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Titanic, 100 Years Later: Cultural, Culinary Items Went Down with the Ship

The cargo manifest on the ill-fated ship was as diverse and interesting as the passenger list was.

Bethel

Despite the common belief that there were mostly British, Irish and American citizens aboard the RMS Titanic, the truth is that 29 different nationalities were onboard. The cargo manifest for the Titanic contained articles as diverse as the nationalities of the people onboard the ill-fated ship.

Consider the following items that went to the bottom along with the ship:

  • There were 3,364 bags of mail onboard, and between 700 and 800 parcels. (The RMS in RMS Titanic stood for “Royal Mail Steamship.”)
  • One Marmalade Machine owned by passenger Edwina Troutt. Second-class passenger Winnie Troutt survived on Lifeboat 10 and lived to be 100, dying in 1984. One of her letters written on the Titanic is part of the collection at the Titanic Museum in Indian Orchard, MA. See photo.)
  • Five grand pianos
  • 30 cases of golf clubs and tennis rackets bound for the A.G. Spalding Co.
  • 40 tons of potatoes
  • 50 cases of toothpaste
  • Four cases of opium
  • 75,000 pounds of fresh meat and 11,000 pounds of fish
  • 800 pounds of tea and 2,200 pounds of coffee
  • 20,000 bottles of beer and 1,500 bottles of wine
  • 16,000 lemons and 36,000 oranges
  • 2.75 tons of tomatoes
  • One Renault 35-horsepower automobile owned by passenger
    William Carter. (Carter, first-class passenger, was from the
    Philadelphia area. He, his wife, and two children also survived, although in different lifeboats.)
  • Eight dogs and one cat. Two of the dogs survived. (Writer Michael Morpurgo, author of "War Horse," has also written a fictionalized account of a cat aboard the Titanic called "Kaspar The Titanic Cat" that was published this year by HarperCollins.)

Three very rare books were also lost to the sea. Harry Elkins Widener, a 1907 Harvard graduate and an avid book collector, had purchased several rare books to bring home on the Titanic, including a very rare first edition of essays by Francis Bacon. Harry saw to it that his mother and her maid were safely placed in a lifeboat and then stepped back. Later, William Carter offered him a place in his lifeboat, but Harry declined. He and Bacon’s essays went down with the ship. His body was never found. Mrs. Widener endowed the Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library at Harvard University in her son’s memory. It remains one of the most famous libraries for rare books in the world.

Also, several pieces of parchment from the Torah owned by Hersh L. Siebald were lost to the sea.

Finally, one of the most valuable objects that sank with the ship was a jeweled edition of "The Rubaiyat" by Omar Khayyam with illustrations by Eliku Vedder. The binding was inlaid with more than 1,500 precious stones — each separately set in gold. It took two years to bind. It had recently sold for more than $2,000 (equivalent to more than $45,000 today) in England and was being shipped back to an American buyer. It, too, went to the bottom.

The sinking of the Titanic on its maiden voyage cost more than 1,500 human beings their lives. But the ship's fate also caused a tremendous loss of material goods, including some irreplaceable cultural artifacts.

Notes, Sources, and Links

1. Widener's grandfather was also a rare book collector. His copy of one of Gutenberg's original Bibles is at the library, too.

2. History Magazine, April 2012 edition (info on Widener)

3. encyclopediatitanica.com

4. vmcca.org

5. Titanic Historical Society, Indian Orchard, MA

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