Meet Douglas Ross!
1. Can you describe your first experience with the Titanic, and how you began to realize you loved it?
My love of Titanic began in elementary school in the Spring of 1996. Two of the fourth-grade classrooms (Room 10 and 11 respectively) at Dorman Elementary School in Springfield, Ma was doing a reading project as part of the general curriculum on the Titanic for about two weeks. What fascinated me was the fact that a supposedly unsinkable ship was lost, sank with a huge loss of life and then discovered years later. Prior to Titanic I was obsessed with tornadoes and the awesome power of weather and city and school buses but that changed once Titanic entered my life which is exactly 25 years ago today. My obsession was not always taken seriously, and it was at times in my life used against me during very rough periods in my public educational career and I was made fun of for liking a ‘’white’’ disaster as being a mixed black person liking something from 1912 was seen as peculiar to many people of all backgrounds.
2. You've been interested in the Titanic for a long time. How (if at all) has your focus changed? For example, when you were young you might have been more interested in one thing, but now maybe you're more interested in something else.
I have always been interested in the general story of Titanic and the lessons incorporated into maritime law which I call the Civil Rights Act of the sea for its groundbreaking and world shattering changes that endure until this very day in the 21st century. However, my focus has slightly shifted to incorporate the broader world such as how racism affected blacks traveling back and forth between the United States and Europe and certain passengers and crew, such as J.Bruce Ismay who is a very complex man that I have since grown to sympathize with on a personal level, but I wasn’t always this way towards Ismay especially in my childhood as I had a simplistic black and white view of him.
3. Can you tell us a little bit about the Titanic community? I know some of the other scholars have been very helpful and supportive.
The Titanic community of today is as complex as the story of Titanic herself. There are the historians and scholars who study Titanic like an academic discipline, the hardcore enthusiasts who are equally as knowledgeable as the historians themselves, regular enthusiasts who love the general story of Titanic or the pop culture of Titanic and then people who are curious about her story. I think I fall in between hard core and regular enthusiasts because I understand and know a lot, but I can’t tell you things like what grade of paint was used or what the mattresses were made of.
4. Have you been to the Titanic Historical Association's museum in Indian Orchard? If so, what's it like? What's the best part?
Yes, several times, I actually met the founder of the Titanic Historical Society Ed Kamuda a few years before his passing and the first time I met him he gave me a little pop quiz on ocean liners and I got them all right and he said to my mother you got an expert right here. You never forget things like that. I think the best part is that it was established in my hometown and that’s something positive I can say about the city where I grew up and that two of Titanic’s passengers who died lived in the Springfield area. Milton Long, son of Judge Charles Long former mayor of the city and Jane Carr, who was a 3rd class passenger whom I believed lived in nearby Chicopee prior to Springfield if I remember correctly. Springfield, Ma has so much hidden history that one would be surprised to learn when visiting the city.
5. You have a great reading list at the back of your book. Is there one of them that you keep coming back to over and over again, and if so, which one and why?
I read all of those books listed at one time or another, some of them twice in addition to several other books related to Titanic and ocean liner travel. I think one which I could read over and over again like the bible is David Brown’s book because it is so different from the rest, very contentious within the Titanic community but yet makes you think a lot about what if he’s right and were all wrong about what we understand about that horrific night? Also, the book written by at least 12 different historians called Titanic centennial is great as it offers different views of Titanic from different expert opinions and I love the detail and academic nature of the book.
The story of the Royal Mail Steamer Titanic is a story that has been told hundreds of times in books, films, documentaries and now in the 21st century by the video game industry. Her story is the story of the successes and failures of the industrial age and of the gilded age of the early 20th century, which would end shortly after her death.
The Life of a North Atlantic Liner is a historical story about the life and death of Titanic, providing readers with the information needed to understand her tragic story from her conception as an ocean liner to her untimely death with the loss of 1,496 men, women and children in the frigid North Atlantic.
The Life of a North Atlantic Liner will spark readers’ curiosity to further explore and discover the complex and human story of a ship which was considered by many in the early 20th century to be unsinkable.