Skip to main content

Sinking of the Lusitania: Topics in Chronicling America

On May 7, 1915, the Lusitania was torpedoed by a German U-boat and sank. This guide provides information for researching the topic of the "sinking of the Lusitania" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.

Introduction

The Lusitania entering and exiting Mersey River, Liverpool. May 7, 1915. The Tacoma Times (Tacoma, Washington), Image 1. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

Despite published newspaper articles warning against travel on Allied ships, the RMS Lusitania departed from New York on May 1, 1915, bound for Liverpool. As the ship sailed near Ireland on May 7, it was torpedoed by a German U-boat and sank, killing over 1,100 people on board. A later British investigation into the incident ruled that the Lusitania was attacked with the intent to kill civilians, as the ship did not carry explosives. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.

Timeline

February 4, 1915 Germany declares the water surrounding the British Isles a war zone and warns that all Allied ships will be attacked.
April 22, 1915 The German Embassy publishes a warning in some newspapers that travel on Allied ships is “at their own risk.” The Lusitania is mentioned specifically in some of the discussion about the warning in the week leading up to its departure.
May 7, 1915 The Lusitania is torpedoed and sinks, killing over 1,100 passengers, including more than 100 Americans.
June 15, 1915 The Board of Trade begins an investigation into the sinking. The claim by German forces that the ship had been armed is ruled untrue at the end of the trial in mid-July.