The violin on which Titanic bandmaster Wallace Hartley reportedly played “Nearer, My God to Thee” as the ocean liner sank April 15, 1912, is currently on exhibit at the Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge.
The violin will be on display from May 22-July 27, then it will be taken to the Titanic sister museum in Branson, Mo., for show Aug. 1-15.
On Oct. 19 the British auction house Henry Aldridge and Son will put the instrument, which was discovered seven years ago in an English attic, on the auction block. It’s expected to fetch a six-figure price from the winning bidder.
Hartley was one of the 1,517 people who died when the Titanic sank. Survivors recalled him leading musicians in performing on the ship deck as passengers boarded lifeboats in the North Atlantic.
Hartley’s body was found 10 days after the ship sank. The violin was not listed in an inventory of belongings found with the musician. But three newspaper accounts reported his body was found with his violin’s case strapped to his chest.
Aldridge and Son spent seven years having experts examine the instrument and working to trace its history. Their research shows the violin was mailed in July 1912 to Hartley’s fiancé Maria Robinson. While some people interested in the Titanic have disputed that the violin could have survived the watery tragedy, other experts vouch for its authenticity. Among the pieces studied on the violin is a silver plate engraved with the words “For Wallace on the occasion of our engagement from Maria.” Robinson gave Hartley a violin in 1910.
When Robinson died in 1939 her sister gave the violin to the Salvation Army to use. The organization’s commander then gave the violin to a musician who deemed it virtually unplayable. That teacher gave the violin to a student in the early 1940s. The descendant of that student is the instrument’s current owner. He discovered the violin in his mother’s attic in 2006.
A portion from ticket sales while the violin is shown at Pigeon Forge and Branson goes to Strings Crossings. Belmont University’s School of Music hosts the summer camp for eighth- through 12-grade violin, viola, cello and bass students.
Shaped like the doomed ocean liner’s forward half, the Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge opened in 2010. Its interior includes re-created sections of the ship and hundreds of artifacts.