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Titanic tree offers Edwardian Era history lesson

Titanic tree offers Edwardian Era history lesson


When we arrived late on the last day of the Quad City Arts Festival of Trees, we saw that only a few of the beautifully decorated Christmas trees were left for bid or raffle. Most of the trees had been sold

I had no intention of bidding on a tree. I have three trees from previous festivals. As we were leaving, one of my granddaughters said to me, “Did you see the Titanic tree?”

The White Star Line’s supersized ship, RMS Titanic, was a British passenger liner that sank in the North Atlantic Ocean April 15, 1912 after colliding with an iceberg on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City. (There is a cotton replica of an iceberg on the tree) More than 1,500 people lost their lives.

The story of the Titanic is timeless. It made headlines in 1985 when its grave on the bottom of the ocean was discovered. It has inspired countless books, several notable movies and now a Christmas tree.

The Titanic tree is decorated with symbols of the voyage and fashion statement symbols such as hats. The ship became known for its wealthy first class passengers and their reckless fashion extravagance.

The Titanic Era, 1910-1912, brought the Edwardian Era to an end. During that period, clothing was quite detailed. Edwardian blouses and dresses had many tucks, ruffles and hand beading. Hats were elaborate. (There are three on the tree). The year 1912 became known for lavishness and showing off of wealth. The long staircase on the Titanic was an excellent venue for making a grand entrance in one’s finery.

Normally first- and second-class passengers on a luxury ship had a lavish five-day party. On the Titanic they had a four-day party. Women spent months planning their wardrobe for the trip. Since they changed four times a day on the voyage they brought along their maids. A suit was worn for breakfast; a “tea gown” for tea; a different evening dress every night and night clothes.

Traditional etiquette rules dictated women wear gloves in public except at meals. (There is a pair of white gloves on the tree).

Jewelry was depictive of the Art Nouveau and Edwardian eras. Necklaces were short for dancing and long for other activities. There were rhinestone brooches and buckles; teardrop earrings; pendants with floral swirl motifs and enamel, colored stones and pearls; gold bar pins; lavaliere necklaces; gold bangle bracelets and gemstone rings.

The blue stone in the pendant thrown into the ocean by the main character, Rose, in the movie "Titanic” was not an authentic replica of the real pendant, according to Dana Hunter writing for “Scientific American.” The real pendant was a deep-blue oblong sapphire that graced the neck of 19-year-old Kate Florence Phillips, Worcester, England.

Henry Samuel Morley, 20 years her senior, who was the owner of one of the shops where Ms. Phillips worked, gave her the pendant. The two boarded the Titanic as second-class passengers. Kate was pregnant. They planned to start a new life in San Francisco. He died in the icy waters of the Atlantic. She went home on the Celtic with the keys to her trunk and her necklace, “The Love of the Sea.”

Ms. Phillips later remarried, but it ended in divorce. According to "Titanic: The true story of the real ‘Heart of the Ocean’ necklace," from the Washington Times archives, she battled mental illness and spent time in an asylum. The  April 12, 2012 article said she neglected her daughter, Ellen, who was born just under nine months after the Titanic sinking. As an adult, Ellen Walker spent years trying unsuccessfully to have Mr. Morley's name listed on her birth certificate

The Titanic Jewelry Collection website sells replicas of jewelry belonging to wealthy passengers of the ship. The site refers to the heart shaped pendant as belonging to Lucile Carter. The real necklace looks more like the necklace associated there with Ira Strauss (There is a blue heart shaped replica on the tree).

Edith Rosenbaum’s chandelier necklace replica is echoed by the chandelier on the tree. Photos of passengers, the Titanic in various stages, crystals, red berries, bells and other reminders of the pride of the White Star Line are on the tree.

(There is an artifact exhibit on the web of the real recovered jewels from the Titanic. Several of my neglected rings looked like jewelry from the Titanic Era. One is a Cameo. Several sites sell Titanic Era clothes.)

Marlene Gantt of Port Byron is a retired Rock Island school teacher.


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