$1.5 million for violin played while Titanic sank

By Melissa Platero, CCNN Writer

Titanic musicians
Old photos of Titanic’s musicians, published after the sinking.

In case you’ve never heard of the Titanic, the most famous sunken ship, it was a British passenger liner that sank after hitting an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 1912. More than 1,500 died from the disaster, including some of the wealthiest people in the world.

While Titanic slipped into the icy waters, band leader Wallace Hartley played a violin to calm everyone down. Passengers climbed into lifeboats as Hartley and seven band members played the hymn “Nearer, My God, To Thee.” Ten days after the accident, the band leader was found with his violin inside a leather case strapped to his body. It was given to his bride-to-be, Maria Robinson, but after she died in 1939 the Salvation Army received the violin as a donation.

Now, it has been sold at an auction in Britain for roughly $1.5 million. The auctioneer was surprised by the price, which was more than double the amount the violin was expected to sell for. “In my 20 years as an auctioneer, I can honestly say I don’t think any article has made people show as much emotion as this one. People pick it up and start crying,” he said.

The instrument has a silver plate screwed onto its base with the engraving: “For Wallace, on the occasion of our engagement. From Maria.”

Featured image courtesy of Phil Yeomans and BNPS.