Marian Thayer


Brian Ahern

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Dec 19, 2002
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It's always struck me that every book on the Titanic mentions the Thayer family. And so it's always seemed strange that virtually nothing is ever mentioned on who Marian Longstreth Morris Thayer was before her marriage.

Does anyone know who her parents were, where she was from, and what sort of upbringing she had? I've always assumed she was a well-born New Englander. Am I right?

Any answers would be appreciated...
--Brian A.
 
Jul 11, 2001
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Another little known fact about her is that she died 30 years to the very day the Titanic sank! It was a shock to read what happened to Jack junior also.
 
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Alison Marchese

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Marion Longstreth Morris was born on November 9, 1872, to Frederick Walton Morris and Elizabeth Flower Paul. I have not been able to locate the exact date of her marriage to John Borland Thayer II. However, John Borland Thayer II was born in Phildelphia (4/21/1862) as was their first son, John Borland Thayer III (12/24/1894). I assume the wedding occurred in Phildelphia sometime between 1890 and 1894. I have no other information about her life prior to her marriage. I wish I could you offer you more!
 

Brian Meister

Member
Mar 19, 1999
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Dear Alison,

Marian Longstreth Morris was the daughter
of Frederick WISTAR Morris and the wedding
of John Borland Thayer Jr and she took place
on her 20th birthday in Philadelphia.

Hope this helps,

Brian
 
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Alison Marchese

Guest
Thanks Brian - that is a huge help! I recently portrayed Marian in a production of Titanic the Musical at college. My senior thesis is based on my performance of the role, but I am finding some difficulty including the historical facts, since the musical suggests that Jack Thayer was only nine at the time of the disaster, rather than seventeen. I am unfortunately forced to take some artistic liberties and rearrange some events of her life. Any other information you may have would be helpful with this little puzzle! Thanks!
Alison
 
Mar 20, 2000
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An interesting fashion footnote for Marian Thayer is that not long before the European trip from which she was returning on Titanic, she had attended Philadelphia's First Assembly Ball, regarded as the city's "prime social event of the season." The ball took place at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel on the evening of January 5, 1912 and Marian Thayer's appearance was a sensation. Here is what "Women's Wear Daily" had to say about the occasion and Mrs. Thayer, whom that paper hailed as the "most splendidly fashionable" woman in Philadelphia society:

WOMEN'S WEAR DAILY, 6 Jan. 1912 -

"...As a display of beautiful and costly gowns, the event exceeded any fashion show that has been seen for years ... Mrs. John B. Thayer, Jr. was one of the most strikingly costumed women at the ball. She wore a gown of white satin cut on Grecian lines with a high waist and long train, falling from her shoulders. Turquoise and blue trimmings outlined the belt and train. Over this was a gauzy overdress, heavily spangled with gold. Gold slippers completed the costume..."
 

Kyrila Scully

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Apr 15, 2001
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Oh, this sounds luscious! Wish there was an illustration in a Tom Tierney book somewhere! Got that urge to sew, but I've spent so much on my new gowns already that I'm broke!

Kyrila
 
Mar 30, 1997
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I am not sure if this will help you in your portrayal. Marian was the third of seven children: Frederick Wistar Morris, Margaret Elizabeth Morris, Marian Longstreth, Samuel Wheeler Morris, John Paul Morris, Dorothea Hollingsworth Morris and Pauline Flower Morris. Her paternal grandparents were Israel (1811-1905) and Elizabeth Longstreth (1817-1898) Morris. He was born In Philadelphia; she in Burlington, New Jersey. Both died in Philadelphia. Her maternal parents were Wiliam W. (1817-1886) and Elizabeth Wheeler (1817-1906) Paul. Her father died in 1916 and her mother in 1920 - both in Philadelphia.
 
Mar 20, 2007
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I absolutely ADORE that description of Marian Thayer's costume, thanks so much. I always think of her now as being 'splendidly fashionable'.

I was fascinated to discover in the recently published Ismay family memoir, 'A Voyage Closed and Done', that J. Bruce Ismay himself was a good friend of the Thayers and socialised much with them during the trip. Even more interestingly (because I had no idea and had never even seen it hinted at elsewhere), it seems that Ismay conceived a violent crush (to put it mildly) on Marian Thayer and the two corresponded regularly after the sinking. It appears that Ismay blamed himself terribly for the loss of Mr Thayer (and approximately 1,499 others) and poured his heart out to Marian, in terms that Mrs Ismay may not altogether have approved! Eventually, Marian became perturbed by Ismay's emotional dependance upon her and gently distanced herself from him.
 
Mar 20, 2007
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Further to my last post, I'm interested in continuing the discussion on John and Marian Thayer.

I believe I read that John was something of a self-made man at the Pennsylvania Railroad and that he worked his way up through the company to acquire a position of considerable importance. In monetary terms, does anybody know how much he was worth at the time of his death? I've heard that he was one of the wealthiest passengers aboard the 'Titanic' - would his fortune have been derived from shares or from his wages as Second Vice-President?

It sounds like Marian Thayer came from an impeccable background (I'm thinking of her Morris/Longstreth connections which have been previously raised on this thread and during our recent discussions on Society). She was, in my opinion, something of a beauty and was evidently very well-dressed too. No wonder Ismay fell for her!

But Brian has suggested that she became something of an eccentric in later life - Brian, care to shed any more light? Do we know what happened to her post-'Titanic'?

Also - where were the Thayers living in 1912? Did they have a house in town or were they 'Main Liners'? I think that Martha Stephenson and Elizabeth Eustis were their neighbours and that the women in fact escaped together in No. 4?

Any information would be most gratefully received!
 

Brian Ahern

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Dec 19, 2002
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Sorry, Martin. Didn't see this thread.

I've finally got around to googling the Thackaras, the people with whom the Thayers stayed in Berlin. It turns out Mrs. Thackara was the daughter of General William Tecumseh Sherman, of Civil War fame. They lived in the Rosemont suburb of Philadelphia, which must be how they knew the Thayers.

You can read a bit about them here:
http://newsletter.library.villanova.edu/10

It seems much of the Sherman-Thackara correspondence has been well preserved.

The seeming social importance of the Catholic Eleanor Thackara gives credence to what has been said on other threads about the rules being less rigid than we tend to think.

And, the Thayers' friendship with these globetrotters could be indicative of a certain degree of cosmopolitanism on their part.

Martin, I'm afraid I've already shared with you pretty much all the tidbits I have on Marian. But her eccentricity has been discussed by others around here, so maybe someone with more knowledge than I have will see this and weigh in.
 
Aug 3, 2007
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Thank you so much to everyone here who had information about Marion Thayer. I'm playing her in the Youth Theatre Musical Titanic in my town, and I'm playing Marion.

Our director had us do a history report on our characters, in recognition that there is a lot of creative license taken with the show. This thread in particular really helped me with that.

I've found that Marion Thayer is actually a very interesting person! Unfortunately, our reports couldn't be longer than 200 words, so I had to omit a lot of fascinating information.

I thought her connections with J. Bruce Ismay was really interesting, for one. And her death date was entertainingly ironic.
 

David Paris

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Mar 27, 2008
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When I was about twelve and developed a fascination with Titanic, Marian Thayer was from the word go the passenger who grabbed my attention the most. It may have been the oft-published regal photograph of her sparkling in her tiara that did it!

Despite her being mentioned in passing in numerous accounts of the sinking, not much information seems to be available. It is known that she never remarried, became withdrawn and attempted to contact her late husband via seances and the like, but what of her personality?

This site is so full of passenger nuts like myself (hi Randy and everyone else!) so let's throw all we know of Mrs Thayer into a single thread (if only to satisfy my curiosity on this lovely lady!)

DP
 
Mar 20, 2007
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Hello David

You're seemingly new to the board (welcome) so it might be an idea to peruse existing threads relating to the Thayers - a good deal of information on both Marian and Jack in their later lives can be found there and it seems a bit futile to duplicate it here.

I do agree, though, that Mrs Thayer is one of the more attractive first class passengers. Like you, I've been drawn to her because of her good looks and glamour: you might be interested to hear that the photograph you mention above was one of several taken in one sitting; I've seen another shot from that session, with Marian seated in a different pose, sans tiara.

I don't believe that Randy Bigham is still posting on the forum (his profile has been deleted) but he once added a memorable quote from a magazine published in the winter of 1912, in which Marian is described as 'the most splendidly fashionable' woman in Philadelphia Society. As you'll know, she and her husband ran with a very glitzy crowd and were guests at the exclusive Widener dinner in the a la carte restaurant on the evening of Sunday, 14th April. We know that Marian was a friend of the bereaved Emily Ryerson and showed great kindness to her during the voyage. She was also close to Eleanor Widener and Lucile Carter - I've added quite a lot of information about both these women to the board over the past few months, so I'd point you to the relevant biographical threads under 'Passenger Research'. Likewise, I've provided a bit of general background on the Thayers on the 'Rich People in Society' thread under the heading 'Gilded Age'.

I'd agree that not much is documented about Marian's life after the 'Titanic'. The impression is that she did withdraw rather from the social round - and, yes, family members do seem to agree that she spent a lot of time cooped up in her gloomy mansion, experimenting with ouija boards or something similar. She WAS present, I believe, at Madeleine Astor's lunch for Captain Rostron after the disaster and a day or two later entertained the captain at her Haverford home. Her neighbour, Martha Stephenson, who had also made her escape in Lifeboat No. 4, was present too.

Are you aware that J. Bruce Ismay developed something of a crush on Mrs Thayer and the pair wrote to one another frequently after the sinking? He saw her as something of a 'soul mate' and his letters became so intimate in tone that Marian thought it best to (gently) discontinue the correspondence. This episode is fully described in the Ismay family memoir, 'A Voyage Closed and Done'.

Brian Ahern is a great authority on the lives of the first class passengers and will doubtless chime in here if he can add anything new. In the meantime, if I were you, I'd root out the existing threads I've mentioned above.

Regards

Martin
 

David Paris

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Mar 27, 2008
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Thanks for taking the time to reply Martin. I had no idea that Ismay developed a crush on Mrs Thayer. I do remember his boastful waving of iceberg warnings on the Sunday afternoon when Marian and Emily Ryerson were strolling the deck, but assumed that Ismay was trying to bignote himself for Mrs Ryerson's benefit (I never dreamed in a "romantic" way though) Truly fascinating I shall look out for "A Voyage Closed and Done".

I was looking for more of an idea of her personality rather than the cold hard facts that have been repeated here in other threads and in the various accounts of the disaster. I know it's a longshot that anyone would know intimacies on many of the more shadowy passengers (of which I don't include Mrs Thayer - there is alot known about her in comparison to other passengers who are merely names on a list in many cases) but after reading such indepth accounts of passengers like Lady Duff Gordon and Helen Churchill Candee on this site I had hoped that somebody here would be able to contribute something new to the Marian Thayer tale.

Such a shame that Randy doesn't appear to be posting on the board any longer, his contributions up to now have been wonderfully illuminating in so many respects.

Thanks again for the warm welcome Martin :)

DP
 

Brian Ahern

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Dec 19, 2002
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Welcome to the board, David. It's always nice when another passenger-focused person comes aboard. By now, I'm sure you've perused the other threads and seen most of the info on Marian that's on ET. I started a thread on her a few years ago for the same reason you cited - she's mentioned in just about every book on the Titanic, but never in great depth. One obstacle to pinning her down is that Thayer and Morris are both common New England names. I'm not sure if I've tried hunting the Haverford Thayers up on newspaperarchive.com, which is one of the best online archives in terms of value for money. I'll give it a try and let you know if I find anything.
 
Mar 20, 2007
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I agree that Randy's presence on the board is sorely missed. His contributions were never less than insightful and informative and he furthered my knowledge of the lives of several passengers - Lucy Duff Gordon, Noelle Rothes, Dorothy Gibson and Helen Candee - immeasurably. I know that he was working on biographies of Rene Harris and Edith Russell but I'm not sure when or if these will ever be posted on Encyclopedia Titanica.

In the absence of a cache of family papers, which might include diaries, letters and other primary source material, it is often difficult to get a firm grip on an individual's personality - as opposed to their social activities and transatlantic movements which, in the case of a wealthy, well-connected 'Society' figure like Marian Thayer, would be well-documented and easy to trace. Instead, one falls back on inference and what one can read between the lines. That Emily Ryerson - who had remained in total seclusion throughout the voyage - consented to venture on deck with her friend on the afternoon of 14th April leads me to assume that her company was in some sense desirable - at any rate, that she provided a soothing and sympathetic ear for the grieving mother. According to the later testimony of Mrs Ryerson (which is very interesting in itself) the two women were button-holed during their stroll by Bruce Ismay...perhaps a telling encounter, since he evidently found himself attracted to Marian Thayer, despite his acquaintance with her (very soon to be deceased) husband.

However, it DOES appear that some letters both to and from Marian Thayer survive in the archives of the Independence Seaport Museum, which I guess is somewhere in the region of Philadelphia. It seems that Jack Thayer compiled a collection of 'Titanic' and other ocean liner related memorabilia which was eventually bequeathed under his name to this institution - a full list of the component parts can be found on-line. Scanning through it, a few intriguing articles spring out at me. One is a letter that Marian Thayer wrote to her sister from the 'Titanic' on sailing day - in this, I believe that she makes some mention of the incident at Southampton with the 'New York' but I'm unsure of the remainder of the contents. No matter what they might relate to, this letter (and any other extant correspondence) would really help to give Marian her voice back - which is your main aim, David. There are some other interesting pieces, too. One is a letter written by Captain Rostron from his latest command, the 'Mauretania', in 1924 - years after the 'Titanic', it seems that he and Mrs Thayer were still keeping in touch. Another is a letter written to Marian by one Evelyn Hamon-Graeme. Addressed from Lausanne and dated 30 April, 1912, this item really grabbed me. The redoubtable Lady Hamon-Graeme (nicknamed Lady Ham 'n' Eggs) was one of the doyennes of the London debutante scene in the inter-war years - thousands of well-bred girls quailed under her beady eye as they curtseyed to the cake at Queen Charlotte's Ball and she was very much seen as a pillar of Society (with a capital 'S'). If Mrs Thayer's correspondent is the same person - and Hamon-Graeme is hardly a common name - I'd be fascinated to know how they knew each other and what the contents of her letter are. Unfortunately, I don't have plans to be in the States anytime soon but, when or if I am, I will certainly try to gain access to the Thayer Collection to make some transcriptions.

Otherwise, I've delved quite deeply into the archives of the 'New York Times' and it appears that Marian was not as active a participant in the Newport social whirl as her friends, Mrs Widener and Mrs Carter, who regularly made the headlines. Perhaps this suggests that she was happier to 'stay home' with her family in Haverford. The Thayers lived next door to the Merion Cricket Club, where John had turned in some star performances in his youth. I've never seen a picture of the Thayer house but I believe it was called 'Redwood' (or something similar) and was in the Tudor style. One of Marian's grandchildren recalled that it was 'an eerie old house...always dark and gloomy'. I'd dearly love to see a snapshot, since I believe that nothing helps to 'place' a passenger better than seeing where they lived.

You'll have learned by now, David, that Marian (called Grannie Muz by her grandchildren) died on 14th April, 1944, the thirty-second anniversary of the 'Titanic' disaster. Her son Jack killed himself eighteen months later - and I'm almost certain that another Thayer child, a daughter, also committed suicide at some point. Full details of both these sad events can be found on the forum.

All the best

Martin
 
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sashka pozzetti

Guest
I've been told by my museum friend that they are going to publish a major book later this year about Lady Duff Gordon,with lots of illustrations, and a biography. So that might illuminate more about her character. So there is at least something to look forward to, if Randy Bigham has stopped posting.
:)
 
Mar 20, 2000
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I am still a member of Encyclopedia Titanica, and proudly so. I'm not able to post as much due to being more busy than usual. But I do look in now and then. The V&A is to do some sort of book based on their collection of Lucile costumes and design sketches but I'm not aware the release date is this year. Her relatives have kept me up to date on some of the projects afoot, which include a possible TV show, though they may not be too keen to participate in something of that nature.

As to Marian Thayer, I've researched her only slightly. George Behe has some quite interesting letters of hers, and I have heard of other researchers with info on her but beyond that I know very little. I know she was beautiful and fashionable, having come across references to her clothes and jewelry in various old press stories. Her love of glamour and luxury doesn't seem to have kept her from being a deep-thinking, spiritual person. At least that's how she seemed in the letters George showed me.

A belated hello to David Paris, and thanks for the kind words. Also just to clarify about Martin Williams' comment. I am indeed working on bios of Edith Russell and Rene Harris but as to the latter I want to credit my friend Gregg Jasper as co-researcher/writer in the project which is on hold just now until I can get out to San Francisco later this summer to compare notes with him. Gregg came to know Rene well in her last years and has a trove of letters and photos. Add to this a cache of letters and other documents on Rene that Don Lynch has shared with us, and there's quite a story to tell. It's just a matter of finding time to tell it!

The Edith Russell project is one I hope to do with Ed Kamuda as he knew her and has many of her letters. I should add that I have had tremendous help from Jenni Atkinson in the past; she also knew "Edy," and has shared her very funny memories of this fascinating and MOST temperament lady!

Best wishes to my friends here on ET. It was nice seeing old familiar names still posting. I was just dropping by today as this is June 13, Lucile's b-day, and the old dear was on my mind.

Randy
 

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