The violin played to calm passengers as the Titanic sank is expected to reach $640,000 at a British auction on Saturday, October 19. The violin is expected to reach a world record sum for a piece of Titanic memorabilia.
The violin underwent a CT scan to prove that it is authentic. The instrument is unplayable now due to two long cracks in its body from moisture damage, but it is in reasonable condition.
British violinist Wallace Hartley played the instrument during Titanic’s final hours when the band famously continued playing to calm passengers. A silver plaque on the back of the violin indicates that Hartley received the instrument from Miss Maria Robinson in 1910 to mark their engagement. The violin was found strapped to his body after the Titanic sank. His bag and seven water stained sheets of music were found with his body after the disaster and were also sold at auction.
The violin and its story was largely forgotten until an amateur violinist received the instrument as a gift from her music teacher in the early 1940s. The amateur’s son contacted the auctioneers in 2006. It then took seven years to confirm the violin’s authenticity, a process which included forensic examinations and a hospital CT scan.
Andrew Aldridge of auctioneers Henry Aldridge and Son of Devizes said in the Daily Mail about the process, “The authentication process behind the collection has been a long and exhaustive one with some of the world’s leading experts in their respective fields helping to assemble a conclusive package of independent reports to accompany the archive.”
After the Titanic sunk, Miss Robinson had custody of the violin, which was given to the Salvation Army following her death in 1939. The violin then passed to the band’s music teacher who gave the violin to her student Evelyn in the early 1940s to restore to playable condition so her sister could practice on it. Evelyn’s son, who remains anonymous, then placed the violin for auction.
Hartley was the bandleader on Titanic’s maiden voyage in 1912. After she struck an iceberg, Hartley and seven band members moved on deck and played to calm passengers’ nerves while boarding lifeboats. Hartley was one of the 1,522 people who died in the tragedy. The bands’ composure in those final moments became legendary and many tribute songs, such as “The Band Was Playing as the Ship Went Down” were written to remember the band members.
Built in Belfast, the Titanic was called “unsinkable” before her maiden voyage because she could stay afloat with four of her chambers flooded. She struck an iceberg on April 14,1912 and sank the next morning off the coast of Newfoundland.