Of all the stories told about the Titanic disaster, one of the most famous describes the ship’s orchestra playing on the deck as passengers climbed into lifeboats and the vessel went down. It was thought that band leader Wallace Hartley’s violin was lost when the ship sank, but a UK auction house is claiming to have found the instrument and verified its authenticity.
Hartley died along with more than 1,500 others when the Titanic struck an iceberg in 1912. Reports vary as to what happened to his violin. Some say that he was found with the instrument. Other reports suggest the violin was lost at sea. New evidence supports the claim that a leather case was strapped to Hartley when his body was recovered, and that the violin was inside the case. The violin was returned to his fiance who donated it to the Salvation Army, who then gave it to a violin teacher.
Tests indicate that the violin did indeed spend time immersed in sea water, and a silver neck plate dates the instrument to the Titanic’s time period. Numerous scientists, experts, and forensic specialists have examined the violin and have verified its provenance. The violin has two long cracks in its body, but is said to be “incredibly well-preserved.” It will go on display later this month in Belfast City Hall.