Marian Thayer

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Brian Ahern

Member
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.
 
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David F. Smith

Member
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

Guest
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!
 
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Brian Meister

Member
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
 
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Randy Bryan Bigham

Member
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

Kyrila Scully

Member
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
 
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David Huffaker

Member
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.
 
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Martin Williams

Member
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.
 
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Martin Williams

Member
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!
 
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Brian Ahern

Member
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.
 
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Michele Lawson

Member
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.
 
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David Paris

Member
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
 
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Martin Williams

Member
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
 
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