NEW YORK (AFP) — Two letters from Titanic passengers are to be auctioned in New York this month, one of them featuring an excited description of the doomed ship just moments before setting sail.
Letters on White Star Lines stationary inscribed with "On board RMS Titanic" are "extremely rare and are among the most prized artifacts from the disaster," said Robert Litzenberger, a specialist at Spink Smythe auction house.
The letters are expected to sell January 16 for 10,000 dollars to 20,000 dollars each, he said. The items will be offered in New York and online by Spink Smythe.
In one letter, businessman Adolphe Saalfeld penned a hurried note to his wife just before the Titanic left Southampton on her 1912 maiden voyage, sinking with the loss of some 1,500 lives after hitting a north Atlantic iceberg.
"I just had an hours roaming abt (about) on this wonderful boat ... I like my cabin very much. It is like a bed-sitting room and rather large. I am the first man to write a letter on board. They are still busy to finish the last touches onboard," he wrote.
Saalfeld survived the sinking in lifeboat number three, which was crammed mostly with women and children.
The other letter was written by George Graham, a department store salesman, who perished.
In a letter sent just before embarking, he apologized to a business associate that he had been too busy to make contact earlier: "I hope that you will accept my good wishes now even if they are a bit late. I hope to see you next year."
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
There was a distinction on the Titanic, and the men and women of color were considered of lower standards during that time in England and France. However, that was not the case with the Laroche Family.
Joseph Phillipe Lemercier Laroche was born on May 26, 1885 in Haiti. His uncle was the president of the country, and that put him in a prominent state. He left in 1901 however, and went to Beauvais, France for school at age 15. Joseph got an engineering degree and married Juliette Lafargue in 1908. Together, they had a daughter named Simmone in 1909, and another daughter named Louise in 1910. Even though Joseph spoke French and English very well and had an engineering degree, his skin color porevented him from getting work. They weren't doing well, and were living in the basement of his father in law, who was a wine seller. Juliette got pregnant again in March of 1912, and decided to return to Haiti rather live on the charity of his father in law. Joseph's mother got them tickets on the LaFrance and paid 50,000 dollars for a parlor suite, but the coal strike made them transfer to the Titanic in 2nd class. Even though they were in 2nd class, they were allowed to eat with the 1st class passengers, and enjoy the 1st class luxuries. You can imagine the racial discrimination about him and his family, and they could have been alone the entire time, not knowing or getting to know anybody. At dinner, Kate Buss said that the children would run about before dinner. She described them as, "like Jap(anese) children". What probably also raised many eyebrows, was the Black man married to the olive colored woman. They enjoyed themselves though. The Titanic struck an iceberg on the evening of April 14, 1912 and was mortally wounded. The family was all all asleep when there came a knock at the door. Mr. Laroche answered the door, and was told that he and his family were to put on their lifejackets and go up on deck. Since this story was told as not to cause panic, they all did as the steward said and didn't worry about a thing. The men were not allowed into the lifeboats, so Joseph stayed behind while Juliette, Simmone, and Louise were put into possibly Boat No. 14. Unfortunately, Joseph died in the sinking. Mrs. Laroche and the children went back to France where she had a boy that she named, Joseph Jr. The family barely were surviving until sometime after WWI, when the White Star Line gave her 150,000 francs for her loses of items and clothing, and also pittance for the loss of her husband. The man that gave them this was Alexandre Millerand, an advocate of the White Star Line, and future president of France. She used some of the money to open a fabric dyeing place, and they did well. They kept in contact with fellow survivor, Edith Russell until her death. Juliette never remarried, and died at the age of 91 on January 10, 1980. Simmone die at the age of 64 on August 8, 1973. Louise later commemorated a plaque in 1995 at Cherbourg, next to the Normadic which the ship that carried them to the Titanic. It is the last White Star Line ship still to exist. Louise died in 1998. The family's story remained forgotten until 2000, when experts were able to piece together what happened. This was due to the family not wanting to talk about the disaster. I can't find out anything about Joseph Jr., but if he's alive, he could technically count as a survivor, although in the womb, he was still on the Titanic. The Laroche grandchildren don't talk about the sinking. Even though they never witnessed it, they don't talk about what their parents or grandparents had said about the disaster.
Monday, December 15, 2008
While in Washington D.C., we went to the National Museum of Art at the Smithsonian. While there, we went into a room that had the same style in paneling as the Titanic's Lounge, which is modeled for one of the rooms in the Palace of Versailles. The reason being, is because there was a collection of art pieces that was owned by King Louis XIV. The pieces were donated by a Mrs. Rice. Well, her former husband was George Dunton Widner. He and his son Harry put her into a lifeboat before going down with the ship. George Widner was a collector of art, and his son shared that same interest, collecting rare books. After Mrs. Widner arrived in Philadelphia and later married Dr. Rice, she donated these things to the Smithsonian. The art pieces were very interesting, and I think that it's ironic that they did the room at the Smithsonian in the same style as the Lounge.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Here in Washington D.C., we went to Arlington National Cemetery. While there, I found out that Archibald Butt was memorialized here. He was a man that died on the Titanic, but he was also the military aid of presidents Teddy Roosevelt, and William Taft. He helped others into the lifeboats and then waited for the end, which came that cold, April night. Although his body was never found, his father and brothers had an empty casket and memorial buried in the place that "Archie" had selected. The link earlier will take you to a biography I did about him. If you ever go there, you might want to look at it. Look under 1734.