One hundred eighty lots of Titanic-related relics, autographs and memorabilia are on the block in RR Auction’s Titanic 100th Anniversary Auction, running now through April 26. The autographs and artifacts poignantly convey the legacy of not only the Titanic, but her passengers as well; the individuals whose lives were lost or changed forever with the most devastating peacetime disaster in maritime history.
Among the museum-worthy artifacts featured in the auction:
- An original fragment of the Titanic’s aft grand staircase, which was within frightening proximity of the exact location the ship broke in two
- An 18 karat gold collar stud recovered from the body of first class passenger, Austin Partner, and returned to his family
- A rare nostalgic locket recovered from Edward Herbert Keeping
- A rare pay slip from a surviving crewman; for his six days of service aboard the Titanic
- One of the Titanic’s deck chairs.
The Band Played On
One of the most touching offerings is the last known letter from Wallace Hartley, the Titanic’s bandleader.
Leaving on Wednesday, April 10, 1912 on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York, the Titanic was the largest passenger ship ever built and the height of class and luxury. Although in compliance with the safety standards of the time, the Titanic did not have enough lifeboats to accommodate everyone on board. When it struck an iceberg in the middle of the Atlantic, one of the worst maritime disasters in history took place.
There are few accounts of selflessness in history more moving than that of Wallace Hartley and his Titanic band mates. While the ship slowly slipped beneath the waves in the dark hours of April 15, 1912, Hartley led his fellow musicians in what would become the last melodies many of the 1,517 casualties would hear and in so doing became one of the most famous heroes of the tragedy.
The rare two-page letter up for auction was written by Hartley on Titanic letterhead, and is dated April 10, 1912.
Hartley’s only letter home, he writes to his parents during his first day on the ill-fated ship, saying, in part: We have a fine band & the boys seem very nice—I shall probably arrive home on the Sunday morning.
Just four days after penning this letter, Hartley and his crew would become heroes as “the band played on,” serenading the passengers as they assembled in the First Class Lounge, waiting to board lifeboats, and relocating when the passengers were ushered to the Boat Deck, assembling near the Grand Staircase. The men continued their orchestral vigil until the Titanic succumbed to the overwhelming force of the Atlantic, watching and playing as over 700 men, women, and children passed by them to safety.
Witnesses in lifeboats reported seeing Hartley and his band mates swept into the ocean and his last words to his band are reputed to have been, “Gentlemen, I bid you farewell.”
“Hartley and his orchestra’s role during the Titanic’s final moments is widely considered to be among the noblest acts of heroism at sea,” says RR Auction vice-president, Bobby Livingston.
“After the Titanic struck the iceberg the band began to play music to calm the passengers—a valiant effort to prevent the passengers from becoming panic-stricken.”
Hartley’s body was recovered several weeks later and more than 1,000 people attended his funeral with a further 40,000 lining the cortege rout.
He is remembered with a statue in his hometown and has featured prominently in film and television adaptations of the Titanic story, most notably portrayed by Jonathan Evans-Jones in James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster movie.
Bidding in the Titanic 100th Anniversary Auction started today, April 19 and closes on April 26.
For more information and to bid, go to RRAuction.com.