On this day in 1854, the SS Arctic sank with the loss of almost all her passengers. The crew, however, knowing that there were lifeboats for fewer than half the passengers, took all the boats themselves to spare the passengers the agony of making difficult decisions. The public outcry after the disaster convinced the owners of steamship lines that something ought to be done, and in the future captains were sternly ordered not to sink their ships, thus rendering an expensive investment in extra lifeboats unnecessary.

The picture shows a badly eroded but still lively relief depicting the disaster on the monument to James B. Hogg, a prominent Pittsburgher who was among those shoved aside by the crew in their dash for the lifeboats. Our friend Father Pitt has color pictures of the monument at his Pittsburgh Cemeteries site.