DescriptionLifesaving Medal in Gold: "Morro Castle" Disaster Archive. Next to the "Titanic", the burning of the ocean liner S.S. Morro Castle is the most famous nautical disaster of the 20th century. The Ward Line vessel was built in 1930 at a cost of $4M. The luxury ship successfully ferried passengers from New York to Havana and back for a period of four years. On her last voyage, the captain died of a heart attack while the ship ran parallel to the southeastern U.S. Coast. Command passed to the Chief Officer, while a nor-easter began to intensify. The ship caught fire in the early morning hours of September 8, 1934 while cruising off Belmar, New Jersey. The fire quickly spread, destroying the ship's main electrical cables, plunging the ship into darkness, disabling steering and radio communication, after a single S.O.S. signal had been sent. Passengers were not instructed on how to use the life preservers and only half of the ship's life boats were launched, many occupied by crew members. 135 passengers and crew members perished in the disaster. Everything that could possibly go wrong did. A myriad of design flaws and questionable actions by crew members contributed to the magnitude of the loss, all of which came to light during the inquiry held afterwards. The first ship to arrive on the scene was the Steamer Andrea F. Luckenbach, commanded by Henry Hill. Hill was awarded a gold medal, as were the captains of the Monarch of Bermuda and the City of Savannah. We offer a group of items owned by Captain Hill, dealing with his heroic rescue effort. First and foremost is his 18K gold medal by Tiffany & Company (41.6 dwt.) in its original presentation box. It is inscribed on the reverse: "Presented to Henry Hill, Captain of the Steamship 'Andrea F. Luckenbach', in recognition of his humanity rescuing fifteen survivors from the burning Steamship 'Morro Castle' in a strong N.E. wind, with heavy rain squalls and rough seas, off Belmar, N.J., September 8, 1934." It is accompanied by the original presentation letter from "The Life Saving Benevolent Association of New York", Captain Hill's copy of the report detailing awards presented during calendar year 1935, his gold cuff links with engraved initials and an extensive scrapbook filled with newspaper clippings, letters, envelopes, telegrams, photographs and personal papers, most of them dealing with the event. The medal, as can be seen, is in beautiful condition and has what might be termed a matte finish.
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