Titanic in the News: Artifact Auction

In 1985, oceanographer Robert Ballard located the remains of the Titanic. Beginning in 1987, Premier Exhibitions Inc., the company responsible for the traveling Titanic exhibits, began a 30-year recovery of artifacts. Now, an auction of over 5,000 Titanic artifacts is scheduled for this November.

Titanic Artifacts

Titanic Artifacts

Eventually named “salvor-in-possession” by a US judge in 1994, Premier Exhibitions and its subsidiary RMS Titanic Inc. has recently filed for bankruptcy. They owe their creditors more than $10 million, and hope to pay them back as well as their stockholders with proceeds from a November auction.  In 1914, the value of the artifacts potentially up for auction was estimated by a fine arts appraiser to be at least $218 million.

A group of very interested buyers is led by James Cameron, Academy Award-winning director of the movie “Titanic”. Cameron has made several expeditions to the site of the ship’s sinking. Another member of the group is Titanic’s discoverer, Robert Ballard.

j cameron

j cameron

"Titanic" Director James Cameron

robert ballard

robert ballard

Robert Ballard

Ballard recently appeared in federal court to express his concerns about protecting the wreckage and the artifacts. “My fear…is that the artifacts could potentially disappear from public view, be damaged or lost to the world at large,” he told the court. He stated he represents the feelings of all the group members, including Cameron, the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich in London, and the Titanic Belfast exhibition center. If the group is the highest bidder for the artifacts, it is hoped the items will be protected and preserved for generations to come.

Survivors of Titanic as well as rescuers have sold recovered items in the past, including two menus that sold for $140,000 in 2012, and a violin that raised $1.45 million at auction in 2013.

Some of the items up for auction will be a bronze cherub from the ship’s grand staircase, a sapphire-and-diamond ring, a steward’s jacket, and a silver-plated chocolate pot.

The Unstoppable Edwina Troutt

Her father, a cabinet maker, set wood aside to build her coffin soon after she was born. But the sickly baby defied her doctors and survived. And at the age of 27, Edwina Troutt survived the sinking of the Titanic. She later said, 'I felt I was saved for something.'

young edwina

young edwina

Edwina Troutt

Edwina Celia Troutt was born June 8, 1884 in Bath, England. She endured a chronic lung condition and developed pneumonia as a teenager, which left her with only one functioning lung. Still in her youth, failing eyesight and inflamed joints added to her troubles, but she refused to let anything keep her from living her life to the fullest. She became a pre-school teacher and worked in her brother-in-law's shop, then crossed the Atlantic for the first time at age 23 on a dare from friends. She planned to stay five years in New England, working in New Jersey and then in Massachusetts. But the cold New England winters were too much for her compromised respiratory system, and she returned to Bath six months early. However, her sister Elise, also living in Massachusetts by then, was about to give birth and asked Edwina (Winnie) to return, so she booked a second class cabin aboard the Titanic for the voyage back to New York.

Winnie roomed with two other single women and made more friends on board, playing cards and exchanging stories with them. On Sunday, April 14th, she prepared for bed but didn't completely undress. When the ship struck the iceberg and the engines were stopped, Winnie hurried to investigate. She returned to the cabin to help her roommates to the Boat Deck. At first, Winnie stood back and watched the loading of the lifeboats and thought it sad that so many newly-married couples were being separated. Then, third class passenger Charles Thomas from Lebanon approached, holding a baby. He'd been separated from his sister-in-law, the baby's mother, and was imploring anyone within earshot to take the baby aboard a lifeboat.

Winnie immediately took the baby and boarded the next lifeboat. Later, she wrote, 'I felt I was saved for something, so I vowed never to quarrel and always be kind to the sick and elderly.' Four years later, she moved to California and met her first husband, Alfred Peterson.

edwina-troutt and peterson

edwina-troutt and peterson

Alfred and Edwina Peterson in 1923

He died in 1944, and Winnie married twice more. She became a US citizen and worked for several civic organizations. She participated in the reunions of Titanic survivors, and is remembered for her outrageous sense of humor and pleasant personality. She traveled the world to speak about the Titanic, crossing the Atlantic at least ten more times by ship.



Edwina Troutt Peterson Corrigan Mackenzie died in California in 1984, at the age of 100.

Photo credits: denverpost.com, encyclopediatitanica.org

One Survivor's Happy Ending

  On April 18, 1912, the survivors of the Titanic left the Carpathia after it docked in New York City. Many of the sick and injured were taken by ambulance to nearby St. Vincent’s Hospital. Among them was 26-year-old Sarah Roth, an immigrant from England who had boarded Titanic as a third class passenger.

Sarah had been engaged for several years to Daniel Iles, a grocery warehouseman. Daniel emigrated to New York in 1911 and became a department store clerk, saving money until he had enough to send for Sarah. At home, Sarah waited and sewed her wedding dress. Finally, Daniel purchased Sarah’s third class ticket to New York on Titanic. They would meet in New York, where they would be married.



Sarah's inspection ticket, required for entry into the United States.

Sarah Roth letter

Sarah Roth letter

Letter from Sarah to her mother, written aboard Titanic

On board the ship, Sarah made friends with several passengers her age, including Emily Badman, mentioned in the above letter. When Titanic struck the iceberg, Sarah woke, sensing the ship had stopped moving. She dressed quickly and met her friends in the corridor, where they were initially told by a group of stewards that there was no need for alarm. She recalled later how a ship’s officer had prevented them from ascending a ladder to an upper deck. When they were finally allowed to use the ladder, most of the lifeboats had gone. Sarah and Emily ran toward the bow and managed to board one of the collapsible lifeboats. Sarah’s wedding dress went down with the ship.

At St. Vincent’s, the hospital staff soon learned of Sarah’s engagement to Daniel and wanted to bring some joy to the tragedy. They contacted Daniel, who professed his love for Sarah. A priest from Church of Our Lady of the Rosary agreed to officiate. Fellow survivor Emily would serve as maid-of-honor, and the Women’s Relief Committee would contribute a trousseau and bouquet.



Ambulance transporting a patient to St. Vincent's Hospital



Entrance to St. Vincent's, New York's first Catholic hospital



Titanic survivors at St. Vincent's

A newspaper reported, “The news of the impending wedding spread quickly through the hospital, and doctors, nurses, charity workers, patients and survivors begged to be allowed to witness the ceremony.” One of the volunteers helping at St. Vincent’s was the wealthy Mrs. Louise Vanderbilt. Following the ceremony, she was among the first of the well-wishers to congratulate the new Mr. and Mrs. Iles.

Sarah and Daniel made their home in Manhattan and had one son, named Albert Daniel. They moved to Connecticut, where Sarah died in 1947. Her husband Daniel died in 1966.

Sarah had two brothers, Harry and Samuel Roth. Harry's grandchildren, Sarah's great-nieces, have reached out to me in order to provide an update about the living family members.

Harry had two children, Arthur and Viola. Sarah was their aunt. Arthur is now 96 years old and lives in North Carolina. He and his wife had three children, Karen, Pamela, and Charles Roth. Viola married and had four daughters--Louise, Janet, Joyce, and Carolyn. As children, they heard of Sarah's voyage and her marriage to Daniel Iles. All seven are living.

Albert, Sarah and Daniel's only child, did not have children of his own when he married, but his wife's child from a previous marriage has living descendants.

No doubt, these families will continue to share the story with generations to come of Sarah Roth and her narrow escape from the Titanic.

Photo credits: Wikimedia, Encyclopedia Titanica

The Voyage to New York

The RMS Carpathia, carrying 743 passengers, left New York on April 11, 1912, bound for a Mediterranean cruise. But a different purpose was in store for the Cunard Line ship—rescuing the survivors of the Titanic.


RMS Carpathia

While crossing the Atlantic early on April 15th, Carpathia’s captain, Arthur Rostron, nicknamed “Electric Spark” for his energy and quick decision making, responded to Titanic’s distress calls and sped for her last given location. With six icebergs to steer around, the Carpathia reached Titanic’s lifeboats just before sunrise. Four hours later, the 712 survivors were aboard Carpathia, and the lifeboats were hoisted aboard.

Titanic lifeboats approaching Carpathia

Lifeboats from the Titanic approaching the Carpathia

Women from the Titanic lined the rails, still watching for their husbands, fathers, and sons. As they were led away in tears, the Carpathia set a new course for New York City. While the world awaited the names of survivors and details of what happened to Titanic, the Carpathia passengers and crew set about caring for the injured, cold, and grief-stricken. Passengers shared their clothing, blankets, and toiletries. Some gave up or shared their cabins. Captain Rostron himself gave his cabin to three Titanic women who were now widows, including Mrs. John Jacob Astor. Plenty of hot drinks and meals were prepared and distributed among the various public rooms holding the majority of survivors. Women from both ships turned blankets into long makeshift dresses for children who had been wearing only nightgowns in the lifeboats.


Groups of Titanic survivors aboard the Carpathia

Most Titanic passengers kept to themselves, too exhausted or in shock to want to socialize. Some sent wireless messages to loved ones or employers. Harold Bride, Titanic’s surviving wireless operator, rested his frostbitten feet and helped send the messages.


Partial list of Titanic passengers aboard the Carpathia

The Carpathia arrived in New York in the evening of April 18th, stopping at White Star Line’s Pier 59 to unload Titanic’s lifeboats. Titanic crewmen rowed them ashore, their last task for the ill-fated liner. Dozens of small boats surrounded the Carpathia, as reporters on the boats shouted questions to the crew through megaphones. She then docked at Pier 54, the Cunard Line dock.

crowd waiting for carpathia

Crowd waiting at Pier 54 for the Carpathia

A crowd of close to 40,000 waited in the cold rain. Many were hoping to meet loved ones from the Titanic, not knowing for sure yet if they had survived. Titanic passengers left the ship first, followed by those who had boarded the Carpathia one week earlier. While happy reunions took place for many in the crowd, others waited for hours and finally left in tears when all passengers had disembarked and their loved one was not among them.

H Bride (Lof congress)

Harold Bride is carried off the Carpathia

Those passengers met by relatives or friends were led to cars or taxis. Others who had no one to meet them were taken to New York’s St. Vincent’s Hospital or assisted by relief agencies. Following the Senate inquiry into the disaster, Titanic’s surviving crewmembers returned to England and most returned to work at sea.

pier 54 today

Pier 54 today

Captain Rostron of the Carpathia was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal by the United States Congress, knighted by King George V, and became Commodore of the entire Cunard fleet. The Carpathia served as a troop transport ship during World War I. She was torpedoed by a German submarine in 1918, killing five crewmen. All other passengers and crew were rescued before she sank west of Land’s End in Cornwall.

Photo credits: Encyclopedia Titanica, Library of Congress, Wikipedia

Orphans of the Titanic

Michel Navratil of Slovakia had married Marcelle Carette of Buenos Aires, settled in France and had two sons, Michel and Edmund. When the couple entered divorce proceedings, Marcelle was given full custody of the boys. However, when her husband asked to keep them over the Easter holiday in 1912, she consented. Little did she know what lay ahead for them. Mr. Navratil borrowed his employer’s passport and on April 10th, signed on to the Titanic as Louis Hoffman. He gave the boys, ages four and two, the names of Lolo and Momon. During the voyage, he only let them out of his sight once to play cards, asking a French-speaking woman to watch them for a few hours.


Michel and Edmund Navratil

As the ship sank and the lifeboats were loaded, Mr. Navratil placed his sons in the arms of passenger Margaret Hays in the last boat available. Michel Jr. remembered his father’s last words to him: “My child, when your mother comes for you, as she surely will, tell her that I loved her dearly and still do. Tell her I expected her to follow us, so that we might all live happily together in the peace and freedom of the New World.”

Following rescue, Margaret Hays offered to take care of little Michel and Edmund in New York until relatives could be located. Around the world, newspapers printed their story and photograph, calling them the Orphans of the Titanic.

In France, Marcelle had known the boys and their father had disappeared but had no idea they’d sailed on the Titanic until she recognized her sons in the newspaper. She immediately contacted the White Star Line and was given passage aboard the Oceanic to New York. They were reunited on May 16, thirty-one days after the sinking, and returned to France. The body of Mr. Navratil was recovered and buried in Nova Scotia.


Michel and Edmund with their mother

Michel Jr. became a professor of philosophy and was one of the last survivors of the Titanic. He once said, “I only lived up to four years old. Since then I’ve been a floater, someone grabbing at extra time and I’ve let myself go on this ocean.” In 1987, he returned to America for the first time since the sinking to mark the 75th anniversary, and visited his father’s grave as well. He died in 2001 at the age of 92.

Edmund became an architect and was involved in the Resistance during World War II. He was captured and made a prisoner of war, and although he escaped, his health suffered. He died in 1953 at age 43.

A sampler of survivor stories

Out of 2,223 passengers and crew aboard the Titanic, only 706 survived. Here are three survivor stories. Lucy Dyer-Edwards of London had married the nineteenth Earl of Rothes in 1900 and became the Countess of Rothes. Bound for Vancouver, BC, to meet her husband, she boarded the Titanic at age 33, accompanied by her cousin and her maid.

The Countess had some prior sailing experience, and manned the tiller for most of the night in Lifeboat 8, while her cousin helped row. Able seaman Thomas Jones, the crewman in charge, admired her courage and gave her the number plate from the boat afterward. They corresponded for several years.


 The Countess of Rothes

Esther Hart of England, her husband Benjamin and seven-year-old daughter Eva were on their way to a new life in Winnipeg, Canada. Their tickets were changed from another ship to the Titanic at the last minute. Certain that something dreadful was going to happen to the Titanic, Esther slept during the day and stayed awake every night, fully dressed. She enjoyed the voyage enough, however, to write a letter to a friend back home, saying what a wonderful journey it had been so far. The letter was kept in Benjamin’s coat pocket until they reached New York.

Esther felt the collision with the iceberg and immediately rushed her family out from their second class cabin. Benjamin gave her his coat as she and Eva boarded Lifeboat 14. Benjamin went down with the ship.

With her husband gone, Esther chose to take Eva back to England and live with her parents. The letter was saved by family members, and was sold this past April for 119,000 British pounds.


Benjamin, Eva, and Esther Hart

Olaus Abelseth, born and raised in Norway, had left his homeland in 1902 at the age of sixteen to seek his fortune in America. He managed to start a farm in South Dakota, and went back to Norway to visit family. With him on the Titanic were five other Norwegians, all traveling in steerage. Olaus was 26.

Following the sinking, he was one of the few available third class passengers who could speak English, so he testified at the American inquiry. He described the confusion amid the third class decks after the collision, how the lifeboats were all taken by the time he reached them, and how he waited to jump into the freezing water. With his life vest on and surrounded by men trying to hang on to him, he swam toward one of the collapsible rafts. No one helped him aboard because of the fear it would capsize. He gradually pulled himself aboard and endured waist-deep ice cold water until rescued by the Carpathia eight hours later.

Olaus returned to farming in the United States, married and had four children.

Olaus Abelseth

Olaus Abelseth