More than a century after it sank into the North Atlantic, the Titanic tragedy is inextricably linked with cold, hard cash. Now, writes UPI, a single lunch menu from the fateful voyage has raked in $88,000 at auction — and is linked to a fascinating tale of wealth and disaster.
The menu was saved by Abraham Lincoln Solomon, a wealthy New York businessman who escaped the sinking ship on one of its few lifeboats. UPI reports that it was auctioned off alongside a ticket and letter from another survivor. The story of how the menu, a piece of paper listing custard pudding, fillets of brill and other lunch items, survived is a saga in and of itself.
As Becky Little explains for National Geographic, passengers who escaped the ship on the very first lifeboat, later nicknamed the “Money Boat,” were accused of paying the crew to accompany them instead of saving the lives of others. Only 12 people were aboard the lifeboat, writes Little, despite it having the capacity to fit 40.
Though allegations of bribery were never proven, the theory still has legs today. Perhaps that played into the menu’s exorbitant, five-figure auction price — after all, Salomon was one of the people on the "Money Boat" who lived to tell his tale.
Or perhaps, the “unsinkable” boat that did sink just can’t be unlinked from big money. After all, the Titanic itself cost millions, and on board, there were tremendous disparities between the lives of rich and poor passengers. And then there's the matter of the fortunes of those who died in the 1912 crash — like John Jacob Astor, who was worth billions in modern dollars. Oh, and what about that little blockbuster film about the ship? The one James Cameron made? It’s grossed nearly $700 million since its debut. As it has for decades, the Titantic seems poised to attract controversy — and many more dollars — in the years to come.