A small piece of Toronto history was found deep in the Atlantic Ocean among the ruins of the legendary ship Titanic.
The famous wreckage was discovered more than two decades ago off the coast of Newfoundland. Since then divers have recovered some 5,000 objects.
Among the artifacts were 12 Toronto streetcar tickets, believed to once have belonged to Maj. Arthur Godfrey Peuchen, a millionaire businessman and officer of the Royal Canadian Yacht Club and one of the few men to survive the ocean liner’s tragic collapse.
Four of the faded, stamp-sized tickets were unveiled Thursday at the Ontario Science Centre, a local contribution to the museum’s existing show, Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition.
The exhibit, a chronological retelling of life on the ill-fated ship, has appeared in more than 50 international venues, attended by some 18 million people.
A relic of city life at the turn of the century, the tickets “add more local connection to the Titanic,” said museum CEO Leslie Lewis, who gingerly handled the tickets through their protective cover and cotton gloves.
“Who lives in Toronto and hasn’t handled a TTC ticket? These are very similar.”
The tickets survived nearly intact thanks to the leather wallet encasing them, Lewis said. Tannins used to treat the leather helped repel water.
At the time, the tickets cost about five cents, but their current value hasn’t been appraised, Lewis said.
According to local historian Mike Filey, the objects aren’t worth much to the average person.
But to a collector? Priceless, he said, adding that postcards from the Titanic have sold for thousands of dollars.
The tickets reportedly belonged to Peuchen, then 52, the only Torontonian to ride the Titanic first-class, at $4,500.
When the ship struck the iceberg on April 14, 1912, Peuchen, a skilled yachtsman, volunteered to man one of the lifeboats bearing women and children.
He was rescued by another ship, The Carpathia, along with some 700 survivors from 13 lifeboats. The remaining 1,500 passengers died.
But Peuchen’s survival led to his undoing: forever marked as a coward by his peers, he left the city and eventually lost his wealth.
He died on Dec. 7, 1929, at the age of 70.
“Today, he’d be a hero, but in those days, if you survived when all those women and children died, you were a coward,” Filey said.
With Files From Canadian Press