The story behind why 12 Toronto streetcar tickets were found in the Titanic wreckage
Published Thursday, May 11, 2023 10:37AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 11, 2023 10:37AM EDT
Twelve Toronto streetcar tickets sunk on the Titanic and were unearthed decades later on the sandy floor of the Atlantic Ocean.
The tattered tickets, printed with streetcar illustrations and “Toronto” in block letters, were tucked into the wallet of Major Arthur Peuchen, a Toronto entrepreneur who was onboard the Titanic before it collided with an iceberg in 1912.
Peuchen often traveled to Europe for business and for pleasure, he sailed at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, Adam Bunch, a Toronto history writer told CTV News Toronto weeks after the 101st anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking.
The entrepreneur was heading home from a meeting in London, when he boarded the luxury ship alongside other mega-wealthy “Astors and Guggenheims,” as Bunch put it.
At least 34 passengers on the Titanic were Canadian, he said. There was Harry Molson, inheritor of the Molson brewing empire, and Hudson Allison, one of Quebec’s most successful stock brokers.
On April 14, Peuchen was getting ready for bed around 11:30 p.m., when he felt what he thought was a heavy wave hitting the ship.
“I would simply have thought it was an unusual wave which had struck the boat; but knowing that it was a calm night and that it was an unusual thing to occur on a calm night, I immediately put my overcoat on and went up on deck,” Peuchen said, recalling the events of that fateful night during an inquiry into the sinking of the Titanic just months later.
Once he reached the upper deck, Peuchen said soft ice was scattered across the bow of the boat. Within 30 minutes, the boat was “listing” at an incline, he recalled as he spoke to Chares Hays, a fellow passenger and president of the Grand Trunk Railway.
“I said to Mr. Hays, ‘Why, she is listing; she should not do that, the water is perfectly calm, and the boat has stopped.’ I felt that looked rather serious. He said, ‘Oh, I don't know; you can not sink this boat.’ He had a good deal of confidence. He said, ‘No matter what we have struck, she is good for 8 or 10 hours.’"
About 10 minutes later, lifeboats were lowered into the ocean. As Peuchen watched women and children fill them, he said the captain or the second officer asked him for a hand, in need of assistance from an experienced sailor.
“He gets onboard and has to make this dramatic jump onto the lifeboat, already lowering into the ocean,” Bunch said.
Unlike many other men on the Titanic, Peuchen survived the sinking ship. But when he returned to Toronto, he was ostracized by society for taking a spot on a lifeboat, Bunch explained.
Decades later, divers descended into the Atlantic to salvage artifacts of the shipwreck. Among them was Peuchen’s wallet sitting on the ocean floor, not far from where the hulk of the Titanic rests, Bunch said.
“I imagine probably, since he was getting undressed for bed when the iceberg hit, he either just didn’t have his wallet on him when he left his room and it just sank with the ship, or it may have fallen out of his pocket when he made that leap into the lifeboat, fell into the water and sank,” he said.
Inside his wallet, 12 Toronto streetcar tickets, a season’s pass to the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, traveller’s cheques and business cards remained.