Edward John Smith

Date of birth: 27 January 1850
Place of birth: Hanley, Staffordshire, England
Marital status: Married
Spouse: Sarah Eleanor Pennington
Children: Helen Melville Smith (1898–1973)
Address: Woodhead, Winn Road, Portswood Southampton Hampshire England
Crew position: Titanic's Captain
Date of death: 15 April, 1912
Cause of death: Unconfirmed; body never recovered

Captain Smith's Cigar Box / Humidor?

This is claimed to be Smith's personal cigar box.
(Credit: BBC, 19 May 2011)

In 2011 a cigar box, also known as a "humidor" (an airtight container for keeping cigars or tobacco moist) appeared in the news after it was sold for £25,000 at an auction in Liverpool. The high price was due to the claim it was once owned by Captain Smith.

Titanic captain's cigar box could fetch up to pounds 20,000.

A CIGAR box that belonged to the captain of the Titanic was discovered gathering dust on top of a bedroom cabinet in Merseyside.

The walnut humidor carries the distinctive emblem of the White Star Line and bears the monogram 'EJS', the initials of Edward John Smith, master of the ill-fated vessel.
It was identified by auctioneer John Crane after he was invited to value a number of antiques for pensioner Hilary Mee at her home in Southport.
It is expected to fetch between pounds 10,000 and pounds 20,000 at an auction in Liverpool on May 19.

Mrs Mee, 64, said: It was complete shock to learn it was formerly the property of such a famous figure.
We really had no idea of its connection to the Titanic. Its just been lying round the house in a bedroom on top of a cabinet for nearly 20 years.

My father was given the box by a member of the family of Captain Smith''s wife."
Mr Crane said: "This is a most astonishing find. I must confess a slight tingle went down my spine."

(Source: Liverpool Echo, 10 May 2011

The box itself was described "lined with camphor wood and was designed to hold 40 of the finest Havana cigars." (BBC, 19 May 2011). Also "Mr Crane believes the box may have sat on Captain Smith’s desk at the White Star Line offices in James Street." (Liverpool Echo, 20 May 2011).

When the auction took place on the 19th May 2011 at Cato Crane & Co it was sold for £25,000 after 57 year old Swedish businessman, Henrik Stuifeergen, made the winning bid by telephone from his native Stockholm and said "the cigar box would now go on display as part of a Titanic exhibition which is travelling around Europe." (Liverpool Echo, 30 May 2011)

This is claimed to be Smith's personal cigar box. (Credit: Liverpool Echo)


But how realistic is it that this box was actually owned and used by Captain Smith? We unfortunately only have the word of pensioner Hilary Mee who said it was given 'by a member of the family of Captain Smiths wife.' - which is confusing as she then also states "it was complete shock to learn it was formerly the property of such a famous figure." Why would it be a shock if she knew it had comes from Captain Smith's wife?

It is notable in the BBC article on the auction that Ms Mee states "the box had been in her family for several generations. It is thought to have been given to her father by relatives of Edward John Smith's widow, Sarah" (BBC, 19 May 2011). Please note she uses the words "it is thought"

Additionally, the initials could have been added at a later date. Indeed, they are raised and yet as well-respected Titanic collector and Spencer Knarr points out, there is no patina surrounding them. He concludes that possibly someone carefully removed them, cleaned the box, and then reapplied them, or they were added much later. Another renowned collector Steve Santini questions why it was only handled by Cato Crane & Co - when there are more experieced auctioneers such as Henry Aldridge & Son Ltd, who specialise in Titanic memorabilia, who would be better suited to analyse it and determine its authenticity. There is no evidence that the cigarbox has ever been examined by a Titanic specialist.