Titanic ticket found in USA

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 2 (Mar/Apr 2008), News, Volume 16

The other known surviving Titanic ticket, at the Merseyside Maritime Museum. (National Museums Liverpool)

The other known surviving Titanic ticket, at the Merseyside Maritime Museum. (National Museums Liverpool)

Illinois native Margaret Hallem was checking up on her Irish roots at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington DC when she mentioned her grandmother, who had been due to sail on the doomed White Star liner Titanic but missed the trip owing to bad weather. She then revealed that her family still had the ticket—one of only two known to exist in the world. Valerie Adams from the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) noted that her team had spoken to more than 4,000 people since the start of the festival but never expected to come across a piece of Irish-American history like this: ‘It is always amazing to hear the stories of people searching for their family histories. But this one was a bit special. It has been a wonderful experience.’
The databases of PRONI, the Ulster Historical Foundation and the Centre for Migration Studies, as well as a number of printed resources and the Irish Genealogy Central Signposting Index, were being used at the Festival. The last discovery of what was thought to be the only surviving ticket—which belonged to a vicar—was made by museum archivists in Liverpool in 2003.
Early in 2007 one of the few remaining lifejackets from the Titanic went under the auctioneer’s hammer in Wiltshire, England, where a private collector paid £43,000 for this other piece of maritime history. The distinctive white lifejacket was discovered in the Atlantic Ocean in the wake of the steamship’s sinking, and was previously on display in a US museum. Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said that the high price reflected its rarity: ‘There are only about six or seven lifejackets left in existence. [At the time] The company did not want souvenir-hunters, so a lot of things, including clothing, were put in big piles and burned.’
The auction also featured dozens of letters sent by some of the 1,523 unfortunate people who perished in the tragedy. Aldridge said that most items were sold for more than was expected, and that there were bidders from all over the world. Built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, and made famous across the world thanks to the Oscar-winning 1997 movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, the ‘practically unsinkable’ Titanic, the biggest vessel in the world at that time, sank after striking an iceberg on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York on 15 April 1912.

James Bartlett is a writer and journalist living in Los Angeles.

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