Various newspapers are reporting that skepticism over the Hartley violin has arisen. To recap: Henry Aldridge & Sons auctioneers announced that after six years of forensic examination and detective work, they have authenticated a violin owned by Wallace Hartley and was found with his body in 1912. However Karen Kamuda of Titanic Historical Society and Nigel Hampson of Titanic in Lancashire Museum dispute it. Both point out that inventory of items shows no violin was found on his body.
No one is doubting that Hartley owned the violin but whether or not it was the one used aboard Titanic. Aldridge rebuts the charge by pointing out they conducted many tests on the violin (such as chemical), and uncovered a telegram from Maria Robinson to Nova Scotia officials thanking for the violin. Such tests would, I would assume, be available to the museums, exhibitions, and private collectors wanting to make sure the violin is genuine.
So what about the inventory? Well there are two plausible explanations. One is that no violin was found which would cast doubt on the violin in question. The second is that Nova Scotia officials altered the records so that no one would raise any question about a violin being handed over to Miss Robinson. The family likely knew (since she was engaged and purchased the violin for him) and did give her his other personal possessions. In truth, we will never know but the telegram certainly indicates the Nova Scotia officials gave her the violin.
Certainly though raising questions is a good thing to keep things honest in this whole process. While I can see some small operator trying to con a buyer, I doubt Aldridge would do this. The risks are too high with the entire world looking at it under a microscope.
1. Authenticity Row Erupts After Violin Played Moments Before The Titanic Sank Is ‘Discovered’ (18 Mar 2013, The Independent)
2. Notes Of Discord Over Soundness Of ‘Titanic Violin’ (19 Mar 2013, Belfast Telegraph)