LONDON – Millvina Dean was just two months old when she was wrapped in a sack and lowered into a lifeboat from the deck of the sinking RMS Titanic.
Now, more than 95 years later, Dean, the last living survivor of the disaster, is hoping to help pay her nursing home fees by selling artifacts of her rescue — a suitcase and other mementos expected to auction for about $5,200.
Rescued from the bitterly cold Atlantic night by the steamship Carpathia, Dean, her brother and her mother were taken to New York with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Before returning home to England, they were given a small wicker suitcase of clothing, a gift from New Yorkers, to help them rebuild their lives.
The suitcase and other mementos are to be sold Saturday at an auction organized by Henry Aldridge and Son, which specializes in Titanic memorabilia.
Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said the key item was the suitcase that was filled with clothes and donated to Dean's surviving family members after the disaster.
"They would have carried their little world in this suitcase," Aldridge said Thursday.
Dean also is selling letters from the Titanic Relief Fund offering her mother one pound, seven shillings and sixpence a week in compensation.
Dean, 96, has lived in a nursing home in the southern English city of Southampton — Titanic's home port — since she broke her hip two years ago.
"I am not able to live in my home anymore," Dean was quoted as telling the Southern Daily Echo newspaper. "I am selling it all now because I have to pay these nursing home fees and am selling anything that I think might fetch some money."
In 1912, baby Elizabeth Gladys "Millvina" Dean and her family were steerage passengers emigrating to Kansas City, Missouri, aboard the giant cruise liner.
Four days out of port, on the night of April 14, it hit an iceberg and sank. Billed as "practically unsinkable" by the publicity magazines of the period, the Titanic did not have enough lifeboats for all of 2,200 passengers and crew.
Dean, her mother and 2-year-old brother were among 706 people — mostly women and children — who survived. Her father was among more than 1,500 who died.
Aldridge said the "massive interest" in Titanic memorabilia shows no signs of abating. Last year, a collection of items belonging to Lillian Asplund, the last American survivor of the disaster, sold for more than $175,000. Asplund died in 2006 at the age of 99.
"It's the people, the human angle," Aldridge said. "You had over 2,200 men, women and children on that ship, from John Jacob Astor, the richest person in the world at the time, to a poor Scandinavian family emigrating to the States to start a new life. There were 2,200 stories."