Titanic’s Hand-Annotated 1912 Building Plans Up for Auction


BOSTON, MA.—RR Auction will feature the Titanic’s original building plans that include hand-drawn notations, used during the official British enquiry into the most devastating maritime tragedy in history in its upcoming Titanic themed auction, later this month

The original cross-section and building plans for the RMS Titanic, drawn to a scale of 1/32 inches to one foot, and rubber stamped by Harland and Wolff, with a handwritten date within the stamp of May 1, 1912. The plans would be used during British enquiry to demonstrate to the world what had happened on the fateful evening, just before midnight on April 14, 1912—when the largest passenger ship ever assembled struck an iceberg.

The most remarkable features of this plan are the two crucial hand-drawn elements; a hand-drawn gash in the side of the ship at Boiler #6, where the iceberg hit and extensions drawn over the watertight bulkheads were not built high enough for such an occurrence.

The building plan clearly shows why the "unsinkable" ship would succumb to a direct hit that night in the ice fields of the North Atlantic—the location of the strike allowed water to enter the ship right at the point at which she could no longer stay afloat.

The official enquiry by the British Wreck Commissioner into the sinking of the Titanic was convened in London on May 2, 1912, and presided over by High Court Judge Lord Mersey. Spanning over two months, Mersey, lawyers, experts in shipbuilding and marine law questioned and listened to testimony from over 100 witnesses. Concluding on July 3, 1912, the final report was issued on July 30, stating that the sinking was the result of the ship’s collision with the iceberg, and not due to any design flaws with the ship, and that the collision had been brought about by excessive speed in icy waters.

The report was widely well-received by the press, and stopped short of condemning White Star or Captain Smith for the accident. Along with the American hearings, the British enquiry would result in several safety changes including 24-hour manned radios, distress rockets, ice patrols, and sufficient lifeboats on board each ship.

This piece was discovered at the old Cunard Line office, which merged with White Star Line in 1934. Originally sold by Onslow’s in London, April 15, 1987, the plan then went on display at the Ulster Museum in Belfast. It was then offered at auction by Henry Aldridge & Son, at which time it became a part of a distinguished private collection. It has since been on display at the Titanic Museum in Branson, Missouri.

“Items of this magnitude used in the official inquiry are virtually unobtainable, this being one of only two plans that have ever come to market,” says Bobby Livingston, VP at RR Auction.

Among the other 225 Museum quality pieces to be featured:

  • Original sterling silver ‘Loving Cup’ presented to Captain Arthur Rostron of the Carpathia by Titanic survivor Margaret “Molly” Brown. Bidding is expected to exceed $200,000.
  • Exceedingly rare color poster for the White Star Line, of the company’s two newest and biggest ships, the Titanic and Olympic, circa early 1912.
  • A two page typed letter on ‘Titanic’ letterhead, dated April 9, 1912. The ship’s highest ranking surviving officer recounts his final words with Dr. Simpson and other officers: “We merely exchanged the words ‘Goodbye, old man.’ This occurred shortly before the end.”
  • A two-page handwritten letter on embossed White Star on board R.M.S. ‘Titanic’ letterhead, dated April 9, 1912.  The ship’s newest Turkish bath attendant writes of Titanic getting underway "The sucking power of the propellers was so great that she broke loose another vessel."

The Titanic auction from RR Auction will offer the public the opportunity to bid on a vast array of recovered relics and signed memorabilia relating to one of the grandest—and most infamous—vessels to ever succumb to the sea. This historic assemblage will be available for bidding starting April 17-24. More details can be found online at www.rrauction.com.

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