||The collection illustrates the human tragedy of one of the greatest, and most infamous, disasters in maritime history. One hundred years ago, steamships were enabling people to travel and to trade on a global scale. The transmission of goods, capital, people, ideas and information was taking place at a rate never before seen, and the new generation of ships was a pivotal part of this process. The social and cultural effects of this disaster were profound and were to reverberate for years after the incident.
Jacob Birnbaum was an unmarried, 24 year old diamond trader from Antwerp. The son of Polish banker and diamond trader Joachim Birbaum, he was a member of a large Jewish family. Jacob was travelling first class on business to the United States, to sell diamonds in San Francisco and had been due to leave at the beginning of April, but postponed his departure so that he could spend Passover with his family. He then booked a ticket, for which he paid £26 (about £1780 today) on an unknown ship but his berth was switched to the Titanic due to the effects of the miners’ strike in Britain. According to his descendants, his relatives tried to dissuade him from travelling in the Titanic because it was her maiden voyage, and she was an untried and untested ship. Undeterred, he embarked at Cherbourg, and Titanic set sail for Ireland on the evening of Wednesday 10 April. The Titanic sank on Friday April 15th.
Twelve days after the disaster, the cable-laying steamer MacKay Bennett found Birnbaum’s body, clad in pyjamas, overcoat and lifebelt- the 148th corpse, out of a total of 190, which the vessel recovered from the sea.