R.M.S. TITANIC - RARE CORRESPONDENCE CONFIRMING THE WRONG VICTIM WAS IN THE COFFIN:
Brothers Leonard, Lewis and Stanley Hickman of Fritham, Hampshire, England were travelling to Eden, Manitoba, Canada to where Leonard had already emigrated in 1908 and worked as a farmhand for a wealthy farmer, Harold Honeyman. They boarded Titanic in Southampton as Second-Class passengers. All three brothers were lost in the sinking. For some time following the disaster, it was believed that only Leonard's body had been recovered, by the Mackay-Bennett, body No. 256.
This lot consists of two spectacular handwritten letters. The first is dated May 11-12, 1912 from Jim Smith, of Eden, Manitoba, Canada to Albert, another Hickman brother who planned to emigrate to Canada later. The letter consists of eight pages, each measuring about 8ins. x 10½ins. and relates, virtually in its entirety, to the discovery by Leonard's boss, H.R. Honeyman, who attended "Leonard's" funeral, that the body he viewed in the coffin was not Leonard's but, apparently, Leonard's brother Lewis whose own name had not appeared on the list of recovered bodies. The author states that Honeyman did want him to view the body as he had "thought it would be best for me to remember Leon as we last seen him, the Bright Happy Boy that left Eden in December". The letter reflects on how Honeyman decided not to reveal his discovery at the funeral in light of the effect it would have at such a time. Thus, the funeral proceeded as if Leonard's body was in the coffin.
The letter explains that it was the moustache that helped give the misidentification away. Lewis had one. Leonard did not. It also discusses Honeyman's communications with White Star Line. The detail of this letter over eight pages concerning the single topic of the body's misidentification is superb. Macabre at times, it is the most detailed account of a Titanic victim's body identification we have seen.
The second letter, addressed to Albert T. Hickman, is from H.R. Honeyman himself and consists of three handwritten pages dated May 20th, 1912, headed Eden, Manitoba, Canada, each page measuring about 7¾ins. x 9¾ins. and is accompanied by its original mailing envelope with stamp. The handwriting is impeccable, almost calligraphic.
Honeyman implies that the body, which he originally thought was his employee, Leonard, had been forwarded from Halifax to the care of a local undertaker. The entire letter is devoted to the misidentification of the body, the burial and Lewis's personal effects. It is quite detailed.
These letters represent what is possibly the most detailed account of a Titanic victim's identification and burial, with a unique insight into a misidentification of a body recovered from Titanic. Had the funeral not involved an open casket and had Honeyman not recognized that the body was not that of his employee, Leonard, history may have continued to attribute body No. 256 to Leonard. While the body effects which were subsequently shipped to England suggested they belonged to Lewis rather than Leonard, the identity would not have been certain without viewing the body. Although the provincial coroner in Halifax photographed at least some of the bodies, no photographic record of body No. 256 is known to exist and it is unclear whether photos were taken of bodies that were transferred to other destinations such as Lewis's. These letters constitute the only known confirmation of the misidentification that occurred, from the one who discovered it!
£3000 - 5000 Click here for details of BP and other fees payable on this lot.