BRANSON, MO, May 20, 2013 — “The Titanic Museum Attraction has always been noted for the excitement and freshness of the experience it provides its guests,” said Lianne Milton, one of the owners of the Branson Tourism Center, “but this is out of the box. Imagine, the very violin that played ‘Nearer My God To Thee’ as the greatest maritime tragedy of all time was unfolding, over 101 years ago, will have its first and only American displays at the Titanic Museum Attractions in Pigeon Forge and Branson; how special is that?” Milton’s comments followed the press release by Titanic Museum Attractions earlier this morning that the long lost violin of the Titanic’s bandmaster, Wallace Hartley, commonly referred to as the “Titanic Violin” will be displayed in America exclusively and for a limited time only at the Titanic Museum Attractions, first in Pigeon Forge, TN from May 23 to July 27 and in Branson, MO from August 1 to September 7.
The band and their courageous act of continuing to play “Nearer My God To Thee” in the midst of the frantic and hectic activity taking place all around them as the doomed ship gradually sank into her frigid watery grave was described by one newspaper at the time as an act that “Will rank among the noblest in the annals of heroism at sea“ and has played a pivotal role in the memory of that horrific night in books, movies and other depictions of the event. News accounts indicate that Hartley’s body was found floating 10 days after the sinking with his violin in his leather valise, with some jewelry, strapped to his chest above his life vest.
There is general agreement that it was returned to Maria Robinson, who was Hartley’s fiancée and had given it to him in 1910 when they became engaged. Reports indicate that after her death in 1939 the violin was given to “a Major Renwick of the Bridlington Salvation Army” who then gave it to a violin teacher who gave it to the mother of the current owner, in whose family it has been in for the last 70 years, many of them in an attic, until it was discovered by her son in 2006 when he found it in a leather case with the initials “WHH” engraved on it.
He, while remaining anonymous, turned it over to the auction house of Henry Aldridge and Son of Wiltshire, England, because of their expertise in dealing with Titanic artifacts and memorabilia, for authenticity. That process has taken a number of years and involved both extensive forensic testing of the violin and its silver engraved plate reading “For Wallace on the occasion of our engagement from Maria” as well as the examination of a trail of documentary evidence.
The results have led experts to much the same conclusion as that expressed by Craig Sopin, owner of one of the largest private Titanic collections of artifacts and memorabilia. He said, “To say that I was skeptical at first would be an understatement. But after I conducted an exhaustively detailed investigation into the history and forensics of the instrument, I became convinced beyond a doubt that this violin belonged to Wallace Hartley and that is was with him on the Titanic.”
John Joslyn, the owner of Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge, TN and Branson, MO said, “After careful review of all the facts, we agree with the experts that this violin belonged to Wallace Hartley, bandleader on RMS Titanic. We’re honored our museums are the only two in the United States to display this important artifact and share the Wallace Hartley story.”
After the violin’s final American display at the Branson Titanic Museum Attraction from August 1 through September 7 it is scheduled to travel back to England for auction by Henry Aldridge and Son on Saturday, Oct. 19. Due to this historical exhibit, for the first time the museum will host a special VIP preview at 8:30 a.m. everyday starting, in Branson, on August 1 which will be limited to 25 people per day. Regular admission tickets will begin daily at 9 a.m. Reservations are required for all tickets and may be purchased through the Branson Tourism Center by calling 800 785-1550or through its website, www.BransonTourismCenter.com.