The image of the band playing as chaos reigned on the sinking RMS Titanic is one of the images that is indelibly etched onto the imagination of many. Not one of those 8 band members survived the tragedy but a letter written by their leader did.
On an online auction on Thursday, April 26 that letter sold for $155,000. The band leader's name is Wallace Hartley and he was 33-years-old 100 years ago on April 15, 1912 when the ship went down. It was not a letter by some miracle preserved in a bottle on the debris field on the bottom of the North Atlantic, either, but one which Hartley had simply sent days before the tragedy, to his parents in England.
Titanic bandleader letter: $155,000
Hartley sent it April 11 in Queenstown, Ireland, now called Cobh, the ship's last port of call before heading out into the North Atlantic and its fate. He told his parents in the letter that the it was "a fine band and the boys seem very nice." He promised his parents he'd see them upon his return.
The letter was sold by an anonymous Canadian collector, who'd bought it in 1981 for just $2,431 and was purchased by an unnamed investment group from the United States; not surprisingly it's the largest sum ever fetched for a letter connected to the Titanic. The tragedy took the lives of 1,517 people; Hartley's body was recovered from the waters of the Atlantic.
In related news, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration released a photo taken on a 2004 Robert Ballard-lead mission to the site that they feel shows evidence of human remains on the ocean floor.