Caroline Bonnell was one of the lucky ones. The wealthy, 30-year-old Ohio native boarded a lifeboat in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912, soon after the Titanic hit the iceberg that would sink it.
More than 1,500 Titanic passengers, including 80 percent of the men and three-quarters of the poor immigrants traveling in Third Class, died in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic. Bonnell, along with just over 700 others, reached safety on the RMS Carpathia, the ship that answered the ill-fated ocean liner’s distress calls.
On Wednesday, those interested in owning a little piece of Titanic history will have an opportunity. Lion Heart Autographs, a New York-based dealer of autographs and manuscripts focusing on history, high culture and science, will offer the “landing or custom card” issued to Bonnell aboard the Carpathia, which has an estimated value of $8,000 to $10,000.
The auction will also feature many other rare items from history, including two pages handwritten by Albert Einstein, which refer to his General Theory of Relativity (estimate: $60,000-$80,000); a piece of cloth from Charles Lindberg’s Spirit of St. Louis, ripped from the plane by a fan and signed by Lindberg after he landed in Paris in 1927 (estimate: $15,000-$20,000); and an order signed by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain in 1492, punishing the adulterous behavior of one of their administrators (estimate: $10,000-12,000).
All fascinating stories to be sure, but in the public’s consciousness, nothing tops the Titanic, says David Lowenherz, Lion Heart’s owner.
“Back in September, we handled an original menu from last lunch onboard the Titanic,” Lowenherz says. “When we got it and researched it, we found that everybody, I mean everybody, knows about the Titanic. And the appeal for items directly connected to it is really significant.”
It was after the auction of the menu, which sold for $88,000, that the family of Bonnell’s daughter, now in her 80s, approached Lion Heart with the landing card, as well as 10 telegrams related to the sinking of the Titanic and the survival, or demise, of various family members.
A Youngstown, Ohio, native, Bonnell was the daughter of the English-born proprietor of Wick, Bonnell & Co., a steel producer. She had been traveling with her cousins in Europe, lastly visiting her aunt Elizabeth Bonnell in England, who joined her on her journey home. The 10 telegrams communicate the death of Bonnell’s cousin George Wick and the survival of the four female members of the family—including Wick’s wife and daughter— who boarded Lifeboat No. 8 and later the Carpathia, which arrived in New York three days later. Bonnell’s landing card has the printed words “Second Cabin” struck through and replaced by the word “Saloon,” where the rescued Titanic passengers were cared for.
Scheduled for 1 pm ET, the auction will be only the third Lion Heart has held online, Lowenherz says. It will be facilitated by Boston-based www.Invaluable.com and www.eBayliveauctions.com, both of which offer live, real-time online bidding from around the world.