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New Letters from Titanic Survivors

Today, Archives staff has put up on the web finding aids for letters in our collections from two survivors of the Titanic disaster. Have a look at the finding aids for the Mary Lines Letter and the Helen R. Ostby Letter under Special Collections and choose the category “Shipwrecks, Collisions, Salvage and Underwater Archaeology.”

Both these young women were first-class passengers on Titanic. Mary Lines, Paris-educated daughter of the president of the New York Life Insurance Company, boarded at Southampton, England. Helen Ostby, travelling with her father, a jeweler, came aboard in Cherbourg, France.

They came from very different backgrounds, but they are united in the eloquence with which they describe their thoughts. Mary Lines poetically writes: “I’ll never forget this sunrise; the sky clear as a glass of water, the sea calm as a mirror, and the enormous icebergs surrounding us, white as swans. ” Helen Ostby, much more pragmatic and business-like, is nevertheless poignant when she writes: “You probably have heard that the Mackay-Bennett ship found Father’s body which was a great relief especially to the boys—Mr. Warren has not yet been found and I doubt if this third ship will have much success.”

It is fitting that this week, the 100th anniversary of the RMS Titanic‘s maiden voyage and of her calamitous sinking, we highlight some of our collections that are related to that event. The Helen R. Ostby letter has only recently come to light in the Archives, so we are excited to bring it to you.

“The Largest Vessel & The Largest Floating Crane in the World, the White Star Liner ‘Titanic'”. From the Eldredge Collection at The Mariners’ Museum.
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