Tragic Titanic letter surfaces: Victim's sea-stained note up for auction

An extremely rare sea-stained letter recovered from the body of a Titanic victim will be auctioned in the U.K. on Saturday.

The letter was written on embossed Titanic stationery by First Class passenger Alexander Oskar Holverson to his mother on April 13, 1912 when the ship had embarked on her fateful maiden voyage from Southampton, U.K.

“If all goes well we will arrive in New York Wednesday A.M,” writes Holverson, on the eve of the famous disaster.


Titanic hit an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. ship's time on April 14, 1912 and sank just over two hours later with the loss of more than 1,500 lives.


An original photograph of Holverson and his wife leaving for South America prior to their journey on Titanic (Henry Aldridge & Son)

Holverson was among the victims. The letter, which he clearly planned to mail on the Titanic’s arrival in New York, was apparently found in a pocket book when Holverson’s body was recovered from the Atlantic. It was eventually returned to his family with his other effects.

The salesman and his wife, Mary Alice, were returning from a vacation in Buenos Aires via the U.K. Mrs. Holverson survived the disaster.


Henry Aldridge & Son auctioneer Andrew Aldridge told Fox News that, in his opinion, the note is the most important letter written on board Titanic ever to come to market. “It is exceptional on every level including content, historical context and rarity,” he explained, via email. “This letter represents one of the last known letters to have survived the sinking and the last known letter written on board by a victim.”


John Jacob Astor and his wife Madeleine (Henry Aldridge & Son).

“This boat is giant in size and fitted up like a palatial hotel,” Holverson writes, in the letter. He also describes the music and food on board the doomed liner and mentions seeing famed businessman American businessman John Jacob Astor and his wife Madeleine on the ship’s deck. Astor, a pillar of New York society, is one of the most notable victims of the disaster. His wife was rescued from one of Titanic’s lifeboats.

“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 passengers in other classes did not,” notes Aldridge.


The tragic letter also bears stains from the waters of the Atlantic. “The stains give testament to the reaction of the acid-rich paper with salt water,” Aldridge explained.

The lot also includes an original photograph of Holverson and his wife leaving for South America prior to their journey on Titanic and some unrelated handwritten letters from Holverson's mother to his brother, Walter.

The lot has a pre-sale estimate of $79,031 to $105,375.

A number of artifacts from the doomed ship were auctioned in the U.K. last year, with the sextant used by the captain of rescue ship Carpathia selling for just under $97,000. Three photos and a handwritten note detailing the grisly discovery of Titanic’s last lifeboat were sold for $6,800.

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