However, 105 years later, very few Cedar Rapids natives know the name Walter Douglas or the historical role that this fellow resident played. Most people are unaware that he was a passenger on the ill-fated Titanic or that he was the son of Quaker Oats co-founder George Douglas. Walter Douglas was an officer at Douglas & Co. Starch Works of Cedar Rapids. His brother lived in the Brucemore Mansion, which is now a local landmark. The Douglas family was already well known in Cedar Rapids for their fortune, before Walter’s fate on the Titanic made headlines.
The first report in The Gazette read as follows: “All but a very few of the first cabin passengers survived, and that the list of rescued included R. D. Douglas. As there is no R.D. Douglas on the published passenger list, it is concluded that R. D. should read W. D. It is reasonably certain that Mr. Douglas was among those rescued.”
As we now know, news spread more slowly in the early twentieth century and early reports were often inaccurate. Subsequent articles confirmed that Walter Douglas was among the more than 1,500 lost in the sinking of the Titanic. Headlines in The Gazette read, “Walter Douglas: A Hero,” as survivors recalled his noble effort to load women onto the remaining lifeboats.
The newspaper content that the Cedar Rapids Community History Archive preserves and provides allows insight into the life of Walter Donald Douglas, as well as real-time 1912 coverage of the Titanic tragedy.
The “first draft of history” carefully preserved in each community archive is an infinitely beneficial resource for research and education. As demonstrated with a simple entry of “the Titanic,” returned articles provide more than factual reports; additionally, they offer more than anecdotes the event or personal stories from individuals such as Walter Douglas. The articles tell us how news traveled, how events were covered, how people lived and how we have evolved.
A simple search conducted through the Advantage Preservation Community History Archives can uncover remarkable finds and unlock parts of history often lost in the pages of local newspapers. Advantage Preservation maintains and ensures community access to the collections, which include over 450 library sites and over 40 million total pages of newspaper.
The history of our own community has been recorded in the pages of local newspapers around Cedar Rapids for over 160 years. There are more than a million pages available at cedarrapids.advantage-preservation.com. By performing a search of a name or topic of interest—such as, “the Titanic” — users are led down a path of discovery as they find connections to historical events within their own community. We will continue to highlight our favorite finds in our community and others as well encourage archive users to do the same and share with us! Each search conducted through the Advantage Preservation Community Archive presents an opportunity to find something new and, oftentimes, something that you did not even realize you were looking for.