“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 Mr. 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,” Mr. Snyder wrote. Little did he know he’d be fighting for his very survival soon afterward.
The post-sinking letter, dated April 24, 1912, was from Mr. 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 – that the finest boat in the world was doomed. We hit between 11:40 and 11:50 p.m. and the Titanic sank at 2:22 in the morning.”
The photos included nine photos 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 rescue ship Carpathia; and three photos of what looks like the S.S. 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 held 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 Capt. Smith, who commandeered (and went down with) the Titanic, as a young officer. 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-inch by 1 ½ inch locket changed hands for $3,422.
Following are additional highlights from the auction, which saw nearly 1,350 lots change hands and grossed about $550,000. All prices quoted include the buyer’s premium (13 percent for in-house buyers, 18 percent for Internet bidders). Internet bidding was facilitated by Proxibid.
A pair of original, circa-1930s travel posters by the renowned artist Edward M. Eggleston (1883-1941) went for a combined $10,950. Both promoted Atlantic City, N.J., and measured 23 inches by 33 inches. One was titled Atlantic City - America's Great Seashore Resort; the other was titled Atlantic City - America's All-Year Resort. The artist's name appeared at lower corner.
An extensive U.S. stamp collection from a New Jersey estate soared to $24,850. Housed in three boxes, the group included a huge amount of face-value U.S. 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 19th 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 over 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 inches by 40 inches, with a nice image of Normandy.
Philip Weiss Auctions has a full state of events planned through the end of the year, beginning with an estate sale on Thursday, Nov. 3, that will feature fine paintings, Royal Doulton, art glass and more, followed by an estate sale on Friday, Nov. 18 (violins, cameras and more), and Thursday, Nov. 29, featuring Ira Weinstein's Toy Collection (“Red's Toys, Part 2”).
Then, Philip Weiss Auctions will conduct another three-day blockbuster, on Dec. 16-18, just in time for the holidays. Featured will be dolls, doll houses, toy soldiers, Disney items and animation, posters, toys, books, trains (including Lionel, American Flyer, HO Brass and more), mechanical banks and more. A stamps, coins and postcards auction is planned for early 2102.
Philip Weiss Auctions is always accepting quality consignments for future sales. To consign an item, an estate or a collection, you may call them at (516) 594-0731, or e-mail them at email@example.com. To learn more about Philip Weiss Auctions and the firm’s calendar of events, to include all the remaining sales for 2011, please log on to www.WeissAuctions.com.
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Ken Hall writes pre-sale and post-sale press releases for auction houses, for a fee. He writes, submits and tracks stories for clients. Submissions are published in trade magazines, posted on industry websites and appear in local newspapers.