The Royal Mail Steamer Titanic was the product of intense competition among rival shipping lines in the first half of the 20th century. In particular, the White Star Line found itself in a battle for steamship primacy with Cunard, a venerable British firm with two standout ships that ranked among the most sophisticated and luxurious of their time. Cunard’s Mauretania began service in 1907 and immediately set a speed record for the fastest transatlantic crossing that it held for 22 years. Cunard’s other masterpiece, Lusitania, launched the same year and was lauded for its spectacular interiors. It met its tragic end–and entered the annals of world history–on May 7, 1915, when a torpedo fired by a German U-boat sunk the ship, killing nearly 1,200 of the 1,959 people on board and precipitating the United States’ entry into World War I.