"If anyone reads this, tell my father!": The message in a bottle from a little girl traveling on the Titanic

Alison Forde

May 21, 2021


It costs nothing to dream; at times, the imagination and fantasy gallop so fast that everything we produce in our fervent mind far exceeds the possibilities of gray and monotonous reality. Even in France, devastated like the rest of the world, by the economic crisis and the pandemic from Covid-19, people wants to go back to dreaming, and do so by being passionate about a curious message found inside a bottle and which washed up on the south East of Canada as far back as 2017...

via Le Parisien


Université du Québec à Rimouski/Facebook

A Canadian family, while peacefully strolling on the beach of the Bay of Fundy in the Canadian south-east, found a strange message sealed inside a bottle; gripped by curiosity, the family members opened the bottle to read the words imprinted on that old and worn sheet: "I'm throwing this bottle into the sea because we will arrive in New York in a few days. If anyone finds it, tell the Lefebvre family in Liévin ! "

That letter was signed by a certain Mathilde Lefebvre, a 13-year-old girl, and the date which the message bore was that of April 13, 1912, the day before the famous sinking of the Titanic ...

Université du Québec à Rimouski/Facebook

Coincidence or a perfectly crafted joke? What was the story behind that message in the bottle that the Canadian family accidentally found? Obviously, the yellowed sheet has been the subject of scientific research for at least four years and the experts have not yet ruled on the historical veracity of the piece of paper, even if the first results seem promising.

What seems certain, however, is that the little author of the message, the thirteen year old Mathilde Lefebvre, was really a passenger on the Titanic; what Le Parisien revealed is the reconstruction of the intercontinental journey by this family in the early twentieth century. It seems that Franck, the head of the family, worked as a miner in Lièven, in the north of France; he didn't earn much, and for this reason he left in 1910 with one of his sons, who was then 10 years old, to seek some luck in America. He found employment as a miner in Mystic, Iowa, so that two years later he was able to pay for the trip to America for his wife Marie and her remaining 4 children, including Mathilde.



Store Norske Leksikon

If the study of the official documents of the time confirmed the trip on the ill-fated transatlantic by the Lefebvre family, it was still to be determined whether that yellowed piece of paper was authentic or not. Some researchers, supported by the laboratories of the University of Québec have given the first, encouraging results: the analysis of the glass bottle seems to indicate it was made back to the early twentieth century, as well as the cap and the paper on which little Mathilde's message was written; even analysis by a spectroscope confirmed that the ink used by the writed was credibly dated to 1912.

The doubts, however, come from the study of the adolescent's handwriting: her handwriting seems too fragmented and uncertain, a very rare detail for children of her age of that historical period: did she let an adult write that message in a bottle for her?


Picryl/Not The Actual Photo

At the moment, many details seem to confirm the veracity of the materials used to write the short message, but there's still no confirmation that it really belonged to the little girl passenger on the famous Titanic, just as the fate of mother Marie and her four children who were on board the ocean liner is unknown: did they survived the shipwreck?

But this is a question that, at least for the moment, can only be answered in our imagination.