Friday 22 January 2016

The $14,000 Letter from the Titanic

RMS Titanic 3.jpg

The Titanic photo snapped on April 10, 1912, the same day that George Graham wrote his letter courtesy

Canadian Eaton's department store buyer Nathan Mills paid 86 pounds for a ticket to the Titanic and yet he never boarded the ship. 

Timothy Eaton had taken 50 years to build up his business and now Canadians were quite familiar with the name, thanks in large part to its catalogue.  The Eaton's Catalogue was referred to as the "Homesteader's Bible" since it was used for anything from reading material for new immigrants to hockey pads for young boys to paper dolls for little girls to toilet paper for outhouse occupants.  Capitalizing on the success of the catalogue, Timothy's son Sir John, who carried on the business after his father's death, was looking for more goods to fill its pages.  Canada's population was relatively small at the time, sitting at a mere 8 million.

Back in April of 1912, Mr. Mills, from the hamlet of Woodham, Ontario, was sent to England to buy merchandise for the T. Eaton Company.  Mr. Mills, an employee of the Toronto Eaton's, along with his co-worker Mr. George Graham, a Winnipeg store employee originally from St. Mary's (near Woodham) were hoping to purchase goods in the metropolis of London (population 1 million) and other British cities, that they would not find at home:  tweed suits from Scotland and fine bone china from England.

After a week of buying, the Eaton's colleagues were ready to return to Canada, both eager to be a part of the Titanic's maiden voyage.  However, at the last minute, Sir John Eaton sent Nathan Mills a telegram detaining him for another week, saying he had more business for him to attend to.  Mr. Graham headed to Southampton without his business partner. 

The ship sailed, collided with an iceberg in the Atlantic and sank, many of its passengers perishing in the icy waters.  Mr. Mills read the death list and was shocked to learn that his colleague went down with the ship.  Mr. Mills returned to Canada later on another vessel, his life spared all because of some unfinished business. 

Note:  George Graham wrote a letter to a business associate in Berlin while on board the Titanic which was auctioned off in New York City in 2009 for $14,000 US.  To read the letter, visit

I dedicate this post to my Great Aunt Florence, a niece of Nathan Mills.

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