Titanic victim’s Hebrew-letter watch sells for $57,500

A silver pocket watch with Hebrew letters on its face that belonged to a Jewish Russian immigrant who died aboard the Titanic sold at auction for $57,500.

Heritage Auctions offered the pocket watch at its headquarters in Dallas on Saturday in a public auction of important Americana memorabilia.

The watch features Moses holding the Ten Commandments on its back. John Miottel, a collector of timepieces relating to the Titanic disaster, is its new owner.

Miottel operates the Miottel Museum in Berkeley, California. The museum specializes in maritime memorabilia; Miottel already owns watches from Titanic victims Col. John Jacob Astor, the liner’s richest passenger and the era’s richest person in the world, as well as a watch once owned by Oscar Woody, the Titanic’s U.S. Postal Clerk. Miottel also holds the timepiece once owned by the first person to receive the distress call from the Titanic, Harold Thomas Cottam, who served as a wireless operator on the rescue ship RMS Carpathia.

The Hebrew-language watch “will take one of the primary spots in our collection,” Miottel said. It will be added to the museum’s Ocean Liner Section, which includes thousands of historic maritime artifacts and memorabilia.

The watch’s original owner, Sinai Kantor, was an immigrant from Russia bound for New York with his wife, Miriam, who survived the accident aboard the Titanic when it sank during the cruise ship’s maiden voyage in 1912. Dozens of Jews were among the 1,503 passengers who died. The British liner had a kosher kitchen.

The pocket watch was sold by a direct descendant of Miriam and Sinai Kantor, who provided a letter of provenance and who does not wish to be identified. The Kantors, who paid 26 pounds sterling (approximately $3,666 today) for their tickets, were among 285 second class passengers. They boarded the ship in Southampton, England.

Kantor, a furrier who wanted to study dentistry or medicine in America, was 34 when he and his wife, 24, also an aspiring doctor, boarded the Titanic. They came from Vitebsk, today a city in northwest Belarus.

Miriam Kantor received her husband’s clothing, Russian passport, notebook, telescope, corkscrew, and Russian, German, and English currency, along with his watch, on May 24, 1912.

Sinai Kantor is buried in Mount Zion Cemetery in Queens, according to Israeli Titanic researcher Eli Moskowitz, author of a book on the Jews of the Titanic.

JTA Wire Service

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