Published: November 29, 2011
A historically significant and museum-quality archive of material pertaining to the doomed ocean liner the HMS Titanic consigned by direct descendants of a couple who were rescued when the ship went down the morning of April 15, 1912 †sold for a staggering $100,570 at an estate sale conducted October 21′3 by Philip Weiss Auctions.
“We were extremely fortunate that this incredible archive came to us from a descendant of John and Nelle Pillsbury Snyder, survivors of the tragedy,” said Philip Weiss of Philip Weiss Auctions. “We weren’t surprised when we began getting calls from potential buyers from around the world, as well as major news outlets. This was one of the most exciting finds we ever sold.”
The archive had several key components: a letter handwritten on Titanic stationery three days before the disaster; another letter written days after the sinking and providing a tremendous first-hand account of the sinking and its aftermath and family photos, to include shots taken from the rescue ship the Carpathia and shots of the steamship Californian , which was nearby.
The letter handwritten on Titanic stationery was from John Snyder to the proprietor of a London tobacco shop, where he bought cigars before boarding the ship. “While I sit here at the writing desk peacefully and complacently smoking ‘one of your best,’ I just want to say thank you,” Snyder wrote. Little did he know he would be fighting for his very survival soon afterward.
The post-sinking letter, dated April 24, 1912, was from Snyder to his father. He wrote, “We were both asleep when the boat hit. When we reached the top deck only a few people were about and we were all told to go down and put on our life belts. We were almost the very first people placed in the lifeboat. Finally the bow went under †the finest boat in the world was doomed. We hit between 11:40 and 11:50 pm and the Titanic sank at 2:22 in the morning.”
The photos included nine that were taken from the deck of the rescue ship Carpathia ; four photos of the ocean, several showing ice chunks and a large iceberg; two photos of passengers in lifeboats heading toward the Carpathia ; and three photos of what looked like the SS Californian, headed toward the Carpathia. An investigation would reveal the Californian was actually closer to the Titanic than the Carpathia but for a myriad of reasons was slow to respond.
Two other Titanic -related lots were also in the auction. One was a 1906 Barber half-dollar coin recovered from the body of Titanic victim John Gill. The coin, which was previously sold in a 2002 auction conducted at the convention of Britain’s Titanic Society in England, was found in a pouch that contained his recovered personal effects. The coin sold for a reasonable $3,820.
The other lot was an exquisite Victorian metal widow’s locket that contained an early photo of Captain Smith, who commanded and went down with the Titanic . The locket had been worn by Capt. Smith’s wife, who then passed it down to her daughter, the late Mrs Melville Russell Cooke. The 2-by-1½-inch locket changed hands for $3,422.
Additional highlights from the auction, which saw nearly 1,350 lots change hands and grossed about $550,000, included a pair of original circa 1930s travel posters by the artist Edward M. Eggleston (1883‱941), which went for a combined $10,950. Both promoted Atlantic City, N.J., and measured 23 by 33 inches. One was titled Atlantic City †America’s Great Seashore Resort; the other was titled Atlantic City -⁁merica’s All-Year Resort. The artist’s name appeared at lower corner.
An extensive US stamp collection from a New Jersey estate soared to $24,850. Housed in three boxes, the group included face-value US postage and plate blocks. Highlights included Kansas-Nebraska mint sets, mint and complete Duck Stamps, a mint White Plains sheet, Trans-Miss and Columbians (both mint) and used and mint Nineteenth Century examples.
An original family archive of Civil War material pertaining to three brothers who all fought in the war on the Union side realized $5,650. The archive included around 30 letters, some with great battle content, a great Tryon rifle with original (albeit broken) leather strap, three Grand Army of the Republic medals and the manual of the 7th Regiment National Guard.
An aluminum 1948 Olympic Games bearer’s torch, 16 inches tall and with a bowl and hollowed Olympic rings, inscribed “XIVth Olympiad 1948, Olympia to London, With Thanks to the Bearer,” rose to $9,315; and a first-edition copy of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Treasure Island , with original watercolor drawing of a pirate and ship by N.C. Wyeth, coasted to $3,500.
Two lots posted identical prices realized of $5,605. The first was a group of more than 225 Goudey baseball cards, most of them graded good/very good and with many Hall of Famers (and multiples) included. The other was an original French line (C.G.T.) travel poster by an unknown artist, titled Southampton to New York, 25 by 40 inches, with a nice image of Normandy.
All prices quoted include the buyer’s premium. For information, 516-594-0731 or www.WeissAuctions.com .
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