By Michael Baadke
An April 21 auction in England offered numerous artifacts of the doomed luxury liner and royal mail ship RMS Titanic, which sank in the North Atlantic Ocean April 15, 1912.
Among the items sold in the Henry Aldridge & Son auction was a postal facing slip recovered from the body of Oscar Scott Woody, a 41-year-old postal clerk from the United States who was working in the ship’s mailroom and perished in the disaster.
The 3-inch by 5-inch buff-colored slip is stamped “O.S. Woody” and “TITANIC” and marked with the ship’s trans-Atlantic postal cancellation.
The auction firm explained that as part of the sorting process, a facing slip would be placed on a bundle of mail sacks to indicate their intended destination.
According to the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, the ship carried 3,423 sacks of mail containing more than 7 million pieces of mail, including an estimated 1.6 million registered letters and packages.
Henry Aldridge & Son reports that the facing slip sold for £14,000 (roughly $19,600), which includes the buyer’s premium.
Mail aboard the Titanic was lost in the tragedy, but some mail survives that was written on board the ship after it first sailed from England, but was processed and delivered to a post office during one of its stops prior to its Atlantic crossing.
The ship departed from Southampton on England’s southern coast at noon on April 10, 1912, heading across the English Channel to dock at Cherbourg, France, where more passengers boarded.
At 11:30 a.m. on April 11, Titanic arrived at Queenstown, Ireland, the ship’s final port of call before heading west across the North Atlantic to its intended destination, New York City.
The recent auction included a “rare Titanic letter card written on board and posted with original one penny stamp and crisp Queenstown postmark.”
The cryptic message on the letter card (which includes the admonishment, “My wife is in England. Do not write to her”) was written onboard by Henry Beauchamp, a second-class passenger who also died in the sinking.
The letter card features a bold color imprint of the White Star Line burgee and is franked with what appears to be the re-engraved 1-penny red King George V stamp issued Jan. 1, 1912 (Great Britain Scott 154).
Beauchamp’s letter card, addressed to London, was mailed at Queenstown on the 11th and was struck with a London receiving postmark the following day.
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The auction firm reports that the letter card sold for “just over £16,000 [approximately $22,400] including premium.”
For additional information contact Henry Aldridge & Son, Unit 1, Bath Road Business Centre, Bath Road, Devizes, Wiltshire, SN10 1XA, England.