Shoes of the Unknown Child
This pair of leather children’s shoes (Accession Number: M2005.4.1 A+B ) is believed to be from Body No. 4, the “Unknown Child”. This very young boy, recovered by the crew of Mackay-Bennett, was buried at Fairview Lawn Cemetery in Halifax.
Clarence Northover, a Halifax Police Department Sergeant in 1912, helped guard the bodies and belongings of the Titanic victims.
“Clothing was burned to stop souvenir hunters but he was too emotional when he saw the little pair of brown, leather shoes about fourteen centimeters long, and didn’t have the heart to burn them. When no relatives came to claim the shoes, he placed them in his desk drawer at the police station and there they remained for the next six years, until he retired in 1918.”
Excerpt from July 26, 2002 letter by Earle Northover, grandson of Clarence Northover.
Research confirmed the role of the Halifax Police in guarding the bodies and belongings of the Titanic victims and Halifax Police Department records, along with City Directory records, confirm Clarence Northover was a Sergeant in 1912.
“... under the closest police supervision were nearly 200 little piles of clothing neatly tied up by the ship’s company on the Mackay-Bennett.”
Halifax Herald, Wednesday, May 1st 1912.
The Coroner’s Report
The coroner’s report for Body No. 4, a boy approximately 2 years old, the only baby recovered. The description includes a pair of “brown shoes”. It is important to note that there are no records of the recovery of loose clothing from the water which was not associated with bodies.
NO. 4. - MALE. - ESTIMATED AGE, 2. - HAIR, FAIR. CLOTHING - Grey coat with fur on collar and cuffs; brown serge frock; Brown Petticoat; flannel garment; pink woollen singlet; brown shoes and stockings.
Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management, RG 41 Vol.75
Research through period catalogues and consultation with clothing and footwear museums shows that the style of the shoes are appropriate for the period, roughly 1900 - 1925, and are likely English in manufacture. Science Chemical tests were made to look for traces of seawater and an electron scanning microscope was used to search for saltwater diatoms but the results were inconclusive. The testing found large amounts of salt on the shoes, but the trace elements did not exactly match the proportions in sea water. The testing lab suggested that the chemical components may have been distorted by salts in the tanned leather, by washing or by abrasion. Titanic Shoes Return To Halifax Clarence Northover moved to Ontario when he retired as Deputy Chief in 1919. In 2002, his grandson Earle Northover decided the shoes belonged back in Halifax and donated them to the Museum.
Dan Conlin, former Curator of Marine History (April, 2014), shares some thoughts about the addition of the shoes to our collection.