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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Henry Aldridge and Son to Auction Titanic Memorabilia Oct 29

Henry Aldridge and Son are hosting an auction of Titanic and White Star Line memorabilia on October 29th at their Devizes auction rooms. After the success of the auctioneers last auction in May with the 32ft enquiry plan selling for a world record £220000. It is no surprise that another unique selection of memorabilia will be offered for auction in Devizes.

The sale has a number of star lots but two of the most visually impressive are the sister plan to the 32ft enquiry profile offered in May and an extremely rare plan of First Class Accommodation for the Titanic that was used onboard by a Titanic survivor.

On Monday, 22 April, 1912, Sydney Buxton, President of the British Board of Trade, requested Lord Chancellor Loreburn to appoint a Wreck Commissioner to investigate the disaster of the Titanic. The Enquiry began on 2 May 1912 at the London Scottish Drill Hall, Westminster, and continued until 3 July 1912 having taken the testimony of nearly 100 witnesses over a period of 36 days, and considered the written depositions of numerous others.

This longitudinal mid section plan of Titanic was prepared by the Naval Architects Department of White Star Line with the help of builders Harland & Wolff, Belfast for use at the British Enquiry. The plan was prepared in Indian ink and hand-coloured. Drawn on paper and mounted to linen, the plan measures an astounding 6ft. 2ins. x 4ft. 8ins. It is headed “SECTION S.S. TITANIC”. It is drawn in graphic detail to a scale of ½ins. to 1 foot and was painstakingly hand-captioned throughout in very large and bold lettering in an apparent attempt to assist the members of the commission in understanding the complexities of the ship. Each deck is noted by its official designation as well as its nautical designation beginning from topside as follows: “Boat Deck”, “A Deck-Promenade”, “B Deck-Bridge”, “C Deck-Shelter”, “D Deck-Saloon”, “E Deck-Upper”, “F Deck-Middle”, “G Deck-Lower”, “Orlop Deck”. Below the Orlop Deck is the “Tank Top” with 14 water tight compartments shown in blue.

There are other details on the plan, all of which are hand drawn in bold ink. Chief among them are respective notations on each side of G Deck which state, “Approximate Mean Draft at Time of Accident” (Emphasis added), with hand-coloured markings depicting the draft. Interesting indeed that at a time when most reports were referring to the incident as a disaster that this company’s prepared plan would refer to it as an “accident” in an apparent effort to minimize the perception of liability at a public proceeding where perception may have had a significant impact.

An important, and in one sense very beautiful part of this plan, are two artistically hand-drawn and coloured lifeboats in davits at the top of the plan on each end of the ship. The aft lifeboat is accompanied by the hand-lettered description, “Sea Going Position of After Life Boats. 4 Port & 4 Starboard.” This is consistent with the known compliment of 8 lifeboats in this part of the ship. The forward lifeboat drawing, however, is accompanied by the description, “Sea Going Portion of Forward Life Boats. 3 Port & 3 Starboard.” This would make a total of 14 lifeboats (plus 4 collapsible lifeboats), when the total No. of lifeboats is known to be 16 (plus 4 collapsibles). Thus, two lifeboats are unaccounted for in the plan.

Two of the lifeboats in the forward part of the ship were smaller (40′) boats often referred to as “emergency” boats which were held at the ready, kept swung out on their davits, to assist in man-overboard situations, though they could be, and were, also available for use in evacuation scenarios. It may have been these boats which, for some reason, were not included in the count. This would account for the two “missing” boats but would not explain why they were not counted in the first place.

This lot represents an incredible opportunity to acquire a unique and historically significant part of Titanic’s story. It is a strikingly magnificent and commanding piece with all the colours amazingly vivid and vibrant. In terms of size, artistry and historical importance, it could easily be the centrepiece of any collection or exhibition, it is estimated at £40000-£60000.

A second showstopping item going under the hammer is an original double-sided detailed deck plan for First Class passengers of Titanic, dated December 1911, original printing. Headed “White Star Line. Southampton-Cherbourg-New York Service (Via Queenstown Westbound, and Via Plymouth Eastbound) R.M.S. Titanic.…One of The Two Largest Steamers in The World…” Additional headings on both sides, each pertaining exclusively to Titanic. The plan shows the layout of every First Class cabin over various decks; plus First Class Smoking Room, Lounge, Gymnasium, Restaurant, Staircases, Elevators, Turkish Baths, etc. with 7 vignettes of photographs of rooms and a painting of the ship at sea. Includes additional details of the amenities offered.

The plan depicts Titanic in extraordinary detail and identifies First Class cabins by stateroom number, complete with washbasins, wardrobes, beds, dressing tables; revealing such minute details as the shape of individual washbasins and the position of vaulting horses in the gymnasium. The layout of public areas on A,B,C,D,E, and F decks are painstakingly detailed in a manner consistent with the unparalleled standard of service associated with the White Star Line. These plans were an official issue of the steamship company and were distributed exclusively to First Class passengers, and originally folded into booklet form to make it easier for passengers to carry while on board.

The plan is embellished with the White Star Line house red burgee and is printed in black and red on translucent paper. Written in pencil at the top of the plan twice on one side is “Office Copy Keep” and “C-97.” C-97 refers to a cabin on C Deck which was purchased by Isidor Straus, the New York City icon associated with Macy’s department store, New York politics and philanthropy. He and his wife, Ida, boarded Titanic as First Class passengers along with Mr. Straus’s valet and Mrs. Straus’s maid intending to return to their home in New York. Cabin C-97 was occupied by Mrs. Straus’s maid, Ellen Bird, who survived. Her survival may well explain the existence of this deck plan as it was likely with her during the voyage and her rescue in Lifeboat No. 8. Indeed, not only is Cabin C-97 marked on the plan twice with an “X” in pencil, but a rectangular dining room table has been circled in the D Deck dining saloon, indicating where the plan’s owner sat for meals. In our May 2011 Titanic sale, we sold a very rare original photograph of Titanic’s dining saloon. Interesting to note that Miss Bird was not seated on C Deck where some other servants of First Class passengers are believed to have dined.

Original material relating to the Straus party’s time on board Titanic is practically non-existent. All in that party except Miss Bird were lost. To have something directly related to Straus and Titanic and which was likely on the ship is a collector’s dream. This may be the only opportunity to acquire such an item as we are unaware of any similar items related to the Straus’s which have ever been offered for public sale. This lot represents the zenith of collectibles pertaining to Titanic’s elite and is estimated at £30000-£50000.

Other fascinating items include a unique and highly important log page of wireless calls from Titanic and other ships on April 14th – 15th 1912 from onboard S.S. Birma. The messages were recorded by Joseph Cannon and include three messages from the liner Californian whose failure to go to the aid of Titanic is well documented. This log documents how Titanic’s first distress call broke into a message from Newfoundland which was giving a summary of the day’s news. “CQD – SOS DE MGY (Titanic code letters) we have struck iceberg sinking fast, come to our assistance, position lat 41° 46′ N, long. 50° 14′ W – MGY”. Birma answered “We are 100 miles from you, steaming 14 knots, be with you by 6.30, our position lat 40° 48 N, long 52° 13′ V – SBA”.The log continues and the entry for 2.30 is “several ships calling MGY no reply. Fear it is serious”, it is estimated at £20000-£25000.

There is also a fine selection of other material from onboard the ship, passenger and crew photographs, medals and collections from Titanic’s sister ships Olympic and Britannic as well as other liners.

The auction totals over 370 lots with estimates from £50 upwards. The auction will start at 1pm on October 29th and will be held at Unit 1 Bath Road Business Centre, Bath Road, Devizes, Wiltshire, SN10 1XA.

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