Marian Thayer

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Martin Williams

Member
I've also been interested to learn a little about the considerable achievements of another branch of the Thayer family, that of John's brother, George Chapman Thayer. He married Gertrude Wheeler of Philadelphia in February 1902, at the Protestant Church of the Redeemer at Bryn Mawr. He was attended by two of his brothers, Harry and Walter, and the reception was held at the home of his mother, Mrs John B. Thayer Senior. Gertrude's sister, Mary, had previously married a German nobleman, Count Pappenheim, and had allegedly carried with her to Europe a dowry of $1,000,000 - although the press were at pains to point out that the count had not been on the look-out for a dollar princess, already being in possession of a very considerable fortune of his own. The Countess Pappenheim crops up fairly regularly in the Society columns of the day and seems to have spent a substantial amount of her time with the American ex-patriate community in London. George Thayer was apparently on hand to greet his bereaved sister-in-law and nephew upon their return to Haverford by rail in April 1912 and was certainly present at the dinner Marian later gave at her home for Captain Rostron and her fellow 'Titanic' survivors, Eleanor Widener and Martha Stephenson.

In the September of that same year, and after a full decade of marriage, Gertrude Thayer finally had a child, Avis, who would eventually become the eldest of six. She attended Bryn Mawr, but did not graduate, instead spending a year studying abroad. During a visit to her brother Charles, who was on post to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, she met Charles Eustis Bohlen, whom she married in 1935. Bohlen would go on to enjoy an extremely distinguished career in the diplomatic service and served as American Ambassador to the Soviet Union (which must have been sticky, right in the middle of the Cold War), the Philippines and France. Avis was active in the American Association of Foreign Service Wives and the Avis Bohlen Award administered by the American Foreign Service Association was established in her name in 1982, to honour the wives of Foreign Service officers.
Avis' brother (and so Jack Thayer's first cousin) was Charles W. Thayer, who himself became a very prominent diplomat and a writer of some note. His papers, many of which relate to his family and career, are currently housed in the Harry S. Truman Library. I've supplied the link below:

http://www.trumanlibrary.org/hstpaper/thayerc.htm
 
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Dr. Douglas B. Willingham

Member
Hello, Martin:

I want to thank you publicly for your fine posts. They have enhanced our knowledge of the era and the major players in the story of the "Titanic". Like Randy Bigham, Shelley Dziedzic, George Behe, Pat Cook, Inger Sheil and many others, some of whom I've had the privilege of meeting face-to-face, I don't have the time to post much anymore. Still, I check in from time to time, and am always glad to read your very intelligent contributions. Thank you!

Regards,
Doug Willingham
 
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Martin Williams

Member
Thank you so much for your kind comments. I do realise that many of my contributions to the board will be of only the most marginal interest (if of any interest at all!) to my fellow members but, speaking for myself, I feel it is so important to try to 'flesh out' the life-stories of those men and women who sailed on the 'Titanic', by fitting them into the broader social and cultural context of their time. Unless we do so, we can't hope to understand their reactions to the events of April 1912.

In the case of the first-class passengers, one is constantly amazed by how many of them knew or, at least, knew of one another before they sailed. Similarly, and quite apart from the obvious 'snob appeal' that comes from rummaging around in the biographies of the rich and famous, it is fascinating to trace their connections to the most celebrated figures of their day - whether that be in the field of politics, industry, high society, the arts or whatever. In so many instances, the disaster was but a single episode (albeit an extremely harrowing one) in otherwise diverse and rewarding lives; lives which really should not be exclusively defined by an involuntary involvement in the sinking and its aftermath.

Anyway, it is always nice to be appreciated.

With best wishes

Martin
 
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David Paris

Member
I echo Dr Douglas' post Martin, thank you so much for putting any information out there. With the passengers no longer around to tell their own stories and information scant, every piece is always of interest - great stuff!
 
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Dr. Douglas B. Willingham

Member
Hello, again, Martin , David and all...

I hope this is not redundant information on ET or elsewhere but has anyone else noticed, in the film "On Golden Pond", that the family surname is "Thayer" and that Henry Fonda's character was a retired faculty member at Ivy League University of Pennsylvania? Many of you will no doubt remember that Jack Thayer was both a graduate of and later university treasurer of Penn. I'm familiar with that school on a personal level, as my ex-wife was a triple alumna there, born and raised in Philadelphia. The campus is beautiful.

Could the author of the play/screenwriter have based his main character on Jack? It has always seemed to me to be too close to coincidence not to be possible.

Regards to all,
Doug
 
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Martin Williams

Member
I was, this morning, delighted to discover that, as a young married woman, Marian Thayer sat for the miniaturist Carl Weidner. The art of miniature painting had gone into abeyance in the mid-nineteenth century, with the invention and rise in popularity of photography, but it enjoyed something of a renaissance in the 1890s and 1900s. Mrs Thayer is depicted half-length and in profile to the right, wearing a rose-pink gown trimmed with a deep flounce of white lace. Her brownish-gold hair (so interesting to see what colour it was) is upswept in the fashion of the day and is threaded with pink ribbon. The portrait is held in the collection of the New York Historical Society and I'm even more pleased to be able to supply the link which will allow you to view it on-line.

https://www.nyhistory.org/web/default.php?section=exhibits_collections

Simply type the key word 'Thayer' into the search engine and up she pops!
 
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Diana Watson

Member
Hmmm..that's weird Martin, I tried it and it said no records...maybe i'm just stupid lol ;)
 
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Martin Williams

Member
I've found several references in the contemporary press to John B. Thayer's illness during 1910 and 1911. As was standard practice at the time, the gossip columns treated this only very obliquely (just as the imminent birth of Madeleine Astor's baby was coyly described in early April as 'an interesting event') and I am not at all sure what was the matter with him. John was certainly able to travel and had at least one rest cure in Europe (from which he returned home aboard the White Star liner 'Adriatic') and, on another occasion, when laid low in London, an informal statement was issued which breezily claimed that all he required for a full recovery was a little peace and quiet.

I might be barking up the wrong tree entirely but one does wonder if Mr Thayer actually suffered from recurrent bouts of depression? Not one but two of his children (Jack being one of them) would commit suicide in later years and it is not inconceivable that this was a hereditary condition, passed on from their father.

Just a thought!
 
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Brian Ahern

Member
First of all, I must echo Dr Willingham's and David's thanks to Martin for his invaluable contributions to this board. Martin, your superb research and generous sharing have been gems to those of us interested in the human side of the tragedy.

Regarding Mr Thayer, there are a couple of things that point to his having some sort of depressive or anxiety disorder. There was a fleeting reference in a book ("Last Dinner on the Titanic", maybe?) to his trip abroad having been necessitated by the pressures of his job getting to him. There is also Marian Thayer's own account of her attempt during the voyage to teach Major b*** a nerve-relaxation method that she had learned while abroad. I have always vaguely assumed that this was merely Mrs Thayer's interest in things new-agey (I don't know how else to refer to it) at work. But perhaps she had more practical reasons for seeking out means of treating nerve disorders?

Such a condition on Mr Thayer's part might account for the presence of Jack Thayer on the trip. I have always wondered at the fact that a boy of seventeen was taken abroad in the middle of the school year, and have reasoned that his parents had simply judged the trip a valuable experience for him. Perhaps, though, Mrs Thayer wanted her eldest son's support in coping with her husband?
 
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Martin Williams

Member
Hi Brian

Once again, I thank you for your extremely kind comments. It is always a pleasure to engage in this forum with other individuals who share my deep-seated interest in the human beings - their lives, experiences and personalities - who together make the Titanic story so endlessly compelling. I am fortunate to have a job in which biographical research plays a major part - so it isn't at all difficult, when time permits (and, occasionally, when it doesn't!), to make the detour into Titanic related channels. Once one knows where to look, and the methods to employ there, the rest is easy. My own knowledge has been immeasurably enhanced and enriched by the leads you have yourself supplied and it is gratifying to be able to return the favour.

But enough of the mutual appreciation and back to the Thayers. The more I've turned the subject over in my mind, the likelier it seems to me that John suffered from some form of mental disorder. How severe, we may never know, for these matters are not much discussed nowadays and certainly not back then. My own intuition (for all that is worth, from the distance of nearly a full century) suggests to me that his condition at least partly explains the presence of the family aboard the Titanic in the spring of 1912. I've found only the most fleeting reference in the contemporary press, pre-sinking, to Jack accompanying his parents - the Thayers were on a kind of European 'grand tour' with their teenage son as the ostensible reason for it. By early April, they were certainly in Paris, where Marian did her shopping - on another thread, it was revealed that she patronised the great dress-making firm of Worth, perhaps the most prestigious in the world at that time, and an entirely fitting destination for a woman acclaimed as the most 'splendidly fashionable' in Philadelphia Society. Interestingly, the Thayers chose to cross over to England before they boarded the Titanic on 10th. Perhaps their path intersected with Lucile Carter, who was also in Paris that week on a shopping spree, but who likewise embarked at Southampton.

Although so much of this is mere inference, I like to think I'm not too far off in my perception of Marian Thayer as a kind and compassionate woman who, in spite of her wealth and privilege, had a lot to contend with in her marriage. Indeed, the deeper one delves, the more one appreciates that even the most glamorous first-class passengers were not immune to tragedy and sorrow in the years prior to the sinking. Only think of Ida Hippach, loosing two sons in the horror of the Chicago Iroquois blaze, and Colonel Gracie, loosing a young daughter in a freak elevator accident. What is clear to me is that her difficulties with John in no way limited Marian's sympathy for others. She proved to be a caring friend during the voyage to the bereaved Emily Ryerson. Bruce Ismay was captivated by her and, as I've written above, Marian was still in touch with her rescuer, Arthur Rostron, more than a decade after the sinking.

Oh, and Brian. You mention Mrs Thayer imparting 'new age' mind relaxation techniques to Archibald b***. How do you know this? Did she leave some first-hand account - however brief - I'm not aware of?

Best wishes to you, as ever

Martin
 
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Brian Ahern

Member
Martin - surely you've read Marian's account!?! She left a highly detailed account beginning with dinner that night and continuing on through the sinking. If I recall correctly, it is when she mentions that the Major was a guest at the Wideners' party that she mentions that she wanted to teach him the relaxation method. I know her account is included in the Wyn Craig Wade book, which I've just looked around for and can't find just now. I'll keep looking for it, but I'm sure it's not the only book that includes the account.
 
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Martin Williams

Member
Ummmm...nope. I wasn't even aware that she had written an in-depth account (blushes). It has been years since I picked up a book relating exclusively to the Titanic and anything new I learn on the subject has been derived either from contributions to this board or my own research. I suppose, having immersed myself in Lord, Lynch, Eaton and Haas as a boy, I just assumed that I had read everything of significance that had appeared in print about the disaster itself.

Needless to say, I would be fascinated to hear Mrs Thayer's story told in her own words.
 
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George L. Lorton

Member
Hello gents!
Happy

quote:

Needless to say, I would be fascinated to hear Mrs Thayer's story told in her own words.
Add me to that list! I knew Jack Thayer had an account of the sinking but never knew that his mother also wrote an account.​
 
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