A 1906 US silver half dollar, recovered from the body of Titanic victim John W. Gill. Gill was a second-class passenger travelling to America to seek a new life and home for himself and his wife, who had remained in England. Perishing in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic, Gill’s body was the 155th body recovered by the Mackay-Bennett, eventually being buried at sea. Numerous objects were recovered from his body and catalogued before being returned to his widow, including this silver piece, all of which were included in the inventory list prepared by the provincial coroner of Nova Scotia. Sarah Gill was never able to bring herself to spend the money and retained it with his other effects including his pocket watch, keys, ring, and additional money and everything remained with the family for 90 years. All possessions recovered from Gill were sold in the April 2002 Henry Aldridge and Son Titanic 90th anniversary collection auction, and are accompanied by a catalog from that auction, as well as a photocopy of the catalog page from Aldridge and Son’s 100th anniversary auction, where this piece was offered singly.
Spending £13 for his ticket, Gill was supposed to be joined on the voyage by his wife and father-in-law to start a new life in America, but he travelled alone when Sarah and her father stayed behind to complete their business, while intending to join John later that year. Married for only two months when he died, his wife fell in to such a state of shock that she was unable to speak for over 20 years. A heart-wrenching relic of a young couple’s promising future shattered by the tragedy of April 15, 1912.
Provenance: John W. Gill Family
Henry Aldridge & Son Auction, 2002
Henry Aldridge & Son Auction, 2012 RR Auction COA.
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