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Oscar Woody

 

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Oscar Scott Woody
Oscar Scott Woody

The Washington Post
Monday, October 26, 1998

Mail Clerk on Titanic Is Remembered Again
Personal, Postal Items Found on Victim Are
Scheduled for Auction in New York

By BiLL McAllister
Washington Post Staff Writer

As the great ship Titanic slipped into the Atlantic in 1912,
Oscar Scott Woody of Washington, ever the loyal federal worker
remained at his stations.
It was Woody’s 44th birthday. He and four other postal clerks
Were last seen alive, dashing around the Titanic’s flooding  post office as they frantically attempted to save the mail.

A week after the ship collided with an iceberg on its maiden
Voyage, Woody’s body was recovered. Next month, eight items
found on his body, among them a watch, a Post Office Department
letter assigning him to the ship, a key chain, mail-routing slips
from the Titanic’s post office and a canvas bag stenciled “No. 167”,
will go on sale in New York.
“We’re thrilled to have them,” said Paula Bennett, one of the
owners of Matthew Bennett Inc. of Baltimore, the firm that will
auction the items. “Every time you walk by them you feel a little
excitement. There is a certain aura to them.”
"The fact that these came from his body makes them exceptionally
rare,” said James Bruns, director of the National Postal Museum,
which is part of the Smithsonian Institution.
Until now, only one of the Titanic's mail-routing slips was known
to exist, Bruns said, adding that his museum probably would bid for
some of the items. Under the "sanctuary principle,” which is intended
to protect the grave site of those who died, the Smithsonian has agreed
not to accept any Titanic items recovered from under the sea, where
salvage firms have gathered hundreds of items taken from the shipwreck.
The museum, however, could acquire Woody's, items because they were
found on the surface, Bruns said.
The items, which represent a few of the handful of postal items
recovered from one of the greatest maritime disasters in modern
history, are expected, to raise at least $25,500 when they are
auctioned Nov. 15.
For years, Bennett said, the Titanic items lay unnoticed in the
Maryland Masonic lodge in Cockeysville, which had received them
from Woody’s widow after her death. Woody was an active Mason,
and the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of
Maryland plans to keep several items – two pens and cuff links –
taken from his body because these artifacts carried Masonic symbols.
It was only after the release of the movie "Titanic" that someone
at the lodge discovered the items and decided to have them appraised
by the Baltimore firm, which specializes in postal items and autographs.

Lodge officials could not be reached for comment, but Bennett said the
organization will use proceeds of the sale for its philanthropic programs.
Bennett officials said the most valuable item is Woody’s "letter of
assignment* from assistant superintendent of foreign mail Edwin Sands,
the Washington official who dispatched him to England to take the Titanic.
The letter is expected to bring between $10,000 and $15,000, Bennett said.
The materials being auctioned also include "facing slips," which were
placed above mail bags to indicate where contents were headed. Woody
managed to save slips postmarked "Transatlantic Post Office 7" for
Washington, Washington state, Alaska and New Orleans.
Also scheduled to be auctioned are Woody's pocket watch, a chain
bearing keys to the ship's mailboxes and the bag marked "No. 167,” in
which the crew of the cable ship Mackay-Bennett placed Woody's personal
items after recovering his body. Woody, praised in the annual report by
the postmaster general in 1912, was buried at sea.
How did the items, especially the paper slips, survive?
George Eveleth, a senior vice president at Bennett, said the cork life

jackets used by the Titanic were extremely buoyant and they apparently
kept Woody's torso out of the water after he died. Woody had placed the
letter and facing slips in his breast pocket and they survived in
remarkable condition, although most of the items show some water damage.
The Bennett company said relatively little is known about Woody, who
married about 18 months before the accident and apparently also had a
home in Clifton in Fairfax County.
His body was identified by a letter to his wife, Leila. Woody had
worked 15 years as a railroad mail clerk, spending most of the time on trains.
running between Washington and Greensboro, N.C., before he was selected
in 1910 to join the postal sea service.
A native of Roxboro, N.C., Woody was one of five postal clerks—three
from the United States and two from Great Britain—aboard the Titanic.
All died in the disaster.
The following year, Congress appropriated $6,000—$2,000 per U.S.
postal

Documents
Record of Bodies and Effects: Passengers and Crew, SS Titanic (#167)

References
Eaton, J.P. & Haas, C. A. (1987) Titanic: Destination Disaster

Acknowledgments
Chris Dohany, USA

 

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