A hardtack cracker.
Yep, that's it.
|The Lusitania, about 1907 (Wikipedia)|
The passenger liner sank on May 7, 1915, torpedoed by a German U-Boat, nearly 1200 passengers lost their lives. Those who made it via lifeboat left a fair amount of items inside when they were rescued. The cracker (or biscuit, as the Brits would call it) was one of them. (It could also have been part of the survival food generally kept inside such boats.) From the article:
Weird, huh? Except...
This is one of only two examples of Lusitania's survival rations. (The other cracker is kept in an Irish museum.)
A side rabbit trail: at the time of Lusitania's sinking, the Germans explained that, even with its civilian status, the ship deserved to be fired on because it was carrying LOTS of munitions. No way, the Powers That Be, shouted. A lot of innocent people just died...How Dare They... etc. etc.
In 1982, the British government finally publicly admitted:
Successive British governments have always maintained that there was no munitions on board the Lusitania (and that the Germans were therefore in the wrong to claim to the contrary as an excuse for sinking the ship) ... The facts are that there is a large amount of ammunition in the wreck, some of which is highly dangerous. The Treasury have decided that they must inform the salvage company of this fact in the interests of the safety of all concerned.
So far, based on what various dive teams have found, more than FOUR MILLION rounds of .303 ammunition were on the ship at the time of its sinking. Not to mention the other ordnances...or the mysterious second explosion that occurred as it was going down. Hmmm. Go here for more. Some experts even argue that the Lusitania was deliberately exposed, in the hopes that she would be attacked -- because then out of loyalty to the Allied cause, it would draw the Americans into WWI. (It did...and they did.)
Back to the cracker...er, biscuit. Hardtack. Whatever.
This could all be considered irrelevant, and a bit silly, had not a Titanic cracker sold at auction in 2015 for $23,000. (15,000 pounds at the time -- or $19,483 US smackeroos today.)
|Here it is...worth more than its weight in gold.|
RMS Titanic sank in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912, taking more than 1500 passengers with it.
|The Titanic, proudly steaming along, only a few days before she sank. (Wikipedia)|
Based on the provenance:
James Fenwick, a passenger aboard another boat that came to the aid of Titanic survivors, took the Spillers & Bakers “Pilot” biscuit from the survival kit on one of the doomed ocean liner’s lifeboats and kept it as a souvenir. He slipped it into an envelope with a note that read, “Pilot biscuit from Titanic lifeboat April 1912.”
Titanic artifacts have been incredibly popular...and pricey. Margaret Brown's loving cup, awarded to the captain of the rescue ship Carpathia, sold for $200,000 in October 2015. Of course, items like this require a strong provenance -- and the loving cup was memorialized not only in print, but many photos.
|Curious about Mrs. Brown? Find out more in my book, Quilts of the Golden West --|
she's one of the people featured, along with a pattern based on this famous image.
Go to the Brickworks website for more.
Mention this post, and we'll even knock $5 off the $20 purchase price. Free shipping, too.
A cracker is a little more difficult to document, but there are obviously few doubts about its authenticity. We'll have to wait until April 27 to see if the Lusitania is just as popular as the Titanic, artifact-wise. My bet: we're talking at least $15,000 USD.
More on the Lusitania biscuit auction here.
More on the Titanic biscuit auction here.