Northern Ireland

Titanic letter sells for world record price at auction

Titanic letter being auctioned Image copyright Henry Aldridge & Son
Image caption The letter was written by Oscar Holverson to his mother

One of the last known letters to have been written on the Titanic has sold for a world record price at auction.

The letter, written by American businessman and Titanic passenger, Oscar Holverson, fetched £126,000.

It was sought-after because he wrote it on 13 April 1912 - the day before the Belfast-built ship hit an iceberg.

It is the only known letter, on headed Titanic notepaper, to have gone into the Atlantic and survived.

The sea-water stained document was sold to a British buyer, whose bid to the auction in Wiltshire came in via phone.

The auctioneer, Andrew Aldridge, described the anonymous customer as someone "who collects iconic items from history".

Mr Holverson, a successful salesman, wrote the letter to his mother while travelling on the ill-fated ship with his wife, Mary.

The couple boarded the Titanic in Southampton and planned to travel back to their home in New York.

Image copyright Henry Aldridge & Son
Image caption Oscar Holverson was a successful American businessman

In his note, the writer seems in awe of his surroundings, telling his mother that "the boat is giant in size and fitted up like a palatial hotel".

Mr Holverson, who has an idiosyncratic style to his syntax, also writes about seeing "the richest person in the world at that time" - John Jacob Astor - on the ship, accompanied by his wife.

"He looks like any other human being even tho (sic) he has millions of money," he adds. "They sit out on deck with the rest of us."

The letter had a reserve price of between £60,000 and £80,000.

Speaking ahead of Saturday's sale, Mr Aldridge said that "even if the letter was virtually blank, it would still rank as amongst the most desirable, such is the nature of the paper, its markings and history".

Having been an auctioneer of Titanic memorabilia for 20 years, he said that its content takes it to another level, "because of its date, the fact it went into the Atlantic and the observations it contains".

One prophetic entry in Mr Holverson's letter never came true, when he wrote: "If all goes well we will arrive in New York Wednesday AM."

When the Titanic sank, Oscar Holverson, along with JJ Astor, died along with more than 1,500 people.

Mary Holverson survived.

Her husband's body was recovered and, inside a pocket book, the letter was found.

It still bears the stains of the sea water and the water mark of the White Star shipping line.

The letter eventually made its way back to his mother.

Mr Aldridge said that makes it "possibly, the only onboard letter written by a victim that was delivered to its recipient without postage".

Image copyright Henry Aldridge & Son
Image caption The letter still bears the stains of the sea and the water mark of the White star shipping line

Mr Holverson was buried in Woodlawn cemetery in New York, unaware that, 105 years later, his unposted letter would generate such interest.

Mr Aldridge, who has auctioned everything from a set of Titanic keys for £85,000, to a violin that was played as the ship sank, for £1.1m, said he was also excited to see the letter.

He said it was "one of the most iconic and important items from the Titanic ever offered at auction and shows that interest in the ship and its passengers remains incredibly strong".

Other items in Saturday's auction included a set of keys belonging to a steward in the Titanic's First Class, which fetched £76,000.

Two previously unpublished photos of the Titanic went for £24,000.

The previous world record for a Titanic letter sold at auction was £119,000, set in April 2014, for a letter written a few hours before the ship hit the iceberg.

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