|The fawn-colored, soft homburg pictured above boasts a fascinating history: It was the headgear worn off the sinking Titanic by first class passenger Frederick Spedden.
It comes as a gift to the Ocean Liner Museum's collection from Eben Richards of McLean, Virginia. An article about Mr Richards's mother Enid was featured in the Winter 1995 Gazette, prompted by his earlier gift of some ephemera. Traveling transatlantic as a single woman long before Eben was born, his mother was the devastating lady passenger who cut such a wide social swath on board Cunard's Laconia during a westbound crossing in March of 1929.
The Spedden and Richards families had been very close friends for years. When asked about the hat's provenance, Mr Richards responded: "Of course, I have only Mr Spedden's word that the hat was actually on the Titanic, but he was a man of great strength of character and I never knew him to fabricate.
The hat is in remarkably fine condition--supple, clean and with a rich nap. The interior is not original, Mr Richards' confesses; it had become so tattered and fragile that it was relined in Chicago in the 1960's
Of course, Mr Spedden's son Douglas has achieved almost greater notoriety than his father because of Layton H. Coleman's book published recently by Madison Press, Polar, the Titanic Bear.
|Narrated as a diary written by Mrs (Daisy) Spedden, it tells the story of how the teddy bear, nicknamed Polar, survived the sinking liner, disembarking with Douglas Spedden into a lifeboat.
There is a photograph in the book, taken on board Titanic by Father Brown en route to Queenstown. It shows Spedden fils playing with his top on the vessel's after promenade deck while his father watches.
It would be nice to be able to state that the hat Spedden pere wears in the photograph is the same one that reached the Museum more than eight decades later. But he is wearing instead typical shipboard headgear of the period, a snap-brim tweed cap.
However, it is highly probable that Spedden traveled with two different hats, a formal one for street wear ashore, both in England and New York, as well as a more sportif cap to be used exclusively during the crossing. When the time came for him to select a hat for abandoning ship that cold night, he apparently chose his soft--and warm--homburg.
Frederick Spedden lived to a ripe old age, dying of a heart attack suffered after he dove into a cold Florida pool, ironic fate for a Titanic survivor.
The Board of Trustees of the Ocean Liner Museum extends its warmest thanks to Eben Richards for his generous and invaluable gift