Maritime Memorabilia Liquidation Project

American Mutual Insurance model ship


Avila Fine Arts is handling the distribution of Atlantic Mutual’s art collection to auction houses as the insurance company is being liquidated.

[See more pictures]


Read more about this exciting project we are working on in the Wall Street Journal’s article, “Finding Treasures Among Insurer’s Wreckage.” Here is an excerpt:

…Cynthia Hoogland, the owner of Avila Fine Art who is cataloguing the collection, had identified 245 artifacts.

A favorite is an 1850 letter from 14 clerks to the company’s then president. They “respectfully” requested “gas fixtures may be affixed to our respective desks” in place of sperm-oil candles. The switch, they wrote, would cut down on “injury to our eyes from the constant flickering” and improve their performance.

“What a great, humble letter” in beautiful penmanship, Ms. Hoogland says.

The Disaster Books, with some entries handwritten and others comprising pasted-in newspaper clippings, cover all sorts of marine mishaps spanning a century: Ships run aground or sunk in hurricanes, damaged by uncharted wrecks or bumping into one another, and cargoes burned.

While Lloyd’s of London has publicly accessible maritime archives, Atlantic Mutual’s might be the most comprehensive in the U.S., chronicling everything from “nautical fender benders to major disasters,” says Charles Haas, who used the company’s collection to research a book he co-wrote about the Titanic’s operator, White Star Line.