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Lot #6058
Titanic: Pantryman Key of Saloon Steward Alfred Deeble - originates directly from the family and documented by the Provincial Secretary of Nova Scotia

Unique "Pantryman" key found on the body of Titanic saloon steward Alfred Arnold Deeble, originating directly from the family and documented by the Provincial Secretary of Nova Scotia

Estimate: $100000+
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Unique "Pantryman" key found on the body of Titanic saloon steward Alfred Arnold Deeble, originating directly from the family and documented by the Provincial Secretary of Nova Scotia

Remarkable Titanic key belonging to 1st class saloon steward Alfred Arnold Deeble, recovered from Deeble's body upon its recovery (as "Body No. 270") by the Mackay-Bennett. The skeleton-type key, rusted from its extended exposure to salt water, measures approximately 3.75″ long and is marked "103" on the head; a 2″ long brass plate marked "Pantryman" is attached by a metal loop.

In the inventory of property found on Deeble's body there is listed a 'bunch of keys with brass plate marked 'Pantry man,'' as documented by the Provincial Secretary of Nova Scotia. Per correspondence from Harold Wingate of the White Star Line, Deeble's personal effects were to be returned to his sister. The key has descended through the family for four generations, and is accompanied by a provenance statement tracing the key's ownership history and the family's genealogy.

In part: "Alfred Arnold Deeble joined the Royal Navy on July 10, 1900. Later, Alfred was a singer and performed at the Adriatic Athletic and Social Club, at Scullard's Hotel, South Hampton, on April 28th, 1911 [an original program for this event is included]. His eldest sister, Lily Florence Deeble was engaged to John Herbert Strugnell, who was a steward and singer as well, along with his older brother, Harold Strugnell. They both sang at the same hotel as Alfred Arnold Deeble.

Alfred Arnold Deeble died in the sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic and his body was found on an iceberg recovered by the Mackay-Bennett and was buried at Fairview Lawn Cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada on May 3, 1912…Alfred's sister, Lily Deeble wrote a letter in October 1912 to the White Star Line requesting the effects found on her brother's body. They were forwarded to Lily Deeble through the South Hampton Office of the White Star Line by the Board of Trade. Lily was now in possession of the 'pantry man' key that was used on the R.M.S. Titanic and would be handed down 4 generations.

Lily Deeble met William (Bill) Thomas Norbury, they were married and lived in Germania, Wyoming. Later they moved to Greybull, Wyoming where they had two children - Beatrice (Mickey) Lilly Norbury and Ted Norbury. The 'pantry man' key was passed down to her daughter, Beatrice Norbury who married Joseph Thomas McNulty, and they lived in Cody, Wyoming. Beatrice Norbury McNulty passed away in May 1966 and her daughter, Linda Jo McNulty, chose the 'pantry man' key as her choice item to remember her mother because she had always been fascinated by all the stories her mom had told her about the key and her Uncle Alfred." Linda then passed the key down to her four children, who now offer it up for auction.

The key is accompanied by a wealth of original family photographs, highlighted by three portraits of Alfred Arnold Deeble (one with a missing corner), plus a family photo of Alfred with siblings Lily, Ada, Albert, Ernest, and Charles, and a vintage mounted photograph of his grave marker in Nova Scotia. Also includes two portraits of John Herbert Strugnell, a fellow Titanic saloon steward who also perished in the accident, and the fiancé of Lily Florence Deeble; notably, one of the portraits was signed in ink shortly before the disaster, "Yours very affectionately, Jack, 1912." Strugnell's body was never identified.

Additional early 20th century photographs include: a photo from Charles Deeble's wedding, and portraits of Lily Deeble, Ada Deeble, Ernest Deeble, Albert Deeble, Charles Deeble, and Harold Strugnell (brother to John). Also included are some family photographs from the mid-century through the present day, culminating in a 2011 photo of Linda Jo McNulty Davis visiting the burial site of her great-uncle, Alfred Arnold Deeble, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Any Titanic artifact with a well-documented lineage is of the utmost desirability; that this originates directly from the family who witnessed dual tragedies in the deaths of saloon stewards Alfred Arnold Deeble and John Herbert Strugnell makes it all the more poignant.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Remarkable Rarities
  • Dates: #669 - Ended September 23, 2023