On April 9th 1912, the day before the RMS Titanic began its fateful voyage from Southampton to New York, the Royal Mail Steamship Union presented a plaque celebrating the launch of the “Queen of the Ocean” to the mayor and leader of the shipyard where the vessel had been completed.
“This, the Latest, Largest and Finest Steamer Afloat,” reads the 1.8kg, 28cm by 37cm plaque.
Inside the bronze and silver plate was a small light that lit up an image of the ship on the outside, the original inner-workings of which are still intact today.
The plaque had been kept with the president of the shipyard, but he ultimately lost track of it and it was believed to be lost – until about 12 years ago.
That’s when a British man in Barcelona went to an art dealer in the city, attempting to sell the item because he “needed the money”, according to the Spanish Titanic Foundation.
“The man brought the plaque to the Barcelona art merchant in a plastic bag and tried to sell it,” president of the Titanic Foundation Jesús Ferreiro told The Local. “Neither of them knew what it was, so naturally the merchant didn't want it. He had no idea it had tremendous value.”
But by chance, the art dealer’s grandson was a “Titanic fanatic” and overheard the conversation between the two men. He said he was interested in the piece “to decorate his room”, much to the surprise of his grandfather.
The grandson was Granada art shop owner Leo Lorenzo Sancho, who just recently offered the plaque to the Spanish Titanic Foundation to be displayed in an exhibition at the Granada Park of Sciences about the famous sea vessel.
“I have seen dozens of objects that people say are from the Titanic, spoons, forks, photographs. But most are just from that time period, not from the ship itself,” Ferreiro told The Local. “But with this plaque, when I saw it, I got the sensation that I had never seen something like this before.”
Ferreiro said he and the foundation consulted with experts to confirm the authenticity and history of the plaque.
Lorenzo does not plan to sell the plaque, saying that he wants it to be available to the public instead.
The exhibit, Titanic: The Reconstruction, documents the creation and history of the ship through photographs and audiovisual presentations.
Below is a full view of the plaque.
Photo: Fundación Titanic.