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Oscar Scott Woody's Pocket Watch

Shared on 17th November 2022
Pocket Watch
Oscar Scott Woody's Pocket Watch
(Courtesy of Henry Aldridge & Son)

Postal clerk Oscar Scott Woody’s gilt Ingersoll pocket watch with black ribbon fob, charm and yellow metal watch chain that he was wearing when Titanic hit the iceberg and sank, the watch is frozen in time capturing the moment Oscar went into the cold North Atlantic. The watch was recovered along with his other personal effects and returned to his wife Leila in May 1912. It has been exhibited in some of the most prestigious museums globally including The Smithsonian Postal Museum, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Titanic Museum Attraction USA.

The watch will be sold at Henry Aldridge and Son's Titanic, White Star, Ocean Liner and travel Memorabilia auction on 19 November 2022

Oscar Woody was one of the heroes of the disaster, ironically April 14th 1912 was to be his forty-fourth birthday and the postal clerks were celebrating this in their private dining room when Titanic crashed into the iceberg. Realizing that something was terribly wrong, they rushed to the mail sorting room and found the starboard hold already beginning to flood. Beginning with the registered mail, they began hauling mail sacks to the upper decks. John Richard Jago Smith was dispatched to the bridge to report on conditions, but his report only confirmed what Captain Edward J. Smith already knew: Titanic was sinking. Mail was considered a precious cargo. Steamship companies and the postal system went to great lengths to ensure its safety. Sea postal clerks were expected to protect the mail and during Titanic’s final hours the five clerks on board tried desperately to save the mail and, in the process, probably forfeited any chance they may have had to escape the doomed liner.

Oscar Scott Woody was a native of Roxboro, North Carolina and had 15 years’ experience with the Railway Mail Service before joining the Sea Post Service. Sea post clerks were highly skilled and respected postal workers who sorted, cancelled and redistributed the mail in transit. Most were selected from the ranks of the Railway Mail Service or the Foreign Mail Section. Regarded as the Elite these men typically sorted more than 60,000 letters a day, being renowned for their expertise. Their hard work and efficiency allowed the mail to be delivered immediately or forwarded directly to other destinations at the end of a voyage.

Titanic had five sea post clerks aboard: three Americans and two British. On April 9, 1912 two of the postal clerks John March and William Gwinn toured their new ship and found much to like. Titanic’s mail sorting room was far superior to any they had ever worked in before. Most mail sorting rooms of the time were far removed from where the mailbags were stored, often relegated to a cramped and poorly ventilated space. The mailbag storage compartment aboard Titanic, however, was conveniently located directly below the mail sorting room. However, the clerks objected to their sleeping and meal arrangements among the Third-Class passengers and secured alternate accommodations and permission to dine in a private area.

In all approximately 3,364 mailbags were brought aboard Titanic at three points – at its embarkation port at Southampton, England (1,758 bags); at Cherbourg, France (1,412 bags); and at Queenstown, Ireland (194 sacks) - before the ship headed for its final destination of New York City. Before sailing, the clerks carried out the routine tasks of checking the mail sacks and storing those that did not require their attention during the voyage. As Titanic set sail, the five postal workers began sorting the mail, distributing letters and packages into mailbags according to their final destination. Their goal was to dispatch Titanic’s mail immediately upon arrival at the Quarantine Station in New York Bay, where all incoming ships were detained for health inspection purposes. None of Titanic’s postal clerks survived the sinking. Only the bodies of Oscar Scott Woody and John Starr March were recovered from the wreck site, Oscar being buried at sea on April 24th 1912.

Pocket Watch
Pocket Watch

This watch represents one of the most iconic and important pieces of Titanic memorabilia offered for auction in recent years. £70000–100000 — Titanic, White Star, Ocean Liner and travel Memorabilia, November 2022

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