A rosewood violin played by bandmaster Wallace Hartley on the Titanic deck as the ship sank has been confirmed as authentic by investigators, and could soon be brought to auction. The cracked, water-damaged instrument is easily one of the most significant artifacts from the century-old tragedy and is worth six figures. It will likely be sold in auction in the near future, but for now will be exhibited in Wiltshire, England, and later in Northern Ireland, where the ship was built.
Hartley led seven other band members in hymns to calm passengers as they lined up for lifeboats. He and the other musicians went down with the ship while performing “Nearer, My God, To Thee.”
The instrument was found inside a leather valise, engraved with Hartley’s initials, that was strapped to his body. It was submerged in the salt water for 10 days, until his body was recovered.
The violin was an engagement gift from Hartley’s fiancée, Maria Robinson. After Robinson died, her sister donated the valise, with the violin and Hartley’s cigarette case and gold ring, to the Salvation Army. From there, it was given to a music teacher, who then gave it to another amateur musician, the mother of the current seller.
Her son — the current, anonymous owner — found the cracked violin in her attic in 2006.