One of the most fascinating shipwreck sites that has ever been discovered, the SS Republic, is one of the primary sources of artifacts in the museum. This amazing recovery is the largest Civil War-era treasure trove ever found.
History of the USS Republic
In 1865, the SS Republic was en-route to New Orleans from New York Harbor carrying thousands of everyday items to replenish the supplies that had been depleted by the Civil War. Also on board were silver and gold coins intended to reinvigorate the area’s economy that were estimated to be worth $400,000. Unfortunately, the ship encountered a hurricane and despite valiant efforts to stay afloat, sank about 100 miles off the coast of Georgia. When the ship went down, it was carrying 80 ticketed passengers, all of whom survived thanks to the lifeboats on board the ship. Approximately 18 non-ticketed passengers were also aboard, who built a raft during the time the ship was battling the storm. Exactly how many of these undocumented passengers survived is not known.
This ship sank to 1,700 ft below the ocean surface and was thought to be lost for nearly 140 years. It was not until Odyssey came along, with their innovative technology allowing them to explore depths that were never before possible, that the shipwreck site was rediscovered. Odyssey began its efforts to retrieve items from the SS Republic in 2003 using brand new, innovative technology.
Items found on the SS Republic
From everyday items like combs and toothbrushes to one-of-a-kind pieces, the SS Republic was brimming with objects that give us a peek at life in the Civil War era. These artifacts provide unique insight into how the passengers lived their lives and each item has its own story. Just a few of the objects recovered on this retrieval mission include:
- Original portholes from the SS Republic.
- The original bell from the SS Republic with authentic 'Tennessee' inscription.
- Coal from the ship’s boiler room.
- Children's toys such as dominoes, chess pieces, and a tea set.
- Everyday items such as headbands, pitchers, toothbrushes, and inkwells.
- Over 6,000 glass bottles from beer bottles to delicate perfume bottles.
- Never-before-seen collection of perfectly preserved foods and medicine still sealed in original bottles including gooseberries, peaches, pepper sauce, mustard, stomach elixir, and hair serums.
In addition to these unique artifacts, the SS Republic was found to be holding approximately 75 million dollars worth of treasure including 51,000 gold and silver coins. Among the coins were 111 uncirculated Seated Liberty Half Dollars from the late 1850s - 1860s in pristine condition, showing no effects of being in salt water for 140 years.
The coins and the 14,000 other artifacts that were retrieved from the site serve as an amazing time capsule of a time significant to the history of our country.