Tag Archives: Henry Aldridge & Son

Hartley Violin Auctioned Off For $1.6 Million

Wallace Hartley's ViolinThe Associated Press is reporting the Hartley Violin sold for $1.6 million today at the auction held by Henry Aldridge & Son. The amount sold sets a record for a Titanic artifact. The name of the buyer, who bid over the phone, wished to remain anonymous according to Andrew Aldridge.

Source: Titanic Violin Sells For More Than $1.6M At Auction(19 Oct 2013,Associated Press)

Hartley Violin Update: Daily Mail Declares Violin Authentic

Wallace Hartley's ViolinSarah Griffiths, writing for the UK Daily Mail, examines the history of the Hartley violin and the scientific tests taken to determine its authenticity. The various tests–a CT scan, forensic testing of the metal plate, examination of the wood–along with documentary evidence leads to the conclusion the violin is authentic. Additionally corrosion tests match submersion in seawater. Although the violin was not listed in his personal effects when his body was recovered, it is believed that it was regarded as luggage rather than a personal effect.

Henry Aldridge & Son claims it invested thousands in getting the violin authenticated. And when it goes on the auction block on 19 Oct, they expect to make it all back (and quite a bit more as well). The violin will likely set a new record if it sells for the estimated £4000,000. I suspect it will sell for a lot more than that.

Source: Violin That Was Played To Calm Passengers As Titanic Sank Undergoes CT Scan To Prove Authenticity Before Going To Auction(9Oct 2013,Daily Mail)

Hartley Violin Update

BBC News is reporting that the Hartley violin–now on display in the United States–Wallace Hartley's Violinunderwent a CT scan at BMI Ridgeway Hospital in Wiltshire. A 3D image was made to examine the violin from the inside. Astrid Little, the hospital’s imaging manager said: “The scan revealed that the original wood was cracked and showed signs of possible restoration.” The auction house of Henry Aldridge & Son believes this and other things proves it was Wallace Hartley’s violin.

He counters Titanic author Daniel Butler, who claims the violin glue would have come apart due to exposure to salt water, by saying the glue used was animal glue. Such glue melts when heated but not when cold, says Aldridge.

Source: Titanic Violin Real, Hospital CT Scan Suggests(23 May 2013, BBC News)


Hartley Violin Update

Steven Turner, author of The Band That Played On about Titanic musicians, offers his own Wallace Hartley's Violinviews about the Hartley violin. He is thrilled the violin has been authenticated and adds some details to the story. First, there was a replica violin made in 1912 by a Hartley friend. That violin disappeared for decades but was donated anonymously in 1974 to Youth Orchestra in Colne, Hartley’s old hometown.

He believes the draft letter in Maria Robinson’s diary is authentic. The draft letter thanks Nova Scotia officials for giving her the violin. However there is no record whether it was actually sent or not. However he says the people mentioned in the diary “could all be traced to actual people living at the time.” With the violin authenticated, he thinks the adventures of the violin are not over yet.

Of course there still is one or two small problems that have not been resolved. First, why is there no record of Hartley’s violin being found strapped to his chest? Aldridge claims they did not inspect luggage but how could you miss it if strapped to his chest. Second, if indeed found on or near Hartley’s body, why is their no record anywhere of it being found or inspected?These nagging questions ought to be resolved.

Source: Still More Adventures Ahead For Titanic Violin (5 May 2013, Fox News)


Titanic News For 24 April 2013

(1) Titanic Belfast exceeded all expectations for 2012 reports BBC News. More than 800,000 people from 128 countries visited Titanic Belfast in its first year. Some doubted it would succeed and would need 290,000 visitors to break even.

Source: Titanic Belfast Had 800000 Visitors In Year(23 April 2013,BBC News)

(2) Titanic:The Artifact Exhibition is coming to Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland in June. Advance tickets are now on sale through the web site. The exhibition runs from 1 June 2013 through 5 Jan 2014.

Source: New Titanic Exhibit Coming To Cleveland’s Great Lakes Science Center(23 April 2013, NewsNet5.com)

(3) Alan Aldridge of Henry Aldridge & Son was interviewed recently by CBS News about the Hartley violin. Aldridge says that micro-analysis found evidence of salt water corrosion in the wood and metal screws on the silver plate. He also says he has no idea how much it will be worth when auctioned off.

Source: Reputed “Titanic Violin” To Be Put Up For Auction(23 April 2013, CBSNews)

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Hartley Letter To Be Auctioned Off

A letter written by Wallace Hartley to his mother aboard Titanic will soon be auctioned off reports This is Wiltshire. The handwritten letter was referenced by his mother in a 27 April 1912 interview with a local paper. The letter, in part says:

Just a line to say we have got away all right. It’s been a bit of a rush but I am just getting Wallace Hartleya little settled. This is a fine ship and there ought to be plenty of money on her. “I’ve missed coming home very much and it would have been nice to have seen you all if only for an hour or two, but I couldn’t imagine it. We have a fine band and the boys seem very nice.

Auctioneer Henry Aldridge & Son will auction the letter on 20 April. The expected sale value is between £50,000 to £60,000.

Source: Message From Band Leader On Board Titanic Goes Up For Sale(8 April 2013, This Is Wiltshire)

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Update on Hartley Violin


The BBC has an interesting update on the Hartley Violin claim. To recap: Henry Aldridge Wallace Hartley's Violin& Son claims a violin has been authenticated as belonging to Titanic bandleader Wallace Hartley and was on his body when recovered. It was given to his fiancee where it remained until she died. It was then donated to the Salvation Army with its Titanic connection mentioned. Then it was given to the mother of the current owner (unidentified at this point) who contacted the auctioneer to have it authenticated (which took seven years).

Skepticism was quick in coming. Karen Kamuda of Titanic Historical Society has questioned the authenticity pointing out no such violin is listed in the official inventory of items found.  Tracey Beare of Belfast Titanic Society thinks the violin is Hartley’s but not the one used on Titanic. Titanic author Daniel Butler went further and accuses the auctioneer of fraud and got violin experts to render an opinion. You can read the blog entry about that here.

Aldridge refutes all of those claims and says there are explanations for each of them.

1. Inventory Issue: Violin Not Listed In Official Papers of Items Found On Body
Aldridge: “Larger items of luggage were frequently not recorded but small effects like watches were.” (BBC, 5 April 2013)

I have no idea whether this is correct or not, but one would have to go back through the documents to determine how they did handle luggage. What Aldridge is referring to are those things found on the body, i.e watches, notes, rings and other personal effects. Such things,when found,would be returned to relatives or loved ones.

The problem is Aldridge claims the violin was inside a leather bag strapped to Hartley’s body which floated upright on a cork and linen lifejacket for ten days. If that is true, then they could not have missed the bag and its contents. It would have been opened and inspected, and noted somewhere. Finding a bag strapped to a dead man’s body and not opening to inspect and inventory? That is rather hard to believe. One possibility is that the bag was found floating but not to a body but possibly on something else (a deck chair perhaps) or just by itself. Then it might be brought back and left for the authorities to examine. If this is true, it might explain why no official record of it exists with his body. It was not found on him but perhaps is buried in paperwork. So when Maria Robinson identified it in Nova Scotia, they gave it to her and hence why no official record exists.

Of course the other possibility is that no violin was found at all and thus the one at issue, while owned by Hartley, was not on Titanic.

2. Salt Water Issue
The claim: A violin immersed in salt water gets heavily damaged and comes apart.
Aldridge: The violin was inside a nearly waterproof leather bag strapped to Hartley’s body which floated upright for ten days. (BBC, 5 April 2013)

Assuming it was in a leather bag that floated upright on Hartley’s lifejacket, there are some things to be considered. Even in a bag, it would not entirely protect it from the cold temperatures nor moisture. We have to assume during that time waves passed over the body and presumably the leather case strapped to the body. At some point, the body would be submerged temporarily. The water stain on the violin could have come from this.

There is a way to test this though is Mythbusters style. You set up a tank to simulate the wave action of the North Atlantic and have the same salinity (salt) level in it. Also make sure the water matches the colder temperatures for that time of year. They you set up floating dummy with a leather sack and a violin inside (preferably one donated for the cause) along with detection gear to monitor for temperature and moisture level inside the sack. And run for ten days to and see what happens. And then also run another challenge of a violin afloat with a leather container for the same amount of time.  My guess is the one inside the leather bag might be less damaged than the one without.

The BBC article does have violin dealer Andrew Hooker (formerly of Sotheby’s) saying that violins have survived seawater immersions in the past. He says that an 18 century Stradivari violin was swept out to sea one day in 1952 and was swept back in the next with no problems being able to be played. Note what is left out. He does not say where that happened (for fact checking) because it may not have been swept out to the deep sea but was lodged nearby on a rock and then swept back in on the next tide. To say it was not damaged is probably not accurate. Hooker does say something interesting to the BBC:

“Mr Hooker examined the Hartley violin in person and says it has been restored since surviving the Titanic disaster.”

Note that key word restored in that sentence.  According to The Telegraph article on 14 Mar 2013, the violin has two long cracks on its body opened up by moisture damage. And later we have a letter to the current owner’s mother as to why the Salvation Army music teacher decided to give it away. “….I found it virtually unplayable, doubtless due to its eventful life.” So it begs the question as to what Mr. Hooker means it was restored.

Perhaps though, even if made playable again, it never sounded good. That would bolster the assertion by one of Butler’s experts that the metal plaque effects the tone and quality of the violin. If so that would support the theory this violin was not one used for public performances.

3. Second Violin Issue
Claim: The violin, while owned by Hartley, was of a lower grade than most performers were used. Likely a gift since the metal inscription would inhibit its tone and overall quality when played.
Aldridge:” Mr Aldridge says that Hartley was a “cafe violinist” not a concert-grade musician, and did not have spare money for extra violins. (BBC, 5 April 2013)

Aldridge does have a point here. Concert grade violins are not cheap but most performers save up to buy the high quality equipment. It sounds better and if treated right, will last a very long time.  But if he was smart, and I bet he was, he had a backup. One that in a pinch he could pull out and use. It would be old, perhaps not as good, but would get the job done until he got back his primary (which would be in the shop being repaired). He may have brought it aboard Titanic that voyage and that is what we found. We may never know for sure whether he had two violins or not aboard Titanic. I wonder though if any violins were found in the debris field and recovered. They did find some musical instruments. Perhaps if he did have a second it is there and he kept the one most dear nearest to his heart.

I think we have to at least consider the possibility he had a primary and a backup. And if the metal inscription did effect tonal quality, he may not have used for public performances even if he was a “café violinist.”

Wrapping Things Up
One proof submitted is a diary entry by Maria Robinson dated 19 Jul 1912. It apparently is the transcript of a telegram sent to the Provincial Secretary of Nova Scotia in which she states: “I would be most grateful if you could convey my heartfelt thanks to all who have made possible the return of my late fiance’s violin.” The actual telegram has not been found so, at this point, it cannot be ascertained it was sent. It would seem to confirm a violin was returned to her. If that is true, it certainly supports the theory the violin was found but not why it was not recorded. If it was in luggage (the leather bag) found floating, that might explain it. However the silence on the Nova Scotia end is odd. If it was found on his body, it would be noted. If it was found in a leather bag brought ashore, and then identified by Maria Robinson, there would be an entry somewhere. A further check of records might have to be done and perhaps looking into ancillary records that might contain that nugget.

I think it is wise to have a second pair of eyes, independent of Aldridge, go over all the findings and double-check everything. And it also is wise not to underestimate fakery. There have been great fakes in the past that have gotten by experts on the first examination. Aldridge, despite what some might want to believe, would never be part of this. The damage to his reputation and his business would not be worth it. However there are others out there who have no problems creating historical fakes using clever means. Getting an old violin from that period and using all the right things might very well create a fake Hartley violin that would pass muster. After all, if one can make seemingly historical inscriptions on ancient tombs to make them look real, then mocking up an old violin is not so difficult.

Source: ‘Titanic Violin’ Sparks Heated Debate(5 April 2013, BBC)

Hartley’s Violin Authenticated

A violin believed to that of Titanic band leader Wallace Hartley is authentic reports The Wallace Hartley's ViolinTelegraph.The violin was thought lost, destroyed or stolen until recently. In 2006, the as yet unnamed owner contacted Henry Aldridge & Son, auctioneers who specialize in Titanic memorabilia, to determine its authenticity and other items of Hartley’s they had. It took a long time to track down what happened to the violin and required a great deal of forensic examination of the violin itself.

And like that Sinatra song, At Long Last Love, at long last we have proof. The violin has been determined genuine making it one of the most important Titanic artifacts uncovered in recent years. This is the violin that Hartley played to calm passengers as Titanic was sinking. The story of the band playing is ingrained in Titanic history and Hartley (along with other members of his band) are considered heroes.

The violin was given to Wallace Hartley by his fiancee Maria Robinson in 1910 as an engagement gift. The violin was found strapped to Hartley’s body when recovered. She requested it be given to her, which it was, and later Hartley’s father gave her other personal effects. Robinson never married and died at age 59 in 1939. Her sister, Margaret, found the leather valise with WHH initials on it and a violin inside. The bag and violin were given to Salvation Army and its leader, Major Renwick, was told of its Titanic connection. A local music and violin teacher was given the valise by Renwick. The current owner’s mother, a member of Women’s’ Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) met the music teacher who gave her the valise and violin.

The violin is in good condition considering it was in the water for 10 days. It is water stained with two long cracks caused by moisture. A corroded silver plate on its base was key to confirming its authenticity.

The violin will eventually be auctioned off but right now it will be going to Belfast City Hall later this month for public exhibition. The Telegraph reports that museums, some in the U.S., are negotiating to put it on display. Other items in the valise will be auctioned off next month. This is one artifact worth making a trip to see. Should it be exhibited where you can get to go see it. This is a piece of Titanic history that many will have an unexpected emotion when they see it, remember the story of that terrible night, and of the love it represents.

Source: Violin Played On Titanic Revealed For First Time(14 Mar 2013, The Telegraph)

Titanic: Music As Heard on the Fateful Voyage

A Hymn for Eternity: The Story of Wallace Hartley, Titanic Bandmaster

Titanic Bandmaster Remembrance Book – Wallace Hartley