RYERSON, EMILY BORIE. 1863-1939. Autograph Letter Signed ("Emily Borie Ryerson"), 3 pp rectos only, 8vo, Boston, April 18, 1913, to Mr Bowen, on personal stationery, light wear, very good.
WITH: a vintage photograph of Ismay and related documentation.
A TITANIC SURVIVOR REPORTS HER CONVERSATION WITH BRUCE ISMAY JUST A FEW HOURS BEFORE THE ICEBERG COLLISION. This is one of the most damning and fascinating Titanic letters extant, giving direct evidence that Ismay did order the ship to speed up though he was well aware of the icebergs, the subject of multiple investigations and official enquiries in the following years.
"....I was on deck in the afternoon of April 14 between 5-6 o'clock & Mr Ismay came up & inquired if our staterooms were comfortable & the service satisfactory etc. & then thrust a Marconigram at me, saying, we were in among the icebergs. Something was said about speed & he said that the ship had not been going fast yet that they were to start up extra boilers that afternoon or evening (I forget wh.) The telegram also spoke of the Deutschland a ship out of coal & asking for a tow, & when I asked him what they were going to do about that he said they had no time for such matters, our ship wanted to do her best & something was said about getting in Tuesday night. I was not much interested & cannot remember the exact words & details but repeated the conversation immediately to my husband & to Miss Bowen when I went down to my cabin & she remembers it & the strong impression wh. was left in my mind & in hers was that they were speeding the ship upto get away from the ice& that we wd. probably get in late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning. Mr Ismay 's manner was that of one in authority & the owner of the ship & that what he said was law. If this can be of service to anyone I do not wish to be silent to seem to be protecting him."
Emily Ryerson was aboard the Titanic with her husband, three children, her son's governess Miss Bowen, and a maid. The reason for their journey itself was a tragic one: Arthur Ryerson Jr., age 21, had just been killed in a car accident and the family was returning home to bury him. Emily's husband Arthur Ryerson was killed in the sinking, but she and the rest of her party were rescued in Lifeboat 4. Emily Ryerson's youngest son, Jack, was initially denied entrance to the lifeboat, but his father pleaded that he was only 13 and the officer in charge relented.
See "Rich Men and Poor Men: The Story of the Ryerson's on the Titanic" by Ryerse, in the Journal of the Titanic Historical Society, summer 1990 (a copy included with this lot); and the June, 1913 transcribed deposition of Emily Ryerson in the Limitation of Liability hearings (www.titanicinquiry.org). Letter is published in Barratt, Lost Voices of the Titanic, 2010.