Rare two-page Titanic letter sails home to Ireland for $40,700 A rare, two-page letter, handwritten aboard the HMS Titanic by an assistant surgeon on the doomed ocean liner, sold for $40,700 after it had failed to meet the reserve in an auction held March 1-3.
News-Antique.com - Mar 22,2012 - (OCEANSIDE, N.Y.) – A rare, two-page letter, handwritten aboard the HMS Titanic by an assistant surgeon on the doomed ocean liner, sold for $40,700 after it had failed to meet the reserve in an auction held March 1-3 by Philip Weiss Auctions. The buyer – a museum in Belfast, Ireland called Titanic Belfast – only learned about the letter a day before the auction.
After a mad scramble to secure funds to meet the reserve ($36,000), Titanic Belfast issued a bid for that amount, which was accepted by the seller. A 13 percent buyer’s premium pushed the final price to $40,700. The letter will occupy a prominent place in the museum, slated to open on March 31 -- 100 years to the day after the Titanic was finished being built in Belfast.
“This was a perfect scenario, one that made four parties happy,” said Philip Weiss, the auctioneer for the sale. “The museum was thrilled to acquire the letter in time for its grand opening, the consignor got the reserve it wanted, the family of the letter’s author -- themselves from Belfast -- saw it return home, and, of course, we were happy to have conducted the sale.”
The letter was penned on White Star Line stationery by John Edward Simpson, 37 at the time, and dated April 11, 1912, four days before the disaster. Addressed to his mother, the letter provides a first-hand account of how he arrived at the Titanic prior to its fateful trip. It is very crisp and clean with a clear signature, “Love, John.” Sadly, Dr. Simpson perished in the sinking.
He wrote, “I am very well and am gradually getting settled in my new cabin, which is larger than my last” (a reference to the previous ship he was on, the Olympic). He then went on to relate a theft of his trunks before closing. Dr. Simpson, from Belfast, was hired on April 6 and was responsible for second- and third-class passengers. His wages were to be 9 pounds a month.
The Simpson letter wasn’t the only Titanic item in the auction, and wasn’t even the only Titanic-related letter. Another – this one a two-page typed letter – fetched $15,820. It was written by Charles Herbert Lightoller, a 2nd officer on the Titanic, also on White Star Line stationery, but aboard another ship, the Adriatic, on May 1, 1912. Mr. Lightoller survived the Titanic’s sinking.
Remarkably, Mr. Lightoller’s letter goes into a detailed account of Dr. Simpson’s last hours alive: “I may say that I was practically the last man to speak to Dr. Simpson, and on this occasion he was walking along the boat-deck in company with…They were perfectly calm in the knowledge they had done their duty” and displayed “a calm and cool exterior to the passengers.”
He continued, “We exchanged the words, ‘Goodbye, old man.’ This occurred shortly before the end and I am not aware that he was seen by anyone after.” The condolence letter was written to a Mr.