Marian Thayer

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David Paris

Member
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
 
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Brian Ahern

Member
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.
 
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Martin Williams

Member
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.
:)
 
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Randy Bryan Bigham

Member
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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sashka pozzetti

Guest
It is apparently scheduled to be published by the end of the year. Lewis Orchard has said that they are using illustrations from their extensive design and photo archive, which has been catalogued by two Lucile experts at the V&A

Also, there is an illustrated article about his own Lucile archive in last months Wonderland magazine. It has a really bad title 'sunk without a trace' !!! :)
 
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Randy Bryan Bigham

Member
I have had an email from one of the authors of the upcoming Lucile book, Amy de la Haye, with whom I've been in contact for some years in connection with my own book. She said that the release date by V&A Publications will come "via museum channels" in due course, and indicated that although they were "well on" with the book, publication "by the end of the year" is speculation at this point. Amy also pointed out that the book was not biographical but focused on the V&A's collection.

In her message she said: "Our books should dovetail very nicely as yours seems to be biographical and ours focuses very specifically upon surviving material preserved in the V&A archive, and particularly one fashion album from Autumn 1905 which is case-studied in some depth."

Lucile's grandson, the late Tony Earl of Halsbury, donated the photographic archive of Lucile designs to the V&A; these had been kept in a number of boxes by Lady Flavia Anderson (L's granddaughter) at her house in Edinburgh until she moved to a smaller place, at which time she sent them to her brother in London, who then gave them to the V&A. Former costume curator Madeleine Ginsburg assisted in this acquisition back in the 1970s or 80s; I know she pursued Lord H about it for a good while (he showed me her letters once), so thanks to her perseverance and Tony's generosity, these great images were saved!

Randy
 
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sashka pozzetti

Guest
The British designer Lewis Orchard has seen the archive a number of times and says that it is not just a photographic archive. He also went to see it with the Duff Gordon family, many of whom knew little or nothing about their famous ancestor!
 
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Randy Bryan Bigham

Member
I didn't say it was "just" a photographic archive. I was merely touching on that part of it. The V&A has numerous Lucile costumes, some accessories and a collection of watercolor designs. I, too, have visited the museum, and interviewed the curators, including Valerie D. Mendes, whose "Black in Fashion" (2000) I reviewed for a US fashion paper. A complete catalogue listing of the V&A's holdings on Lucile will appear in my book. Also, I'm aware of the recent visit of the Duff Gordon family to the V&A. They told me how thrilled they were to see all the V&A had on Lucile.

The family knew little about Lucile because Lord H was very reticent. However, he opened up a great deal in his last years, and I was honored to record his memories. His daughters now have copies of the complete record of our correspondence.
 
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Jim Kalafus

Member
>His daughters now have copies of the complete record of our correspondence.

Including the fascinating, readable, and historically important Gowan letters?
 
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Mark Baber

Staff member
Moderator
Member
An ad hominem message and a response to that message have been removed from this thread.

Please keep the discussion focused on the subject and not on the perceived qualities of the participants in the discussion. Thanks.
 
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sashka pozzetti

Guest
Randy, it seems from your postings that you are not aware of the archive that was recently catalogued by a Lucile expert from the Royal College of Art. The other holdings you describe are of course still there.

Anyone can visit the V&A, and can do their own research. (see website to make an appointment) Valerie Mendes, and Amy De La Haye no longer work there but are writing their book based on their many years combined working knowledge of the V&A archive.

It seems there may be a rush of Lucile books. Who is the publisher of yours?
 
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Martin Williams

Member
Marian Thayer doesn't appear to be well served here...

I'm still rooting around to uncover information about her life and activities, both before and after the 'Titanic'. David and Brian - if nobody else - might be interested to know what I find, if it helps to contribute to our picture of the woman who is the ostensible subject of this thread.
 
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David Paris

Member
Absolutely Martin! Please keep us updated! Though I haven't posted for a while due to current work overflow (ick!) I still stop by regularly and browse the forums and contribute where I can. And hello to Randy - thanks for the welcome and good to see you're still with us!
 
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Martin Williams

Member
Further research has shown that, whilst references to the Thayer family in contemporary gossip columns are patchy, they do exist. As might be expected of friends of the ultra-gregarious Wideners and Carters, John and Marian were sometimes in attendance at the grander social events of the period. Indeed, when they themselves entertained, they did so in high style, and in the most illustrious company too. In late 1905, for example, Prince Louis of Battenberg (Lord Mountbatten's father) was visiting the States with his nephew, Prince Alexander. The smart set went into over-drive in their efforts to keep the two men amused, but Marian pulled off a particular coup when she enticed Prince Louis to lunch with her at Sherry's, the most exclusive restaurant in New York. Also included in her party was Ava Willing Astor, John Jacob Astor's virtually ubiquitous first wife, and they afterwards adjourned to the Madison Square Garden for an afternoon at the Horse Show, where they were installed in the box of A.J. Cassatt. As Jack Thayer would eventually marry Lois Cassatt, it is interesting to find this early reference to the two families playing host to one another. Once at the show, Prince Louis peeled off for a stroll around the arena with Ava. One hopes that Marian wasn't miffed to find her guest-of-honour poached in this way!

Several years later, at the very beginning of February 1912 (and so, presumably, only days before the Thayer family departed for Europe), Philadelphia Society was summoned en masse to what was described as 'the most exclusive dance of the season' at the opulent Bellevue-Stratford Hotel. Because George and Eleanor Widener had recently been criticised for what was deemed to be their over-the-top entertainment - featuring, among other divertissements, 'Miss Ruth St. Denis, a troupe of Hindus and writhing reptiles' (yes, really) - press reporters were barred and so only limited reports of the evening's festivities leaked out. Nevertheless, it was reported that the guests experimented with the latest 'animal dances' - the Turkey Trot, the Grizzly Bear and the Bunny Hug. The ball was unusual because the men, as opposed to their wives, were the hosts - one of them being John B. Thayer. He had been quite seriously ill in 1911 (I haven't been able to ascertain what his complaint was) but had evidently made a full recovery by this point, and he and Marian were once more socially active in the New Year.
 
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