R.M.S. Olympic - 1991 Auction Photo Gallery


Near the end of 1991, maritime artist Ken Marschall and I learned about an up-coming auction of fittings from Olympic.  Because this was the first major auction of items from the White Star liner since her dismantling in 1935, we made plans to fly to Newcastle and attend, not only to purchase a few things but also to document photographically a collection that would be split up and more than likely never be seen by the public again.  Presented here is a gallery of photos taken the day before the auction.


An amazing amount of Olympic woodwork had been stored in a barn since the 1935 auction.
During Olympics 1932-1933 refit, the fore and aft first-class staircases were painted various shades of avocado green and blue.
A general view of items as seen at the viewing prior to the auction.  In the foreground is a washbasin from one of the postal clerk's cabins.
Detail of carving and a door from one of the four first-class staircase entrance vestibules.
Some of the most elaborate carving on the staircase was found on the panels that announced each deck level. 
Another example this one from A Deck, which once held a clock.

Considering that these pieces were stored in a barn for 56 years, most of them were still in remarkable condition.  Some pieces did not fare so well, however.

Two entrance doors from the forward first-class staircase vestibules.  There were only four of these doors on the ship. 

Although the brass letters themselves are gone, their outline still remains.

One wonders where the brass lettering went.
A close-up of carving detail from the Promenade Deck staircase landing.
Someone cobbled this staircase woodwork together after the 1935 auction.  How would you like to store you ship books in this bookcase?

Each newel face on Olympic was unique in design and execution.  A quick count reveals that there were over 200 individual newel faces on board.

One of the few newel posts from which the green paint had been stripped before the 1991 auction.

This is the only newel of this shape at the auction. Taller than most, it was located at the landing of each staircase.

The clock surround from the aft staircase.  The more-elaborate version from the forward staircase is currently at the Southampton Maritime Museum.

Carving detail from the clock surround.

The original clock was not included in the 1991 auction.

And yet more detail from the clock surround....

The forward entrance doors to the first-class Lounge on A Deck.

Detail of the carving and handles on the forward entrance doors to the first-class Lounge.

Of the four pillars of this type in the Reception Room, only three and a half were at the sale.  What happened to the other half pillar is a mystery.

The color of these pillars is interesting.  They were either never painted green or were stripped sometime since the 1935 auction.

Need a column?

Three stages of restoration.  The bottom pillar shows the uncleaned green paint with the dirt from the barn still attached.  The left side of the upper pillar shows the cleaned green paint from 1933.  The stripped oak on the right is as it would have appeared in 1911.

A detail of the carving on a pilaster from A Deck.

One of the only examples of woodwork from Olympic with the felt backing still attached.

A selection of finely carved moulding.

The architrave from above the first-class Pursers Bureau.  Until the 1991 auction, no photo had been found showing what the Pursers Office looked liked.

About 120 feet of carved oak staircase moulding was offered as one lot at the sale.

An interesting photo showing the various colors the moulding was painted.

Standing on the right is the bottom section of a piece of lattice work from the Caf Parisien.

Four ceiling brackets from a first-class elevator lobby.

Carpentry instructions were stamped on most pieces of wood to indicate where the woodwork was to be installed on board.

A base to an acorn that once sat atop a newel post.  The acorn is missing.  Cal got to it before we did....

Pilasters from an elevator foyer, which for some reason, someone cut into sections prior to 1991.

A number of carved supports which flanked the staircase.
A selection of first-class cabin doors.
Quite a number of cabin doors were on offer at the auction.  Upon arrival at the home of the lucky purchaser, the years of grime were cleaned off revealing the original 1935 lot number.  Upon checking the original catalogue, it was found that this was the door to Captain Smiths bathroom. 
This elaborately carved oak pass-through was originally installed in the second-class smoking room.
At the time of the auction, these two items baffled maritime historians because they had never been seen in any archival photos.  It was not until several years later that a photo showing the first-class pursers bureau was found, showing these in use as traffic-control barriers.

An arched, mirrored false window from Olympics 1913 refit, when two additional cabins were installed on the A Deck level of the aft grand staircase.  These cabins were patterned after the two on Titanic, one of which was occupied by Thomas Andrews.

The original auctioneers, Frank, Knight, & Rutley, placed auction labels on many of the items.  Its amazing that any of these survived 56 years in a barn. 
On some pieces the 1935 auction lot numbers were inscribed with pencil. 

A cabinet sink from a mail clerks cabin.

An ormolu light sconce from the first-class Lounge.  One of a pair sold at the 1991 auction.  I recently saw one of these recovered from Titanic.  It was identical although smashed due to it's rough exit from the ship.
A 1935 auction tag on the same fixture.
When the purchaser of the architrave from the Pursers Office realized that it was too long to fit in his car, he borrowed a hacksaw from the auctioneers and cut it in two.  The sawdust is all that remains....


All photos by Ken Marschall from the Eric Sauder Collection.

Thanks to Brian Hawley for making this page possible.


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