Titanic Sails Again
LiveAuctionTalk.com: by Rosemary McKittrick
Photo courtesy of Bonhams.
Opulence is what attracted passengers to the Titanic. The ship was a palace, a ship of dreams and in the end nightmares.
The first-class passenger list read like a Who’s Who of the rich and famous. John Jacob Astor, the Titanic’s wealthiest passenger, banking mogul Benjamin Guggenheim, Charles Hays, president of the Grand Trunk Railway, presidential adviser Isidor Straus, Broadway producer Henry B. Harris, and Pennsylvania Railroad president John B. Thayer were a few of the moneyed guests.
First-class travelers could enjoy the same luxuries they did in their own homes. And the grand staircase was something to behold. Natural light flowed through the wrought iron and glass dome overhead highlighting the polished oak wall paneling.
Dressed for dinner in their fur coats and evening gowns guests could either stroll down the staircase to the dining saloon on D-deck or take the elevators just forward of the set of steps.
Before dinner passengers mingled in the reception room and then entered the dining area through double doors. The dining saloon was the largest room afloat measuring over 100 feet in length with leaded glass windows and elaborate alcoves.
The most expensive rooms on board were the four parlor suites decorated in period decor. Each had its own sitting room with two bedrooms, two wardrobe rooms and a private bath and lavatory.
From Turkish baths and the squash racquet court to the barber shop, swimming pool, dark room and gymnasium, Titanic seemingly had it all. On the night of the ship’s sinking, the gymnasium with its stationary bikes and leather punching bags served as a warm shelter from the frosty night airas the lifeboats were being loaded on the deck outside. Even as the ship was sinking the gym’s instructor encouraged passengers to try out the mechanical camel.
Titanic’s décor was equal to the finest hotel in the world.
The one thing missing were lifeboats. There weren’t enough for everyone on board.
This was a brand new ship. No need for them. Titanic was the world’s safest ocean liner. At least that’s how it was billed. The customary lifeboat drill usually given at the start of the voyage was even cancelled.
At first everything went well. The passengers didn’t even know about the iceberg sightings.
It was a cold April 15, 1912 night. At about 11:35 P.M. a crew member spotted the iceberg directly in front of the ship. Seconds later the ship scraped up against it. The engines stopped immediately.
On deck the band was playing. How bad could it be? That’s what some passengers thought.
The ship’s officers urged people to board the lifeboats quickly.
John Jacob Astor thought it was foolish to abandon such a grand ship for such a flimsy lifeboat.
“Everything will be all right,” he said.
Within two hours Titanic broke in two and sunk. Astor was one of the 1,500 passengers who did not survive.
On April 15, Bonhams, New York, featured the R.M.S. Titanic 100 Years of Fact & Fiction auction. Here are some current values.
Brochure and cut-a-way deck plan; 72 pages; describes the ship’s building; interior decorations and designs; May 1911; brochure is 5 ½ inches by 8 ½ inches; $8,125.
Carpet; section from 1st class stateroom on C-deck; unused remnant; 11 ¾ inches by 26 ¾ inches; $18,750.
Postcard; signed by Jack Phillips; April 6, 1912; Phillips died on the Titanic; “Having glorious weather...”; 3 ½ inches by 5 ½ inches; $20,000.
Marconi Message; distress call from Titanic to R.M.S. Olympic; “We have Struck an Ice Berg,” April 14, 1912; 5 ½ inches by 8 inches; $27,500.
Ticket; launching of the R.M.S. Titanic; admitted holder to launching and christening of ship; only one known to exist; May 31, 1911; 3 ¼ inches by 5 3/8 inches; $56,250.
Rosemary McKittrick is a storyteller. She has provided information on thousands of antiques and collectibles since her LiveAuctionTalk column started 26 years ago. She received her training in the trenches, as a professional appraiser.