Titanic Dinner Menu Is Up for Auction in England This Weekend

There were oysters, salmon with Hollandaise sauce, beef, squab, duck, roast chicken, green peas, parsnip purée and Victoria pudding. The feast described is not a Thanksgiving meal, but a snapshot of what first-class passengers on the Titanic ate for dinner on April 11, 1912, when the ship left Queenstown, Ireland, for New York.

A menu from that night, with an embossed red White Star Line flag at the top and signs of water damage, will go up for auction on Saturday at Henry Aldridge & Son Ltd in southwest England. Andrew Aldridge, the managing director of the auction house, said on Wednesday that while a handful of menus from the ship were known to have survived, this was the only known copy from the night of April 11 — three days before the Titanic hit an iceberg. It is expected to sell for up to 70,000 pounds, or about $86,000.

The auction will include hundreds of other maritime items, including a White Star Line tartan blanket that was recovered from a Titanic lifeboat and a pocket watch owned by a second-class passenger, a Russian immigrant, who did not survive the sinking.

“There are several dinner menus from Titanic in existence,” Mr. Aldridge said, noting that three meals a day were served from April 10, the day the ship began its first voyage, through April 14, the day the ship struck an iceberg and began to sink in the North Atlantic, ultimately killing 1,500 people.

Over the years, some tattered menus from the Titanic have come up for auction and commanded hefty prices. A first-class menu from the ship’s last lunch was sold for $120,000 in 2012. Three years later, a menu from the last dinner served to first-class passengers sold for more than $118,000.

“I’ve spoken to several museums globally, and I’ve spoken to a number of our Titanic collectors,” Mr. Aldridge said of the April 11 dinner menu going up for auction this weekend. “I can’t find another one anywhere.”

“This menu has been in the water,” he added.

The menu was brought to his attention this summer after it was discovered in a photo album from the 1960s that once belonged to Len Stephenson, a community historian in Dominion, Nova Scotia.

Halifax, a city more than 200 miles southwest of Dominion, was the base for the search and recovery efforts of the Titanic, according to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Some of the Titanic’s victims were buried at sea while others were either shipped to their home communities or buried in Halifax.

It was unclear how exactly Mr. Stephenson acquired the menu, but his son-in-law shipped it to Mr. Aldridge for a closer look.

“I opened the box and was O-M-G,” he said.

“Original Titanic menus, they’re just not discovered,” he went on. “We know where most of them are. So to have a completely fresh discovery of this nature and this caliber is very, very exciting.”

Other types of artifacts from the Titanic go up for sale from time to time. In 2017, a letter written by an American first-class passenger aboard the Titanic sold for 126,000 pounds (about $153,000 at the time). The following year, 5,500 items recovered from the wreckage were sold to three hedge funds for more than $19 million.

Despite the riches at stake, some see the sale and resale of items from the ship and its passengers as ghoulish.

Charles Haas, president of the Titanic International Society, Inc., said the items that come up for sale fall into several categories: things that went down with the ship that night that have since been recovered; possessions of surviving passengers and crew; and items that were removed from the ship as keepsakes as people fled.

The first category is the source of much controversy, but Mr. Haas believes the menu falls into the last group.

The owner of the pocket watch that Henry Aldridge & Son will auction, Sinai Kantor, did not survive the sinking, but his wife, Miriam, did. The watch, corroded from the salt water, its Hebrew numbers now faded, was among the items returned to her when his body was recovered. Her descendants sold it at an earlier auction.

“Items on the ship, and carried off by passengers or crew, or found floating in the sea have been sold for more than 50 years by survivors, their descendants, maritime memorabilia dealers and auction houses on both sides of the Atlantic,” Mr. Haas said.

For Harry Bennett, an associate professor of maritime history at University of Plymouth in southwest England, possessions that may have been recovered from the bodies of victims are especially unsettling. He said the sale of such items comes down to “a question of personal morality.”

“I find it very uneasy to look at a photo of a pocket watch or a menu and think about the tragic journey that that has actually gone on,” he said. “These things are really probably better in museums than actually in private hands because it at least creates a kind of a context for it where issues of profit are rather taken away from it.”

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