Lot 721

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An exceptionally rare relic of one of the most notorious vessel sinkings of all time, a breeches buoy, or a life ring with canvas support, discovered near the scene of the vessel's loss by a French naval vessel. The 28" diameter life ring with canvas sewn cover is painted yellow with the vessel's name "LUSITANIA" in black flanked by two small black stars. Sewn to the ring and further attached with hemp lines is a canvas seat with two leg openings, a large hole at front. The person to be rescued would place his legs into the holes with the rink about his waist. The victim and ring would then be pulled from one vessel to another along a line stretched between the two pints. This breeches buoy obviously came loose from the LUSITANIA as she went down. The original circular iron sliding ring where the ropes would meet above the victim's head is no longer present. The original provenance accompanying the breeches buoy ring is present, including a period note on a 12mo. sheet of paper, obviously written by a French speaker: "This buoy was picked up upon the scene of the disaster by the contre torpilleur 'Rafale' and was brought into Rochefort sue-mer- (station de navires de [?] Francais) and was sold together with other picked up wreckage to Lieut. de Vaisseau Besson by the sailors of the Rafale". Also present is the letter of provenance from the original owner of the buoy, the French naval officer "Lieutenant de Vaisseau Bresson", 3pp. 8vo., Rochefort (the site of a French naval base), May 3, 1917 in French to an unidentified man. Loosely translated: " You ask me any questions about the buoy which I will address...You know it is very difficult, especially for we French naval officers to give such details. On your insistence I was able to obtain [information] from one of my colleagues whose crew was able to seize that equipment at sea during a patrol trip...offering living proof of the sinister submarine warfare of our enemies. My colleague and friend who had that buoy was willing to offer that information to me...". The next owner of this historic relic was A. Piatt Andrew, Jr. (1873-1936), an economist, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, founder and director of the American Ambulance Field Service during World War I, and a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts. A "North Shore Breeze" article from Oct. 6, 1922 (copy included) describes this breeches buoy as being on display in Andrew's home "Red Roof" in East Gloucester, Mass. Thereafter, it remained within the family until about 2006 when it was sold to a militaria dealer, then to a colleague whose son has inherited this relic. Paperwork of various types from previous owners is also present. Also included are two original photographs of Andrew from his estate, a 32pp. 8vo. illustrated Cunard Line brochure with images of the accommodations of the Lusitania, Mauretania, and other vessels in the fleet, two period post cards picturing the Luisitania with 1910 schedules printed on the verso, a March, 1921 French military automobile service reunion program, two printed speeches by Andrew, newspaper clippings, and two Gloucester Daily Times" newspapers with front page stories covering Andrews' death and funeral services. A breeches buoy identical to this example has been displayed at the Imperial War Museum in London (photo included). Lifeboat and other lifesaving relics of the LUSITANIA are exceptionally rare, probably more so than those of the TITANIC. Only six out of 48 lifeboats were launched successfully, with several more overturning, splintering to pieces and breaking apart. Eighteen minutes after the torpedo struck, the bow struck the seabed while the stern was still above the surface, and in a manner similar to the sinking of Titanic three years earlier, the stern rose into the air and slid beneath the waves. In such a short span of time, compar

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July 8, 2015 10:00 AM EDT
Chesapeake City, MD, US

Alexander Historical Auctions LLC

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Bid Increments
From: To: Increments:
$0 $99 $10
$100 $499 $20
$500 $999 $50
$1,000 $1,999 $100
$2,000 $4,999 $250
$5,000 $9,999 $500
$10,000 $19,999 $1,000
$20,000 $49,999 $2,500
$50,000 $99,999 $5,000
$100,000 + $10,000