April 13, 2001 — -- When Adolph Saalfeld, a German-born Jew, boarded the Titanic he had big hopes of striking it rich in New York in the perfume business.
But in his hurry to get off the doomed, sinking ship, Saalfeld left samples of his scents behind, where they stayed for nearly 89 years.
Dik Barton is a salvage expert working with RMS Titanic Inc. — the company that holds the rights to the ship's wreckage. He and a diving crew were on a mission last summer to recover personal effects for an exhibition when they came across a small leather pouch.
"We didn't know what we discovered until we hit the surface," says Barton. "But we knew this was special immediately when we took the pouch from the collection basket [of artifacts] and brought it to the laboratory on the ship.
"A scent filled the entire lab with Edwardian perfume."
Barton describes the fragrance as flowery, reminiscent of lavender and roses.
Upon closer inspection, researchers from Eastern Michigan University found three separate satchels marked with Saalfeld's name, containing more than 20 vials of oils, some of which were broken — which was why they smelled.
The oils have been transferred to Quest International — a UK-based company whose primary business is the development of perfume, food and cosmetics.
Experts there have, so far, broken down the perfume into its component chemicals to recreate the scent. Now, they are creating a DNA profile of the oil so it could be easily and efficiently recreated.
Once all the details are gathered and the analysis is complete, RMS Titanic and Quest can decide what to do with the discovery, and which perfume houses could be potential manufacturers for the recovered fragrance.
The companies have not yet decided on a name or a marketing campaign for the new Titanic product. But Barton says, "I hope to reproduce and replicate the Edwardian scents of 1912, while developing and producing a proprietary brand by next April," the 90th anniversary of the sinking.
On the night of April 14, 1912, the liner collided with an iceberg in the North Atlantic, then sank.
As to Saalfeld, he survived the disaster, but not much else is known of him.