picture records held across the National Archives.
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