On July 19th and 20th at Newport, Rhode Island’s renowned, non-profit International Yacht Restoration School (IYRS), Guernsey’s will be holding a massive nautically-themed auction focusing on great ocean liners, majestic sailing ships and other maritime-related treasures – with one particular artefact already being of great interest.
The attention of many collectors and enthusiasts will undoubtedly be captured by Ella White’s walking stick. A Titanic survivor, Mrs. White made her way during the chaos of that fateful April 15, 1912 evening into a lifeboat carrying her black enamelled walking stick complete with an amber-coloured bakelite, battery-illuminated crown.
Walter Lord, in his landmark book A Night to Remember, wrote “Mrs. J. Stuart (Ella) White didn’t help row No. 8, but she appointed herself a sort of signalman. She had a cane with a built-in electric light, and during most of the night she waved it fiercely about…”
Attempting to signal rescue ships, Mrs. White was a star witness in court hearings that followed where newspapers recounted her tale of the illuminated walking stick.
Ella’s family secretly held onto the cane for years, until consigning it to Guernsey’s Auction House this year. It is a brilliant artefact that attests to the real-life powerful women like Ella White and the “unsinkable” Molly Brown who are purported to have taken charge during the tragic sinking.
In fact, in the movie Titanic when the row boat captain says to Molly Brown “there will be one less on this boat if you don’t shut that hole in your face,” that was based on a story reported by Ella White (source: Encyclopedia Titanica).
Many historians commonly accept that later in her life Ella White was in a committed same-sex relationship with her Titanic travelling companion and, later, Plaza Hotel roommate, Marie Grice Young.
Though the Titanic is clearly the most fabled of all ocean liners, this auction also features iconic objects from a wide array of other noteworthy ships including the Lusitania, the Normandie, the SS United States, and the ill-fated Empress of Ireland and Andrea Doria. 99% of the items in the auction, including the bronze quarter deck bell from the Normandie, will be sold without minimum reserve.
Rare posters, menus and ships’ logs constitute some of the ephemera in the event, while beautiful oil paintings by such luminaries as James Buttersworth and Antonio Jacobsen head the lineup of featured artists.