‘Keep Your Mouth Shut; Big Money for You,’ Was Message to Hide News

Harold Bridge, the assistant wireless operator on the Titanic suffered frostbitten feet. He is shown being carried from the Carpathia upon arrival in New York.

Harold Bridge, the assistant wireless operator on the Titanic suffered frostbitten feet. He is shown being carried from the Carpathia upon arrival in New York.

New York Herald, April 21, 1912, page 1:

‘Keep Your Mouth Shut; Big Money for You,’ Was Message to Hide News

Hold Story for ‘Four Figures,’ Marconi Official Also Warned the Carpathia Operator, While Anxious World Waited Details of Disaster.

While the world was waiting three days for information concerning the fate of the Titanic, for part of the time at least, details concerning the disaster were being withheld by the wireless operator of the steamship Carpathia under specific orders from T. W. Sammis, chief engineer of the Marconi Wireless Company of America, who had arranged the sale of the story. This was admitted yesterday by Mr. Sammis, who defended his action. He said he was justified for getting for the wireless operators the largest amount he could for the details of the sinking of the ship, the rescue of the passengers and the other information the world had waited for. The first information concerning the loss of the Titanic came Monday evening, and it was known at that time the survivors were on board the Carpathia. About midnight the first of the list of survivors began to come by wireless, and from that time until Thursday night, when the rescue ship arrived in port, the world waited and waited in vain for the details of how the “unsinkable ship” had gone down. Three messages were sent to the Carpathia telling the operator to send out no news concerning the disaster. Two of these were unsigned, and the last one had the signature of Mr. Sammis.

“Keep Mouth Shut; Big Money.”

The first message was unsigned, and it is said it was sent as a list of names of survivors were being forwarded. It read:– “Keep your mouth shut. Hold story. Big money for you.” The messages from the Carpathia to the Marconi office concerning this matter were not available, but there was evidently some communication, for the second unsigned message followed after an interval. This message read:– “If you are wise, hold story. The Marconi company will take care of you.” The third and last message was addressed to “Marconi officer, the Carpathia and the Titanic,” and signed “S. M. Sammis,” chief engineer of the Marconi Company of America. This one read:– “Stop. Say nothing. Hold your story for dollars in four figures. Mr. Marconi agreeing. Will meet you at dock.” Mr. Sammis was at the Waldorf-Astoria yesterday at the hearing before the sub-committee of the United States Senate, and he was asked about the message.

Mr. Sammis Resents Criticism.

“It is reported,” he was told, “that a message was sent by you to the wireless operator on the Carpathia to which you gave the orders or at least said to him not to give out any details of the sinking of the Titanic, as you had arranged for four figures.” “Well?” he said is a defiant way. “Did you send such a message?” “Maybe. What of it?” he replied. “It would be interesting to know if you actually sent such a message.” “Yes, I sent the message, but whose business is it?” Mr. Sammis asked with some heat. “Perhaps it was no one’s business,” he was told, “but it is interesting to know that when the world was horror stricken over the disaster and waiting for the news, that there were persons preparing to capitalize the suspense and had arranged for ‘four figures.’ ” “Do you blame me for this,” retorted Mr. Sammis, as he backed up against the wall. “Do you blame me for getting the highest price I could for the operator for the story he had to tell about the collision and the rescue. I thought I was doing a good turn for him, and I can’t see how it is the business of anyone.” It is not unlikely that the sending of these messages with the apparent result that no details of the disaster came from the relief ship will form part of the inquiry that is being made by a sub-committee of the Senate. Part of this inquiry has been directed as to why a message from President Taft asking for information about Major Archibald W. Butt was unanswered, and it is not unlikely that in view of the message from Mr. Sammis that this will be taken up again.

Navy Likely to Have Records.

While these messages were intercepted by more than one wireless receiving station, there is one place where the Senate Committee could undoubtedly get copies of them. The New York Navy Yard has a powerful receiving station, and has what is known as an “intercepted message” book. These messages are considered confidential and are never given out, but the book would undoubtedly be at the disposal of the investigating committee. Senator Smith said yesterday that the authorities in Washington knew on Thursday long before the Carpathia arrived, that the White Star line was contemplating the return of part of the Titanic crew to England by the steamship Cedric, and this information undoubtedly came from a government station. John W. Griggs, one time Attorney General of the United States and Governor of New Jersey, is president of the Marconi Wireless Company of America. He said last night he had not heard that the chief engineer of the company was marketing the information of the disaster. “This is a matter which will be looked into,” he said. “I know nothing about it, had not heard of it before, and, of course, cannot say what will be done until it is brought to my attention in an official way.”

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