A battery of forensics tests has determined that a violin found in a British man’s attic is the instrument that was used by the bandmaster of the Titanic to play, according to lore, “Nearer My God to Thee” during the ship’s last moments. Already offers to buy the ruined violin are pouring in. Craig Sopin, 55, a lawyer from Philadelphia, owner of one of the world’s largest collections of Titanic memorabilia and a leading Titanic expert, estimates the value of the violin to “exceed six figures, maybe seven figures.”
“I think certainly it’s the most iconic piece that’s come from the ship,” Sopin told ABCNews.com. “Not only is it something that people would have seen and someone important would have touched, but it’s an important part of the Titanic’s story.”
Bandmaster Wallace Hartley, 34, from Colne, Lancashire, died in the 1912 Titanic disaster and his brave and elegant playing amid the desperation of the doomed ship has become one of the central stories of the catastrophe. How the violin survived the wreck is not known for certain. The auction house Henry Aldrige and Son of Wiltshire, England, which has researched the instrument’s history, noted that several newspapers from May 1912 reported that Hartley was found with the instrument in a leather case strapped to his body. In 2006, the son of an amateur musician discovered the violin in a leather case with the initials “W. H. H.” while looking through his mother’s things in the attic. His mother had been given the violin by her former violin instructor.