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Titanic Life Boat Flag

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Incredibly scarce flag removed from a Titanic lifeboat. Painted cast bronze flag and mast measures approximately 9.25 x 8. Red and black swallowtail flag and mast features a five-point white star cast in relief in the middle. Flag is screwed in to a 13.75 x 9 wooden plaque (Note: The screws attaching the plaque to the wooden board are not original to the period). Expected weathering and paint loss, otherwise fine condition. Accompanied by a Carpathia boarding pass, 6 x 9, issued to Istivan Osatai, stamp-dated April 8, 1912, showing Osatai departing New York at noon on April 11 and bound for Budapest. Also included is am analytical report of the flag done by the Institute of Nuclear Research of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

The rescue ship Carpathia brought 13 of Titanic’s 20 lifeboats back to New York. There are numerous theories of what became of these boats. Some historians believe they were left to rot at the Lane Lifeboat Company in Brooklyn while others believe in a more practical fate for the boats: that they were re-used aboard Olympic when additional boats were added to that ship. If this was the case, the company would have likely wanted to keep it secret so as not to concern any superstitious passengers. Whatever their fate, one thing is certain: souvenir hunters took such a toll on the lifeboats accoutrements that police and security officers had to be assigned to protect them. Ironically, stories abound how some of those assigned to protect the boats managed to acquire their own souvenirs or allowed some others to do so. Ref. p. 197 of Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy, Second Edition, by John P. Eaton and Charles A. Haas (W.W. Norton & Company, 1995).

Each of Titanic’s 16 wooden lifeboats contained three separate plaques screwed into their hulls. One plaque said “S.S. Titanic.” This may seem unusual since Titanic herself was referred to as “R.M.S. Titanic.” However, the reason for this designation, which stands for Royal Mail Steamer, is that Titanic had a contract to carry the royal mail. She was always, “S.S. Titanic.” If the mail contract had ended, the RMS designation, in reality a courtesy title, would have been dropped. The second plaque said “Liverpool,” which referred to Titanic’s registered port of call. The third plaque was the most visual. It was a White Star Line red burgy or company flag, located below the Liverpool plaque, and is the one offered here. One might think that given a choice, souvenir hunters would prefer the flag as it was the only plaque consisting of a colorful displayable image, however, the other plaques were smaller, had less screws, and were simply easier to remove.

On the rare occasion a lifeboat plaque makes its way to market, it is often accompanied by an oral history, the details of which have sometimes been lost. Amazingly, in this case, not only does this plaque come with an oral, but it is also acompanied by the original travel receipt of Istivan Osatai, the gentlemen who originally removed the plaque from a lifeboat, showing that he was a passenger on Carpathia on the very voyage that rescued Titanic’s survivors, and her lifeboats! Since Osatai had the “advantage” of being on Carpathia, he likely acquired the plaque before the boats were offloaded at the White Star Line pier in New York.

The plaque is a match to similar known White Star Line plaques in every way and displays the appropriate patina and wear for its age. There is no way to overstate the rarity and desirability of such an iconic piece of Titanic’s story.