World's largest collection of Titanic life jackets in Pigeon Forge

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- For the first time ever, the world's largest collection of Titanic life jackets is in one building in Pigeon Forge at the Titanic Museum Attraction.

The world's largest collection of Titanic life jackets are on display in Pigeon Forge / Source: WVLT News

Valued at $4 million dollars, even people whose families wore these on the infamous ship have not seen the jackets.

Only 12 of the jackets exist, and six of them are together for the first time since the ship sank over 100 years ago.

The ship's richest passenger, John Jacob Astor, died on that fateful night, but his wife Madeline survived. Each jacket has its own story, but only two of the surviving jackets have documentation to show who wore them when the ship sank; one was worn by Madeline.

For the first time ever, a relative of the Astor's, Vincent Charles Astor, saw the rare life jackets on display at the Titanic museum.

"It made it all very, very, real for the first time. I've had experience with Titanic artifacts of all sorts," said Astor.

Astor discussed his relatives, "They hadn't been married very long, and she was pregnant with his child, and they had to part. I know enough to know John Jacob was the happiest he'd ever been when he [married Madeline."

John Jacob Astor reportedly told Madeline not to take the life jacket off for any reason.

The other life jacket with a documentation record was worn by Laura Mabel Francatelli, a secretary to Lady Duff-Gordon, a highly successful dress designer.

Curator Paul Burns said it took two years to put the display together, and the jackets will be at the museum in Pigeon Forge through the end of the year.

"I've been doing curation, and museum work all of my adult life, for 35 years. This is probably one of the most exciting things to put together. It's something John Joslyn the co-owner and myself talked about in 2001 and 2002."

You can find out more about the museum here.