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    Unrecorded, Newly Discovered Titantic S.O.S. Telegram

    R.M.S. Titanic: Distress Telegram Sent to the White Star Line. 8" x 6 1/2" Western Union Telegram received at the Western Union office in New York City, via Marconi wireless, April 15, 1912. The telegram was relayed to Western Union from the Marconi station in Cape Race, Newfoundland. The sender was the R.M.S. Titanic and the addressee was Philip A. S. Franklin, Vice President and manager of the White Star Line office in Manhattan. In full: "To Mr. P.A. Franklin, White Star Steamship Co. 9 Broadway, NYC. CQD, CQD SOS SOS= From MGY (RMS Titanic)= We Have Struck Iceberg= Sinking Fast= Come to our Assistance= Position: Lat 41.46 N.= Lon 50.14 W. MGY". MGY was the unique Marconi code identifying the R.M.S. Titanic. Folded horizontally in thirds. Very minor partial separation at top fold with small piece missing in lower left corner.

    The story of the sinking of the Titanic is well-known and continues to fascinate the public more than 100 years after the event. The luxury liner was owned by the International Mercantile Marine Company and operated as the White Star Line. One of its directors, J. Pierpont Morgan, was scheduled to be a passenger on the maiden voyage, but opted to remain in Europe a little longer to spend time with his son in France. J. Bruce Ismay was the General Manager of the White Star Line. He was aboard the Titanic and was one of the lucky passengers to get a place on a lifeboat, a circumstance that forever tarnished his reputation. He was taken aboard the Carpathia and sent a series of messages to the home office in New York, directed to Philip Franklin. A Congressional hearing was held almost immediately after the Carpathia docked in New York. Later on, the British government conducted an inquiry of their own. The Senate hearing was chaired by Michigan Senator William A. Smith. During that testimony, Franklin denied receiving any telegrams from the Titanic, claiming there was "... not a word or communication of any kind or description" from the ship. In discussing the sequence of the telegrams he had received, he attempted to comply with the request of Senator Smith, but complained "... The only trouble is they do not have the time on them." He first got a hint of a problem when reporters from Canada called him at home at 2 A.M. asking if he had heard of the distress calls issued by the Titanic, received by ships in the area and reported by AP from Cape Race. Franklin immediately contacted office personnel and asked them to assemble at 9 Broadway. He received a telegram from Captain Haddock of the Olympic at 8:27 A.M. Monday morning telling him of the accident. For most of the day, he responded to members of the public and the press, assuring them that the unsinkable Titanic had not sunk, but that passengers had been evacuated and many rescued. Finally, after hearing from J. Bruce Ismay aboard the Carpathia at 6:16 P.M., he was forced to face the grim reality and admit to the public that the Titanic had indeed sunk.

    After the Titanic hit the iceberg, it issued a series of distress telegrams. It also notified the United States Postal Service and British Royal Mail. It makes sense that they also notified the operator of the ship, the White Star Line but, until now, no evidence of that has surfaced. The telegraph log went down with the ship, so the only record of the telegrams dispatched are the ones that have survived. The two Marconi operators were Jack Phillips (who perished in the disaster) and Harold Bride, who testified at the Senate hearing (for some reason, he was not asked if any telegrams were sent to the offices of the White Star Line). The first six distress telegrams were all marked "CDQ" (All Stations Distress) but, at the suggestion of Bride, subsequent distress telegrams included the newly adopted SOS signal (first used on U.S. ships in 1909). This telegram was sent to the nearest landfall, Cape Race, Newfoundland and was received by the Marconi operator there, Walter Gray (a Marconi Wireless School classmate of Jack Phillips). Initially, the personnel aboard the Titanic did not think the ship was in danger of sinking but, after about an hour, Phillips sent a message to Gray saying "We are slowly sinking by the head and putting women and children into lifeboats."

    Since the Marconi office in Cape Race had no facilities to deliver the telegram, it was transmitted to the Western Union office in New York and delivered by messenger to Mr. Franklin at 9 Broadway. This may be the telegram that was delivered, or it may be a retained copy, as we have evidence that these telegrams were sent "2-up". While it seems certain that the telegram was delivered (or the attempt made), we cannot say for sure whether Franklin saw it in a timely manner, or testified falsely before Congress. There is no contemporary provenance that accompanies the telegram. It was given to the consignor by a cousin around 1998. The cousin's father had collected old radio and telegraphic equipment. Upon the father's death, a fellow collector was called in to appraise the collection. The collection was gifted to him. Shortly thereafter, the recipient sent the Titanic telegram to the cousin, as a token of his appreciation. The cousin placed it in an envelope, marking it as an "86-year old telegram" and gave it to the consignor whom he knew to have an interest in Titanic memorabilia. We have examined the telegram extensively and conclude that all characteristics are "right", including type of paper, method of printing, aging of the paper and look of the typed message (variation in the lightness & darkness of the inked impression, visible signs of the weave of the ribbon). In summary, we are totally satisfied that the telegram is authentic and a new discovery.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2015
    7th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 0
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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