Titanic Letter Implicating Ismay to Sell at Bonhams New York

NEW YORK—Bonhams April 7 Fine Books & Manuscripts sale Treasures from The Caren Archive will feature an autographed personal letter written by Titanic survivor and first class passenger Emily Ryerson in which she recounts her deck-side conversation with White Star Line Chairman J Bruce Ismay as it took place just hours before the ship’s fatal collision with an iceberg (est. $10,000-$15,000).   

The letter, dated April 18, 1913, offers first-hand documentary evidence that Ismay approved of Titanic’s speeding up through iceberg waters. Ryerson would later give similar testimony in her legal deposition to the Titanic inquiry. The “bombshell” as revealed in the present letter is something that Ryerson did not subsequently share with the official inquiry, namely that it had been her distinct impression at the time of her conversation with Ismay that the decision to increase the ship’s speed had been his to make: “Mr. Ismay’s manner was that of one in authority & the owner of the ship & that what he said was law.”

The Ryerson/Titanic letter is among nearly 300 items Bonhams has selected from the Caren Archive, the largest and most significant private collection of historical paper in America. The April 7 sale will encompass rare newspapers, broadsides, photographs, books, and manuscripts dating from the 16th century through the 1960s.

Additional transportation themed highlights will include imagery of early railroads and automobiles, and a Neil Armstrong signed transcript quoting “The Eagle has Landed” (est. $3,000-$5,000). 

Treasures from The Caren Archive will take place on April 7 at Bonhams New York. The auction will preview at Bonhams April 3-7.  

A complete catalog will be available at www.bonhams.com/auctions/21962.

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