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Titanic Deck Chair

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Perhaps the rarest and most coveted Titanic relics, one of only seven deck chairs known to exist

Exceedingly rare original Titanic deck chair, measuring approximately 37.75 x 22.5 x 54, one of only seven still known to exist. The chair displays expected wear, and its caned seat is mostly present although a center portion is broken with some loss of cane (this could have occurred on impact with the water but is more likely the result of use since the time of recovery). There is some evidence of minor repairs throughout consistent with the entry in the Mackay-Bennett’s logbook relating to repairs made by a carpenter. The lower portion of the chair is imprinted, “Made By R. Holman & Co. Boston Mass. USA.” The lot is accompanied by a detailed letter of authenticity from renowned Titanic author, curator and deck chair authority Steve Santini.

This Titanic deck chair shows signs of having been repaired in a few areas where it suffered breakage during the sinking. These repairs were likely made by the carpenter of the Mackay Bennett as the ships log makes mention of the carpenter repairing Titanic deck chairs a few days after the vessel made port in Halifax, Nova Scotia). The seat appears to have been re-caned (Circa 1912), and the entire upper surface of the chair has been coated in a varnish or stain post sinking. The underside of the chair retains a grayish, weathered wood appearance most likely caused from the chair being exposed to salt sea water prior to recovery by the Mackay-Bennett. In the summer of 2012 this Titanic deck chair was featured in the “Titanic: Unsinkable Passion” exhibit presented at The Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre in Southampton, Ontario, Canada, and it has appeared on television in numerous countries including Norway, Finland, Denmark, Australia, and New Zealand. From the Titanic Concepts Inc. collection.

Titanic baker Charles Joughin claimed to have thrown at least 50 deck chairs into the water to act as flotation devices. Many more must have been strewn about as the ship slipped beneath the waves. Frederick Hamilton, a crewman aboard the body recovery vessel, Mackay-Bennett, recorded in his personal diary on April 21, 1912, that “The ocean is strewn with a litter of woodwork, chairs, and bodies.” The official logbook of the Mackay-Bennett records the recovery of multiple deck chairs from the Titanic wreckage over a period of several days, as well as their repair by the ship’s carpenter, suggesting that some of them were intended to be made functional again.

Deck chairs aboard the great liners represented the epitome of luxury and opulence. Passengers would often relax against a cooling ocean spray, sometimes covered with a blanket while attended to by the ever present, and attentive, deck stewards. On Titanic, first and second class passengers had the opportunity to reserve their chairs for the voyage, upon which a name card would be inserted into a special metal frame affixed for this purpose to some of the chairs, such as the chair offered here. Although the deck chairs were made of wood (beech), usually with caned seats, they were amazingly comfortable. Designed to a full body length with a headboard and foot rest, some of Titanic’s deck chairs ultimately made their way to porches in Nova Scotia homes where they were brought ashore by the body recovery ships, providing an unexpected amenity to average income families against the backdrop of the terrible tragedy which made their availability possible.

The deck chairs used by White Star Line, Titanic’s parent company, came in different styles and configurations, all of which were unique to that line. They were generally interchangeable between the company’s ships but, in some respects, were also unique to certain vessels. For example, most of the chairs made for White Star had stars carved into their headrests. Titanic was the one known exception as some of its deck chairs, while similar in every other respect to other chairs in use, did not contain a star. This is thought to be attributable to a furniture company in Boston, R. Holman & Co., simply not having the punch tool used to provide the outline for the star, unlike those produced by the British furniture firms under contract to the line. The Holman company existed for a brief period, opening in 1909, and is believed to have manufactured a relatively small run of deck chairs destined for Titanic as there were simply not enough chairs in the line’s existing stores to accommodate that much new deck space! The chair offered here is one of that small run, and is a close match to the Holman chairs prominently pictured in a photo taken on the decks of Titanic on April 11, 1912, in Queenstowne, Ireland. Provenance: The Steve Santini Collection.

Today, some 100 years since Titanic’s demise, these graceful chairs have all but disappeared; very few are known to still exist. Deck chairs were designed to be functional as well as aesthetically inviting. That this piece of furniture once graced the decks of R.M.S. Titanic and was perhaps directly associated with some of Titanic’s most famed and influential figures, makes this an iconic piece of history. There is no telling when, if ever, another Titanic deck chair will ever be publicly available.

Provenance: Property of a Private Collector. Oral history of recovery by C.S. Mackay-Bennett. Detailed provenance letter, Steve Santini (2012). Note: The chair can be folded for transport or storage.