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A pair of old binoculars recovered from the Titanic wreck. The ship, which had been promoted as "unsinkable," sank on April 15, 1912.Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic
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A woman's purse and hair pin found among the Titanic ruins.
RMS Titanic, Inc., which possesses the salvage rights to the Titanic, made seven expeditions to recover Titanic artifacts from the site of the wreckage between 1987 and 2004.Michel Boutefeu/Getty Images
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A rare paper artifact from the Titanic, this document belonged to a German immigrant and stated a declaration of intention of U.S. citizenship.
"Paper or textile items that were recovered survived because they were inside suitcases," said Alexandra Klingelhofer, vice president of collections for Premier Exhibitions Inc. "The tanned leather of the suitcases tended to protect them."Premier Exhibitions
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Paper currency from the Titanic wreck shown at a warehouse in Atlanta.Stanley Leary/AP
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Two parts of a destroyed clarinet recovered from the Titanic.
Music was a huge part of the entertainment on board, and the Titanic's band famously played on even as the ship went down.Wang He/Getty Images
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Rows of bowls retrieved from the Titanic wreckage. The fairly good condition of these artifacts contrasts greatly with the devastation of the ship's sinking, which killed an estimated 1,500 people. Michel Boutefeu/Getty Images
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A pair of gloves found in a suitcase near the Titanic.
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A decaying hat from the Titanic, which was recovered from the ocean floor during one of the several expeditions to the site.RMS Titanic, Inc
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Broken cherub statue that once adorned the grand staircase of the RMS Titanic. RMS Titanic, Inc
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This poorly preserved men's leather shoe only consists of the welt, top cap, and partial quarter with the insole. This Titanic artifact is rarely shown due to its fragile condition.
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A studded bracelet with the name "Amy" that was recovered from an undersea expedition to the site of the Titanic wreck.RMS Titanic, Inc
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A set of pajamas recovered from a suitcase. Roughly 1,500 passengers out of the estimated 2,224 aboard the ship were killed when it sank in 1912.Premier Exhibitions
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Rightfully called "The Big Piece," this 15-ton section of the Titanic was recovered from the ocean floor. The Titanic's wreckage wasn't discovered until 1985 by oceanographer Robert Ballard during a secret underwater expedition.RMS Titanic, Inc
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A pipe with a sculpted bowl belonging to one of the passengers aboard the sunken ship. More than 5,000 objects and personal items have been recovered from the wreckage so far.Michel Boutefeu/Getty Images
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A love letter written by Richard Geddes, a steward aboard the Titanic, to his wife. The letter was written on original Titanic stationery that was provided on the ship and still has its original White Star Line envelope. On April 10, 1912, Geddes wrote to his wife to describe a near-collision with the SS City of New York.
Onlookers saw the incident as a bad omen for the Titanic.Henry Aldridge & Son
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A ring retrieved from the sunken Titanic.RMS Titanic, Inc
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Sinai Kantor, then 34, was a passenger on the Titanic with his wife Miriam. The pair were from Vitebsk, Russia. They boarded the ship with second-class passenger tickets, which cost them £26 in 1912 or about $3,666 in today's currency. Although Sinai Kantor got his wife to a lifeboat, he died in the icy waters.
The pocket watch was recovered from Kantor's body during rescue efforts.
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A White Star Line receipt for "ene canary in cage." The receipt was recovered from Titanic passenger Marion Meanwell's alligator purse.
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One of the RMS Titanic's telegraphs that sunk with the ship during the tragedy.RMS Titanic, Inc
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A slightly chipped plate and cup set retrieved during a Titanic expedition.
RMS Titanic, Inc
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A violin played by bandmaster Wallace Hartley as the Titanic went down.
As the Titanic sank on April 15, 1912, the band famously played on. While some initially thought that the musicians were ordered to do so, a historian later discovered that the bandmates were not ship employees and had the same rights as any passenger to leave. It's believed that they played to calm people so they wouldn't panic.Peter Muhly/AFP/Getty Images
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Part of a chandelier on the Titanic that was recovered from the ocean floor. This artifact was among several items put up for auction in 2012.RMS Titanic, Inc
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A power device recovered from the sunken Titanic. Large fragments of the ship along with personal items from aboard the ship have been the subject of controversy and court battles, and many pieces still litter the seabed to this day.Wang He/Getty Images
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A waiter's pad page from the Titanic's à la carte restaurant. Paper artifacts like this are incredibly rare since they deteriorate quickly when in contact with saltwater and other natural elements.Premier Exhibitions
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Whistle that belonged to fifth officer Harold Lowe, who is heralded as one of the heroes of the Titanic tragedy. Lowe not only potentially served as the literal whistleblower of the disaster — he also commanded the 14th lifeboat and rescued survivors from the icy waters.
It's unclear whether Lowe blew this exact whistle that night, though its connection to one of the key figures of the tragedy is enough to make this artifact one of the most striking in the entire collection.Henry Aldridge & Son
25 Heartbreaking Titanic Artifacts — And The Powerful Stories They Tell
When the RMS Titanic first set sail in 1912, it was believed to be "unsinkable." The ship's maiden voyage, a cross-Atlantic journey from England to America, appealed to the public not just because of the ship's impressive size but also because of its extravagance.
Approximately 882 feet long and 92 feet wide, the Titanic weighed more than 52,000 tons when fully laden. Obviously, this left plenty of room for amenities. The ship's first-class section boasted veranda cafes, a gym, a swimming pool, and luxurious Turkish baths.
By all appearances, the Titanic was a dream come true. But the dream soon turned into a nightmare. Just four days after the ship had departed, it famously hit an iceberg and sank. In the gallery above, you can see some of the most haunting Titanic artifacts recovered from the wreckage.
Listen above to the History Uncovered podcast, episode 68: The Titanic, Part 4: Heroism And Despair In The Ship's Final Moments, also available on Apple and Spotify.
The Tragedy Of The Titanic
Wikimedia CommonsMore than 5,000 items have been retrieved from the Titanic's wreckage.
On April 10, 1912, the RMS Titanic departed from Southampton, England on its historic voyage to New York City. But disaster struck four days later when the massive ship crashed into an iceberg. In less than three hours after the collision, the Titanic sank into the North Atlantic Ocean.
"Well boys, you've done your duty and done it well. I ask no more of you," Captain Edward Smith allegedly told his crew shortly before the ship went down. "I release you. You know the rule of the sea. It's every man for himself now, and God bless you."
The Titanic was equipped to carry 64 lifeboats but was only outfitted with 20 (four of which were collapsibles). So the effort to evacuate became another disaster. It took about an hour before the first lifeboat was released into the sea. And most of the lifeboats weren't even filled to capacity.
Library of Congress The Titanic was believed to be an "unsinkable" luxury vessel.
The Titanic sent out multiple distress signals. While some vessels responded, most were too far away. And so the closest one, the RMS Carpathia, at 58 miles away, began heading toward the doomed ship.
Of the estimated 2,224 passengers and crew aboard the Titanic, roughly 1,500 died. About 700 people, mostly women and children, survived the tragedy. The survivors finally reached New York on April 18.
Historic Titanic Artifacts
Footage of a 2004 expedition to the Titanic wreckage.
The remains of the Titanic were lost to the sea for 73 years. In 1985, the wreck was uncovered by American oceanographer Robert Ballard and French scientist Jean-Louis Michel. The wreckage was located 12,500 feet underneath the ocean some 370 miles south of Newfoundland, Canada.
Since 1987, a private American company called RMS Titanic, Inc. has salvaged more than 5,000 artifacts from the Titanic. These relics include everything from pieces of the hull to china.
RMS Titanic, Inc. made seven research and recovery expeditions to recover Titanic artifacts from the underwater site between 1987 and 2004.
Since these expeditions, some Titanic artifacts have fetched thousands of dollars through auctions, such as an entry ticket to the ship's lavish Turkish baths — which sold for $11,000. Although glass, metal, and ceramic items are common among the collections, paper items are far rarer.
RMS Titanic, Inc.A 1994 court ruling granted the private company RMS Titanic, Inc. an exclusive right to salvage the entire wreckage.
"The paper or textile items that were recovered survived because they were inside suitcases. The tanned leather of the suitcases tended to protect them," said Alexandra Klingelhofer, vice president of collections for Premier Exhibitions Inc. Klingelhofer described the suitcases as "time capsules" that can give people a "sense of the person who owned the suitcase."
"It's like getting reacquainted with someone, the things that were important to them," Klingelhofer said.
Other noteworthy Titanic artifacts include the kimono said to be worn by survivor Lady Duff Gordon on the night of the tragedy (sold for $75,000) and a violin owned by Wallace Hartley, the ship's bandmaster who famously played on as the ship sank (sold for $1.7 million).
Preserving The Titanic's History
Gregg DeGuire/WireImageEven though thousands of Titanic artifacts have been retrieved in recent decades, much of the wreckage still sits at the bottom of the sea.
Many artifacts have been recovered from the wreckage but countless items from the Titanic tragedy are still sitting at the bottom of the sea, slowly deteriorating from corrosion, oceanic eddies, and undercurrents.
However, the RMS Titanic, Inc.'s announcement of its plans to conduct more explorations — including the intent to retrieve the ship's iconic radio equipment — sparked a backlash.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration argued in court documents that the radio equipment may be surrounded "by the mortal remains of more than 1,500 people," and therefore should be left alone.
But in May 2020, U.S. District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith ruled that RMS Titanic, Inc. has the right to retrieve the radio, citing its historic and cultural importance along with the fact that it may soon disappear.
However, the U.S. government filed a legal challenge in June, claiming that this plan would violate federal law and a pact with Britain that recognizes the wreck as a memorial site.
While there is an argument to be made that the deterioration of the submerged Titanic artifacts may be a good enough reason to continue retrievals from the site, some historians remain opposed to the radio rescue.
No matter how the story ends, there's no denying that there is still a field full of the Titanic's untouched history under the sea.