News from San Diego
An interesting letter, written on board the ill-fated Titanic, which escaped destruction because it was posted in Ireland, has come up for auction.
When the Titanic sank 106 years ago, only one of the 2,200 passengers was bound for San Diego: Kate Buss, 36, who was headed here to join her fiance.
Buss survived the fabled sinking, and now one of the letters she wrote on board to a brother is up for auction in England this weekend. It talks about the “really magnificent” first-class cabins, mentions dining with two clergymen, and says her only complaint is the new-paint smell.
“No sign of sea sickness yet,” she wrote. “I mustn’t crow.”
The handwritten, four-page letter, penned on official “On board RMS Titanic” stationery, is dated April 10, 1912, the day the liner departed Southampton, England, for its maiden voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to New York.
It was mailed at a stop in Queenstown, Ireland, which is why it didn’t go down with the ship, which hit an iceberg shortly before midnight on April 14. About 1,500 people died.
Saturday’s auction by Henry Aldridge & Son in Devizes, England, which bills itself as “one of the leading authorities in the world of all things Titanic,” includes 240 lots, many of them related to the ship: a menu from the first-ever meal onboard, postcards, a third-class steward’s badge.
Auctioneers estimate the Buss letter will go for somewhere between 20,000 to 25,000 pounds (about $28,000 to $35,000). It says the letter, written to her brother Percy James, “gives the reader a vivid snapshot of life onboard.”
Among Titanic’s 700 survivors, Buss’ story is not well known. She wasn’t rich like Benjamin Guggenheim, wasn’t a movie star like Dorothy Gibson. After she was rescued from a lifeboat and taken about the Carpathia, another ship, she avoided the media. She never testified in front of the American and British boards of inquiry.
According to the web site Encyclopedia Titanica, Buss traveled on to San Diego and married Samuel Willis on May 11, 1912, not quite a month after the sinking. Nine months later, they had a daughter, Sybil Lillian, whose middle name came from another Titanic passenger Buss had befriended.
They lived here into the 1920s before moving to Santa Monica and then Pasadena. After her husband died in 1953, Buss followed her daughter to Oregon. She died in a nursing home there in 1972 at age 96.
Etched on her gravestone is her married name, her years of birth and death, and this: “TITANIC SURVIVOR.