A pocket watch recovered from a victim of the R.M.S. Titanic, owned by a New York-bound Russian immigrant killed on his way to America accompanied by his wife, is expected to sell for $20,000 or more in Heritage Auctions’ Americana & Political Auction Aug. 25.
The watch is consigned by a descendant of Miriam and Sinai Kantor, husband and wife named on the official list of Titanic victims and survivors. Both from Vitebsk, Russia, he was just 34 years old, and she just 24, when he paid £26 for ticket No. 244367. The two were among 285 Second-Class passengers and boarded the ship together in Southampton, England.
The couple were university graduates; Sinai Kantor was a furrier and intended to sell trunks of furs to fund the couple’s goal to each study dentistry and medicine when they arrived and settled in the Bronx, New York. That was until their lives were shattered in the early hours of April 12, 1912. When the Titanic collided with an iceberg in the North Atlantic, Miriam was ushered on to lifeboat 12, one in which men were prohibited from entering because of a “women and children first” protocol for loading lifeboats.
Roughly 30 passengers were in the lifeboat when it was lowered off the port side, but survivors made room for about 30 more. According to official reports, it was the last boat to reach the rescue ship R.M.S. Carpathia after 8 a.m.
A cable repair ship named the C.S. Mackay-Bennett arrived eight days later to recover as many victims as possible. Sinai Kantor’s body was pulled from the icy water during the grueling, seven-day operation. He was labeled “Body No. 283” and embalmed on the ship. He is buried at Mount Zion Cemetery, Queens, New York.
“The sinking of the Titanic is one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century,” Heritage Auctions’ Historical Consignment Director Don Ackerman said. “The family passed the watch down through generations for 106 years. A piece that was aboard the ship and a documented history from the family makes this a bittersweet and really rare opportunity for collectors.”
It was not easy for Miriam to recover her husband’s belongings. Only after extensive legal effort did she receive the rest of his effects, which included clothing, Kantor’s Russian passport, a notebook, money, wallets, a “silver watch,” a telescope and corkscrew. The property was sent to the White Star Line offices in New York and then delivered to her May 24, 1912.
The Swiss-made open-face silver-on-brass watch, with its original movement and a diameter of three inches, includes numerals that are Hebrew letters. The back cover has an embossed design that shows Moses holding the Ten Commandments.
The watch’s movement is rusted, the result of immersion in salt water, and the hands are nearly all deteriorated and the dial is stained.
The consignor wishes to remain anonymous at this time. The watch remained in the family for years and will be sold with a letter of provenance from the consignor, a descendant of the Kantors, along with copies of letters issued in the aftermath of the tragedy, sent to Miriam Kantor.
Additional highlights in the Aug. 25-26 Americana & Political Auction include:
- A highly significant large 1844 Campaign Flag Banner for James K. Polk and George Dallas (est. $200,000)
- A “Holy Grail” Jugate Button for 1920 Running Mates James M. Cox and Franklin Roosevelt (est. $24,000)
- An extremely rare political cartoon depicting the Boston Tea Party, dated 1773-74 (est. $24,000)
- A Guillotine, the only one ever offered in American auction (est. $24,000)
- A rare Official White House Presidential Flag, used during the latter part of the Dwight D. Eisenhower administration with overlap into the John F. Kennedy administration (est. $20,000)