The ship they chose for their journey to New York was the ill-fated Titanic.
One hundred and six years later, the pocket watch Sinai had been wearing is coming up for auction in Dallas on August 25, estimated at more than $20,000. It has been consigned by a descendant of the husband and wife who are named on the official list of Titanic victims and survivors.
Both from Vitebsk, he was just 34, and she was 24, when he paid £26 for ticket No 244367. The two were among 285 second-class passengers and boarded the ship together in Southampton.
Sinai was a furrier and intended to sell trunks of furs to fund the couple’s goal to each study dentistry and medicine when they arrived and settled in the Bronx, New York.
When the Titanic collided with an iceberg in the north Atlantic in the early hours of April 12, 1912, Miriam was ushered onto lifeboat 12, one in which men were prohibited from entering because of a ‘women and children first’ protocol for loading lifeboats.
Roughly 30 passengers were in the lifeboat when it was lowered off the port side, but survivors made room for about 30 more. According to official reports, it was the last boat to reach the rescue ship RM Carpathia after 8am.
A cable repair ship named the CS Mackay-Bennett arrived eight days later to recover as many victims as possible. Sinai’s body was pulled from the icy water during the gruelling, seven-day operation. He was labelled ‘Body No 283’ and embalmed on the ship. He is buried at Mount Zion Cemetery, Queens, New York.
It was not easy for Miriam to recover her husband’s belongings. Only after extensive legal effort did she receive the rest of his effects, which included clothing, Kantor’s Russian passport, a notebook, money, wallets, a ‘silver watch’, a telescope and corkscrew. The property was sent to the White Star Line offices in New York and then delivered to her on May 24, 1912.
The Swiss-made open-face silver-on-brass watch, with its original movement and 3in diameter, includes numerals that are Hebrew letters. The back cover has an embossed design that shows Moses holding the Ten Commandments. The watch’s movement is rusted, the result of immersion in salt water, and the hands are nearly all deteriorated and the dial is stained.
The watch will be sold with a letter of provenance from the consignor, a descendant of the Kantors, along with copies of letters issued in the aftermath of the tragedy, sent to Miriam.
On August 1, a gold medal awarded to Ernest GF Brown of the Carpathia in recognition of his ‘outstanding contribution’ to the Titanic survivors sold for £45,000 at Buckinghamshire saleroom Bourne End Auction Rooms.
ATG also reported recently on how group of museums, with the backing of film-maker James Cameron, has teamed up to buy artefacts from the wreck of the Titanic.
The Royal Museums Greenwich, National Museums Northern Ireland, Titanic Belfast and Titanic Foundation hope to buy the entirety of the Titanic Artefacts Collection and bring them home to the UK and Ireland.
Premier Exhibitions, the US firm that owned the rights to salvage items from the Titanic wreck, filed for Chapter 11 in a US Bankruptcy Court in 2017.