107 #15: Titanic was carrying gold bullion

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Titanic gold bullion

FALSE. This is a myth in the case of the Titanic, although in 1917 the White Star liner Laurentic was sunk off the coast of Northern Ireland carrying 35 tons of gold ingots. These were worth £5 million at the time (about £250 million today) and were destined for the purchase of munitions from America, which at that time had not yet entered the First World War. All but 22 of these ingots were recovered by Royal Navy divers between 1917 and 1924.

The most valuable items aboard the Titanic were the 37 personal effects of the first class passengers, many of which were lost in the sinking. These included a jewelled copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam; a 35-hp Renault car belonging to First Class passenger William Carter Sr; and a 16th-century second edition of essays by Francis Bacon, owned by Harry Widener, a 1907 Harvard graduate whose mother Eleanor subsequently endowed the Widener Memorial Library at the college in his memory. Eleanor herself owned a valuable string of pearls, but she wore them off the ship, as the Countess of Rothes did with the pearls given to her on her wedding day.

Titanic’s passengers did not always make the obvious choice that night regarding the items they wanted to save. First Class passenger Major Arthur Peuchen left a box with $300,000 in cash and preferred bonds in his cabin, taking instead a good luck pin and three oranges. Edith Russell ran back to her cabin to fetch her ‘lucky pig’, a musical box which she always took with her when travelling; and Margaret ‘Molly’ Brown had an Egyptian figurine in her pocket, which she carried as a good luck charm. She later presented this to Captain Rostron on board the Carpathia.

Following the Titanic disaster, damages claims from survivors totalled $16 million, though a considerable part of this sum was claimed for loss of life, rather than merely possessions. In the end, partly guided by the principle of Limited Liability for shipowners, White Star agreed with the claimants to settle all claims for a payment of only $664,000. The litigation had taken more than four years.

If you’d like to read the full book of101 Things You Thought You Knew About The Titanic…But Didn’t!, or any of my other books on Titanic, please visit my Author Page on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/tim-maltin/e/B005LNHYEQ/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_1

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