One year before the centennial of the Titanic's sinking, a letter written by a prominent Minneapolis businessman on Titanic stationery the day it sailed is one of more than 100 items of the doomed ship's memorabilia sold Friday night in New York for $100,570.
The collection, which had been expected to sell for $50,000 to $75,000, was one of seven lots of Titanic material sold by Philip Weiss Auctions in Oceanside, N.Y. It was purchased by a private collector who asked not to be identified.
The letter is on stationery that reads "On board R.M.S. Titanic" and is dated April 10, 1912 -- five days before the ship, on its first and last voyage, hit an iceberg and sank in the North Atlantic. It was written by passenger John Pillsbury Snyder of Minneapolis, who with his wife, Nelle, had just spent two months in Europe on their honeymoon. Along with other honeymooners told to get on lifeboats soon after the ship struck the iceberg, they escaped with their lives.
According to researchers, 25 of the Titanic's passengers were traveling to Minnesota. Most were Scandinavian emigrants. Eleven Minnesota-bound passengers survived, including Snyder, the grandson of Minnesota's eighth governor, and his 22-year-old wife. John Snyder died in 1959, Nelle Snyder in 1983.
A unidentified descendant consigned the artifacts to the auction company.
The collection also included a photograph taken April 18 after the ocean liner Carpathia brought survivors to New York. It shows the Snyders, who were returning from their honeymoon in England, wearing the same clothes they had on the night the Titanic sank.
Before the Titanic left Southhampton, England, Snyder, used the ship's stationery bearing the red White Star Line flag to write to the owner of a London tobacco shop, thanking him for supplying the cigars he was enjoying on board. The letter was mailed just before the ship embarked.
Even more important in historical terms is another letter in the collection that Snyder wrote his father after returning to Minneapolis: "We were both asleep when the boat hit. ... When we reached the top deck, only a few people were about and we all were told to go down & put on our life belts. ... We were almost the very first people placed in the Lifeboat. Only a very few people were on deck at the time and they thought it much safer to stay on the big boat than to try the life boat."
He wrote that he could tell the ship was going down because he could see fewer lines of lit portholes as time went by. "Finally, the bow went under," he wrote, and "the finest boat in the world was doomed."
This past April marked the 99th anniversary of the ship's sinking.
Other separate Titanic-related auction items of interest included:
• A 1906 half-dollar coin recovered from the body of Titanic victim John Gill. It sold for $3,850; the estimated sale price was $1,000 to $2,000.
• A portrait of the Titanic's Captain Edward Smith in his wife's locket. It sold for $3,500; the estimated sale price was $1,500 to $2,500.
• A small piece of the ship's carpet taken by steward F. Dent Ray during the ship's construction in Belfast. It sold for $1,600 and had an estimated sale price of $2,000 to $3,000.
Bill Bleyer of Newsday and archived Star Tribune stories contributed to this report.