Fine Books and Manuscripts / A NIGHTGOWN WORN BY CHARLOTTE CARDEZA DURING THE TITANIC DISASTER AND RESCUE. This nightgown, with delicate white fabric, finely worked embroidery, and lace edgings, worn by Charlotte Drake Martinez-Cardeza, features short sleeves and a high square neckline, with slits for wide-threaded ribbon,
US$40,000 - US$60,000
Own a similar item?
Submit your item online for a free auction estimate.How to sell
Looking for a similar item?
Our Books & Manuscripts specialists can help you find a similar item at an auction or via a private sale.Find your local specialist
A NIGHTGOWN WORN BY CHARLOTTE CARDEZA DURING THE TITANIC DISASTER AND RESCUE.
Provenance: gift of Charlotte Drake Martinez-Cardeza (1854-1939) to her maid and fellow Titanic survivor, Annie Ward (1874-1955); gift of Annie Ward to her close friend Mrs. Anna Morton (1862-c.1958); by descent to her daughter Elizabeth Morton (1895-c.1980); gift of Elizabeth Morton to Anna McNulty Allen (1925-2003); gift of Anna McNulty Allen to the present owner (handwritten notes of Anna McNulty Allen).
Charlotte Drake Martinez-Cardeza was one of the wealthiest travelers on board the S.S. Titanic in April of 1912. Traveling with her son Thomas Drake Martinez-Cardeza and her maid Annie Ward as well as her son's valet, she and her party occupied one of the two "Millionaire's suites" on board the ship (the other was occupied by John Jacob Astor IV), with two rooms, a fireplace, lavatories, servants' quarters, a trunk room, and a 50-foot enclosed promenade deck. Cardeza spent $3300 for the one-way trip, the most expensive fare of all the passengers.
When the ship struck the iceberg at 11:40pm, the Cardeza party had already retired for the night. In newspaper coverage of the time, Annie Ward was quoted as saying, "We were in bed when the ship struck. The jar awakened us. Mrs. Cardeza dressed in a few articles of clothing as did her son and myself, and we went on deck. We were assured that there was absolutely no danger, that the Titanic could not sink. Every officer we approached told us the same thing. We went back to our berths with a safe feeling" (quoted in Linda Greaves, "Charlotte Cardeza: Titanic Survivor," Germantown Crier, volume 48 [Spring 1998], p 10).
But not long after they returned to their rooms, the boat gave signs of trouble. Annie Ward reported, "Very shortly after retiring again the list of the ship, as it filled with water, aroused us. We slipped on overcoats and went on deck a second time" (interview with the Philadelphia Press, quoted in Greaves, "Charlotte Cardeza..." p 10). The Cardeza party was eventually loaded into lifeboat #3 boarding from the starboard side of the ship where Officer Murdoch allowed men to board if no women were present, which accounts for the survival of Mrs. Cardeza's son Thomas and his valet.
From their lifeboat, the Cardeza party witnessed the sinking of the boat and were picked up along with other survivors by the S.S. Carpathia early in the morning hours of April 15. When they returned to New York, Charlotte and her son stayed to recuperate, while Annie Ward returned to her mother's house in Philadelphia. Eventually she returned to Mrs. Cardeza's employ.
Annie Ward was interviewed extensively by the Philadelphia Press after the disaster, and spoke highly of Charlotte's bravery and leadership during the disaster: "Mrs. Cardeza exhibited unusual bravery and remained perfectly cool-headed in the face of the awful danger ... In her capable manner, she took charge of the affairs of our entire party and directed things from the moment we were ordered into the lifeboat until the Carpathia came to our rescue ... While she suffered greatly from the cold, clothed only in her nightdress and an overcoat, she did not complain once. I saw no one who took the terrible affair more calmly" (quoted in Charles Hart, "Area Residents Among Titanic Survivors," Chestnut Hill Local, April 30, 1987, emphasis ours).
Nine months after the disaster, Mrs. Cardeza submitted an insurance claim for property lost in the sinking that included the contents of 13 steamer trunks, four leather bags, three packing cases and a jewel case, all detailed in a list that stretched to 16 typed single-space pages and came to a total of $177,352.25, the largest personal property loss among the Titanic claims.
Charlotte Cardeza's insurance claim is a wonder: she painstakingly details the articles of clothing, jewels and accessories brought with her on board the Titanic. The inventory is listed trunk by trunk, and includes dresses, gowns and separates from some of the most exclusive couturiers of Europe, including Ungar of Vienna; Lucille of London; and Rouff, Valette, and Redfern, all of Paris. She also listed items purchased from exclusive department stores such as Lord & Taylor and Bon Marche as well as smaller couturiers of the period.
The quality of our gown, with its meticulous embroidery and flawless construction, is consistent with the quality of the other gowns and dresses listed in the Cardeza inventory. The five-digit number embroidered into the hem (71726) is likely an inventory number such as an exclusive couture house of the period would use to track the product and account of a long-standing client. And, of course, the monogram "CDMC" identifies the gown as belonging to Charlotte Cardeza.
We are struck by the similarity of our gown to an item listed on page 3 of the typed Cardeza inventory, listed as a "White lawn negligee with lace and pink ribbons. Derocher, Paris" and valued at $195. The gown referred to in the inventory was of course lost in the sinking, but it is interesting to note that most of the other night clothes on the insurance claim are listed in groups of 2 or 3, suggesting that Mrs. Cardeza often bought her night clothes in duplicate or triplicate. It is impossible to know if ours is a duplicate of the Derocher item listed, but it is an intriguing theory.
The chain of custody for this gown begins with Cardeza's maid and fellow Titanic survivor Annie Ward, who gifted it to her close friend and neighbor Anna Morton. The two women likely knew each other through their husbands, who both worked as gardeners on large Chestnut Hill estates. Anna Morton left the gown to her daughter, Elizabeth "Betty" Morton (1895-c.1980), who worked in publishing in Philadelphia for much of the middle of the 20th century. For years Betty Morton was very close with Anna McNulty Allen, whose family lived in the other half of the semi-detached home owned by the Mortons at 27-29 Gravers Lane in Chestnut Hill. When Betty Morton moved a nursing home in the mid-1970s, she gifted the Cardeza gown to her close friend Allen, who, within a few years, gifted it to a younger relative with a strong interest in fashion history. The present owner was told that the gown was included in a 1962 exhibition on the Titanic at the Germantown Historical Society, at which time the original pink ribbons were replaced. We have not found a catalog or listing of that exhibition, however.