Sir Thomas Lipton

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Sir Thomas Lipton

Sir Thomas Lipton Signed Sketch of WWI Hospital Ship “Erin” - 1915

Autograph sentiment on beautiful antique print of the World War I hospital ship Erin signed by its owner, the famed tea merchant and yachtsman Sir Thomas Lipton. This 8″ x 10″ watercolor sketch print, mounted on stiff cardboard, is warmly inscribed to Benjamin F. Greenhut of the Siegel-Cooper Company: “To my good friend Ben Greenhut with best wishes / Hospital Ship “Erin” Southampton 16th January 1915 / Thomas J. Lipton.” Signed images of Sir Thomas Lipton’s yachts are exceedingly rare. Partial tear at left side, not affecting signature.

Sir Thomas Lipton (1848-1931) was a Scotsman of Irish parentage, a self-made man who became successful as founder of the famed Lipton Tea Company, and one of the most persistent challengers in the history of the America’s Cup yacht race. By the late 19th century Lipton had acquired several yachts, many of which competed in the coveted America’s Cup for several years. Though Lipton never won the race, he was affectionately known as “the best of all losers.” In 1898, he purchased the 1,240-ton steam yacht, Aegusa, which he renamed the Erin. Lipton entertained lavishly on the Erin, with distinguished guests such as Great Britain’s King Edward VII (who was also a longtime friend), Queen Alexandra, Princess Beatrice and her daughter, President Franklin Roosevelt, and countless illustrious people from around the world.

During the first World War Lipton put his fleet of yachts into service, placing them at the disposal of the British Red Cross Society and the Royal Navy. The Erin was repainted white with a large red cross—as depicted in this original print—and re-equipped as a hospital ship, transporting doctors, nurses, and medical supplies to ports serving the war effort.

Later in the war, Lipton consigned the Erin to help patrol Mediterranean waters for German submarines. On April 27, 1916, his beloved yacht (then serving under her original name HMY Aegusa) struck a mine off Malta and sank, losing six of her crew.

Sir Thomas Lipton Aboard the Yacht Erin
Sir Thomas Lipton Aboard Erin with WWI Medical Personnel
[Image for reference only; not included]