‡ R.M.S. TITANIC - UNIQUE ON-BOARD TITANIC LETTER RECOVERED FROM VICTIM'S BODY:
A superlative letter handwritten on oversized embossed on-board Titanic stationery by First Class victim Alexander Oskar Holverson to his mother on April 13th, 1912, well after Titanic had embarked on her maiden voyage and merely a day before her encounter with an iceberg. Since the ship had no further ports of call before reaching New York, Holverson's intent would have been to post the letter in New York. It represents one of the last known letters to have survived the sinking and the last known letter written on board by a victim. Since it was recovered from Holverson's body he obviously had still hoped to be able to send it on to his mother from New York. As she received it after the ship foundered this may be the only on-board letter written by a victim and delivered to its recipient without postage to date.
The letter is of bifold format, unsigned and written on three of its four pages. It bears the embossed red White Star Line burgee and is headed "On board R-M-S Titanic" in navy blue. Holverson dates the letter in the heading April 13th 1912, with the '191' pre-printed in navy blue. Each page bears a beautiful White Star Line five-pointed star logo watermark (not the more common Spartan soldier) and measures an incredible 7ins. x 9ins. when closed, making this the largest known format for any on-board Titanic letterhead. But for this example, this letter size was virtually unknown.
While the ink on the burgee and wording has not run, owing to the fine printing techniques and inks utilized by the line, the letter displays some colourful stains to the last (blank) page which was the page mostly exposed to the water evident from the way the letter had been folded by Holverson. The stains give testament to the reaction of the acid-rich paper with salt water.
If this letter were virtually blank, it would still rank amongst the most desirable. Yet, the content takes it to another level. Owing to the fact that it was written well into the voyage, Holverson was in a position to actually describe the on-board music and food, as well as life on board. The letter reads, in part, as follows (grammar in original):
"…This boat is giant in size and fitted up like a palacial hotel…If all goes well we will arrive in New York Wednesday A.M. I am sending you a postcard of the ship and also a book of postcards showing the inside…Mate had a letter from Mr. Berry at Buenos Aires which stated that she was getting on fine…Mr. and Mrs. John Jacob Astor is on this ship. He looks like any other human being even tho he has millions of money. They sit out on deck with the rest of us…" (Emphasis Added)
Holverson's mention of seeing fellow First Class passenger John Jacob Astor sitting out on deck is an observation the likes of which we have not seen in previous letters written earlier in the voyage, particularly because as a First Class passenger Holverson had access to passengers that those in other classes did not have. He obviously had intended to include a postcard and an on-board postcard book for his mother. Having dealt with these rare postcard books before, we know that it would have been considerably larger than the folded letter and more difficult to carry with him off the ship. But the most ominous thing Holverson writes to his mother is that, "If all goes well we will arrive in New York Wednesday A.M." as if he knew that things may not have gone well. How ironic that these were words he took off the very ship on which he had hoped to arrive.
This lot is accompanied by an original large photograph, 5ins. x 9ins., of Holverson and his wife, Mary Alice. It is hand-captioned on verso, "Dec 1911 Mary Alice Holverson, Oscar Alexander Holverson leaving for South America previous to the Titanic". The photo shows the couple on the deck of a ship in New York harbour. We do not often encounter photos of Titanic passengers at the moment they are embarking on their outbound trip. It would display very well indeed with the letter. Also included in the lot are some unrelated handwritten letters from Holverson's mother to his brother, Walter.
Mr. Holverson was a successful salesman and had been on holiday with his wife in Buenos Aires (thus the reference to that city in the letter) before they arrived in Southampton aboard the Aragon. After a brief stay at the Piccadilly Hotel in London, Holverson and his wife boarded Titanic in Southampton. While Mrs. Holverson was rescued, Mr. Holverson did not survive. His body was the 38th to be recovered by the Mackay-Bennett. His pocket book was recovered within which this letter would have been kept, prior to it being returned with his other effects to his family. Holverson's body was sent to his family and was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in New York.
This letter is amongst the most iconic onboard the Titanic that we have ever seen. It is oversized, hand written on Titanic letterhead by a victim just a day before the ship hit the iceberg, mentions the food, the music and the elite on board, contains an ominous message with regards to the fate of the ship, was carried by its author into the Atlantic and, thence, onto the body recovery ship and shows evidence of its immersion in salt water. As such it ranks as one of the most important items of ephemera from Titanic that have ever been offered for auction, a truly world class example of Titanic memorabilia.
Provenance: From the Family of Alexander Oskar Holverson.
£60000 - 80000 Click here for details of BP and other fees payable on this lot.