The Titanic Had Many Michigan Connections

Jay Follis, speaker for the October Historical Society program.
Jay Follis, speaker for the October Historical Society program.

By Sue Moore

Over the century since the Titanic sank, books, screenplays and much private correspondence have been written about the event and the people who were lost and those who survived. The Vicksburg Historical Society has invited one of the most knowledgeable people in the area to speak about the disaster at its regular monthly program presentation. Jay Follis, a recognized expert on the history of the Titanic, will present at the Vicksburg Community Center at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, October 20. The public is encouraged to attend.

His angle on the 2,200 passengers onboard the Titanic for its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, is the many connections to Michigan. “More than 60 people on the doomed liner were from Michigan or heading to our state,” he said. “These included the ultra-wealthy who booked first class accommodations to those in steerage, emigrating to this state. Each had their own dreams and aspirations and I will be highlighting those from my years of research on the Titanic.”

His program entitled, Titanic: West Michigan Connections, will present amazing but little-known stories of these doomed passengers. While he doesn’t exhibit any recovered objects, Follis will display several White Star Line (the actual owner of the ship) artifacts and authentic objects from Titanic’s sister ships that are identical to items used onboard. During his lively presentation both he and his wife, Barbara, dress in period attire.

As a researcher and museum professional, Follis has been engrossed in the ship’s history since the age of 14, when he made his first public presentation about the Titanic to a historical society. He has served as the marketing director and collections registrar for the Gilmore Car Museum for the last 14 years. His talk is part of the Vicksburg Historical Society’s monthly program lineup that ends on Tuesday, November 20 with a look back in time to Vicksburg’s Frontier Days celebrations.

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