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Encyclopedia Titanica

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Unique Relics from Titanic’s Maiden Voyage to be auctioned

Henry Aldridge and Son, the world’s leading auctioneers of Titanic memorabilia are holding an auction of Titanic collectables to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the completion of the Royal Mail Steamer Titanic on March 31st 2012. The sale will be 100 years to the day after Titanic was finished at Harland and Wolff. RMS Titanic left Belfast on April 2nd 1912, the start of a journey, which ended in tragedy in the cold North Atlantic on April 14th 1912 with the loss of over 1500 lives.

Although the Titanic sank nearly 100 years ago, demand for memorabilia from her shows little sign of abating. A mystique has built up around the story since her demise on a cold April night in 1912 with the loss of 1517 lives. Ironically though is was not until Walter Lord’s film a Night to Remember was realised in 1958 that the story was brought back to the attention of the media in general. Several films came and went after what is still seen by many as the definitive movie on the subject. Until in 1998 James Cameron’s Titanic broke all box office records and took the world by storm taking the subject to a new audience.

Henry Aldridge and Son have over 10000 Titanic, Marine and Ocean Liner collectors from all over the globe. Prices of the rarest Titanic material have risen over the years due to the scarcity of the most unusual items from the ship.

One of the star items going under the hammer is a highly significant and unique letter written onboard Titanic by the ship's Chief Officer, Henry Wilde. Wilde was Captain E.J. Smith's 2nd in command and perished in the disaster, reports at the time show him as a hero who generally only allowed woman and children into lifeboats and he was last seen trying to free Collapsible Lifeboats A and B from the roof of the officer’s quarters shortly before Titanic sank.

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Ironically Wilde was only transferred to Titanic from her sister ship R.M.S. Olympic at the last moment. The letter itself is dated 7th April 1912 and was written whilst onboard in Southampton, he writes:

My dear Norah & Edie
Thanks for your letter received this morning which I was glad to have & know that you were all right.
I would have written to you but so busy & so uncertain what I was going to do.
I am on the Titanic but I am not sure I am sailing on her yet, I tried to get to Liverpool yesterday but could not manage it but I am not quite sure of going yet.
I am wondering whether Mother has had the business settled yet.
Will you ask her to let me know. I think Mr Williams was arranging it for her without any expense ask her to let me know, if I go on this ship we sail on Wednesday & will be back in 17 days & I will try & come up then I have been kept very busy on board all day on Good Friday & again today Sunday with the crew getting the ship ready she is very far behind to sail on Wednesday working on her night & day, she is an improvement on the Olympic in many respects & is a wonderful ship the latest thing in shipbuilding. I would like you all to see her I hope you like you new business & that you will get on there until something better turns up I don't think I have much more to say hope to see you all soon with very best love to mother & you both from Uncle Harry.

As there are no letters known to have been written by Captain EJ Smith, this letter is a Blue Riband item due to the fact is was written by Titanic’s second in command, it gives the reader a fascinating snapshot into life behind the scenes on the Titanic, it represents a unique collecting opportunity and is estimated at £25000-£30000.

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Any menu from the Titanic is highly prized but collectors will be offered the opportunity of a lifetime, when a First Class Menu from the last lunch ever held on-board the Titanic goes under the auctioneers hammer on March 31st. The menu carries the all-important date of April 14th and gives the reader a fascinating insight into the culinary life of Titanic’s elite passengers. The cream of Edwardian society were onboard the Titanic and this menu gives us a snapshot into what they ate on the last lunch served on the ship. Served over several courses the passengers had the choice of Egg A Argenteuil, Consommé Fermier, Chicken a ‘la Maryland or Galantine of Chicken to name but a few of the 40 options on offer, it left in the ship in the purse of First Class Passenger Ruth Dodge and is estimated at £60000-£100000.

Another of the star lots going under the hammer is an extremely rare set of three keys used onboard the Titanic, they bear a brass tag bearing the words Lamp-trimmer and Storekeeper. Keys from the Titanic are exceptionally rare but the examples being offered for auction are among the most desirable. They were owned by Samuel Hemming who was Titanic's lamp-trimmer; Hemming carried the responsibility among other things of trimming the lamps, which he did on the night of April 14th 1912. The keys carry a pre sale estimate of £50000-£60000.

The keys themselves played a part in the story as they were actually used in those last desperate hours. This is because Mr Hemming received a personal order from Captain Edward J. Smith as the ship was sinking and it became apparent all was lost to ensure all of the lifeboats were provided with lamps.

In detailed evidence that he gave to the United States Titanic Enquiry to Senator Smith he confirmed he was given a direct order by the Captain to stop what he was doing and ensure all of the lifeboats had lamps onboard. Mr Hemming would have travelled down several flights of stairs into the bowels of the ship to the Third Class area to gather the lamps.

Mr Hemming survived, he stated afterwards that he was swam around 200 yards from the stricken vessel when he was then picked up from the cold North Atlantic, several hours later the Cunard liner Carpathia picked up Titanic’s surviving passengers and crew.

The sale will see over 370 lots being sold in what one American collector recently commented was in his opinion one of the finest selections of Titanic and Ocean Liner memorobilia to be offered globally in recent years.

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The sale will contain something for every budget; it is possible to purchase an original piece of memorabilia such as a postcard from 1912 from as little as £100. Collectables from the White Star Line, the owners of Titanic are also a good way to buy an original piece of the story, material such as ceramic and plated wares range from £100 upwards and estimates for souvenirs from Titanic’s elder sister Olympic start at £50. There are numerous items in the sale such The Deathless Story of the Titanic and The Daily Graphic that are estimated at £30-£50 and also some ephemera can be bought for less than £100, all are original parts from the Titanic story and contemporary to the era.

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Fully illustrated souvenir catalogues are now available at a cost of £20 plus postage; please visit www.henry-aldridge.com for further details.

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