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‘Light up’ walking cane which survived the Titanic could fetch $500,000

By
2019-06-13

A walking cane which survived the sinking of the Titanic is expected to sell for more than $300,000 when it goes up for auction next month.

The cane, which features an electric light in the tip, was used by passenger Ella Holmes White to signal to survivors on other lifeboats after the ship sank on April 15, 1912, killing more than 1,500 people.

The historic cane will now cross the block at Guernsey’s Auction on July 14-15 during the ‘A Century at Sea: A Comprehensive Maritime Auction’, which takes place at the International Yacht Restoration School in Newport, Rhode Island.

The cane will be offered with an estimate of $300,000 – $500,000 – a price which would place it amongst the most valuable items of Titanic memorabilia ever sold.

The walking cane featuring an electric light in the tip, and its owner Ella Holmes White (Images: Guernsey’s / Encyclopedia Titanic)

Ella Holmes White boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg accompanied by her maid Amelia Bissette, her manservant Sante Ringhini and her companion Marie Young, along with their exotic and valuable French-bred chickens which were kept in the hold.

According to White’s account she remained inside her cabin for the entirety of her journey, and only left when the ship began to sink.

White later appeared at the public inquest into the tragedy in New York, where she recalled the moment the Titanic struck the iceberg:

“It did not seem to me that there was any very great impact at all. It was just as though we went over about a thousand marbles. There was nothing terrifying about it at all.”

White, Young and their maid Amelia escaped in lifeboat #8, but sadly their manservant Sante Ringhini was forced to remain onboard and went down with the ship.

During the inquest White also described how she had used the light in her cane when the light aboard the lifeboat failed to work properly:

“…we turned and went back, and lingered around there for a long time, trying to locate the other boats, but we could not locate them except by hearing them. The only way they could locate us was by my electric lamp.

“The lamp on the boat was absolutely worth nothing. They tinkered with it all along, but they could not get it in shape. I had an electric cane – a cane with an electric light in it – and that was the only light we had. We sat there for a long time, and we saw the ship go down, distinctly.”

White and Young subsequently returned home to New York, and six months after the tragedy Young wrote a detailed account of her experience which was published in the National Magazine:

“Vivid and endless are the impressions of that great night. They remain as closely folded in the brain as the shock of the discharge of guns, the cries of the drowning and the sobs of the broken hearted.”

The couple were living together in the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan when White died in 1942, and Young spent her final years in a New York rest home before her passing in 1959 at the age of 83.

Although the provenance of the cane is yet to be revealed by the auction house, it’s known that White bequeathed the bulk of her estate to White when she died.


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