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Titanic launched 100 years ago

May 31, 2011 - UNITED KINGDOM

The centenary of the launch of the Titanic on May 1, 2011, serves as a prelude to the centenary in 2012 of the sinking of the supposedly unsinkable luxury liner. Both dates invite special auctions of Titanic memorabilia. A brochure timed for the launch in 1911 is expected to fetch £15,000 (US $23,000) at auction in England. The 25th anniversary of the discovery of the wreck falls on 1 Sep. On the night of 14-15 Apr 1912, the liner hit an iceberg and ruptured five of her 16 watertight compartments. There were only places in lifeboats for about half the 2224 passengers and crew on board, and although the Cunard liner Carpathia arrived on the scene within 80 minutes, over 1500 people died in the icy waters.

The centenary of the launch of the Titanic on May 1, 2011, serves as a prelude to the centenary in 2012 of the sinking of the supposedly unsinkable luxury liner. Both dates invite special auctions of Titanic memorabilia. A brochure timed for the launch in 1911 is expected to fetch £15,000 (US $23,000) at auction in England. The 25th anniversary of the discovery of the wreck falls on 1 Sep. On the night of 14-15 Apr 1912, the liner hit an iceberg and ruptured five of her 16 watertight compartments. There were only places in lifeboats for about half the 2224 passengers and crew on board, and although the Cunard liner Carpathia arrived on the scene within 80 minutes, over 1500 people died in the icy waters. The company timed the brochure, a postcard-sized booklet, to coincide with the launching and to awe prospective passengers into booking as soon as tickets became available. It was sold in April 2010 at the Henry Aldridge and Son auction room. The auction house, in Devizes, Wiltshire, specialises in Titanic and White Star Line memorabilia. The brochure features sketches of Titanic's grand staircase, dining rooms and a half-open porthole. The ship "will rank high in the achievements of the 20th century," the brochure said. The Guardian newspaper noted that the twin ships Titanic and Olympic -; "45,000 tons each, the largest vessels in the world" -; were still being completed at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast for the White Star Line, so no details or prices for the maiden voyage were included in the booklet. Hundreds of copies of the brochure were printed and distributed to wealthy passengers of the line, but only a handful are known to exist. A letter written by a first-class passenger on the Titanic to his "wifey" sold for 55,000 British pounds (almost $85,000) at an auction in Britain in April, but other items have fetched bigger sums. Auctioned by Christie's in 2008, a Titanic life jacket sold for $119,000. Other sale items include a second-class passenger list and two "Marconi Grams" from and to survivors. In 2009, a Titanic cabin key sold for US $88,000. The disaster led to the first International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea, which drew up rules requiring that every vessel have lifeboat space for each person embarked and maintain a 24-hour radio watch.

Titanic information

Titanic brochure expected to fetch £15,000 at auction (Guardian 14 Apr 2010)

Titanic letter fetches £55,000 (Telegraph 28 Apr 2010)

Titanic's wreck found and filmed (Guardian 3 Sep 2010

Titanic's last surviving passenger dies (RIA Novosti 1 Jun 2009)

Titanic cabin key sold for $88,000 at auction in U.K. (RIA Novosti 19 Apr 2009)

Date written/update: 2011-05-31