Naughty behavior and sordid happenings in the Gilded Age


Jun 11, 2000
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Jack was only 17, so very young really, especially given that it was 1912. So, I don't think he had a clue, either on the Titanic, or even later, about Milton Long's supposed proclivities. I'm sure Jack always very much regretted the loss of the best, and (probably innocent to him), friend he had on the Titanic - Milton, who did not survive.

And I don't suppose that Milton Long, in the last couple of hours of the disaster, gave a single thought to anything other than supporting a friend through what must have seemed to be a certain death for both of them under those circumstances. Jack was a kid, with no parents around ... so let's give Milton a break, please.
 
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Mar 20, 2007
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Certainly, Jim's version of events is plausible - we can't just discard it because it seems distasteful. But maybe it is worth considering some other aspects of the situation, too.

Jack was pretty much on his own in the reception room. John and Marian were dining two decks up as part of Eleanor Widener's highly exclusive dinner party. I think J. Bruce Ismay, who was also known to the Thayer family, was in the a la carte restaurant too. The Ryerson youngsters would have been closely chaperoned by their governess and I imagine, given their own unhappy circumstances, that they wouldn't have made for much fun anyway. Maybe Jack didn't want to intrude. As for the rest of the under-thirty contingent in first class; well, it would have been difficult for Long to strike up a conversation with any of the younger women without them thinking that he was trying it on...a possibility the mind-set of 1912 would have been much more attuned to than our scenario of events. Those women had their 'protectors' for good reason! That may have been a line of propriety he was unwilling to cross. Furthermore, the Titanic was carrying many honeymoon couples - Marvins, Dicks, Smiths, Bishops etc. Nobody with an ounce of tact would want to break in on their party. From all accounts, they either enjoyed their own company or socialised together in a group. It is wholly possible that Long simply took pity on poor Jack, sitting alone and looking a bit forlorn. In second class, where the average age of passengers was quite a bit lower, circumstances might have been a little different.

From this distance, we can certainly speculate - but we'll never know for sure.
 

Jim Kalafus

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>Now, Jim...let's get to the real (unanswerable) question. Was Thayer oblivious to this?

"Do you collect stamps?" pretty much reeks of oblivious. The fact that he wrote a blow by blow account of this weird meeting and sent it to Milton's father (with a request for a photo of Milton) further reenforces that.

>I'm sure Jack always very much regretted the loss of the best, and (probably innocent to him), friend he had on the Titanic

The duration of their friendship was, like, 3 hours, so "best" is a stretch. In fact, even "friendship" is a stretch.

Virtually every gay "Non-Titanic-buff" I have shown that account to, with no editorial input on my part, has "read" it the same way. Removed from the noxious stench of Titanic romanticism, and read by people who A) are gay and B) don't give a sh*t about the Titanic, it is perceived as one WEIRD account.

"Got a match?"
"Guess how old I am?"
"I've been passing myself off as a teenager."

Are NOT statements one would make to someone who looked bored or lonely. Those are things one WOULD say to someone one was trying to get a "feel" for. Jack's stamp collecting gambit certainly answered THAT question.

>It is wholly possible that Long simply took pity on poor Jack, sitting alone and looking a bit forlorn.

Milton, by the 1912 lifespan, was middle aged. In today's terms, the equivalent of a 41 year old. Jack was a couple of months away from short pants. The line of demarkation between child and adult was far more rigid in 1912, particularly in the upper classes...Milton could FREELY have talked to any of his 'equals' (the 30-thru waiting for death set) had he chosen to. Quite apart from having virtually nothing in common with Jack, there WAS the stigma of grown men who talked with *ahem* jailbait to be considered. Had there been a paternalistic, or even fraternal, tone in Milton's approach, I'd say "Let's not read too much into this," but this does NOT read at all like a straight 30 year old taking "pity" on a bored teen. It reads like a middle aged letch cruising. We've all met them.

And, unmarried middle aged men WERE viewed with suspicion at that time.

Going with the theme. One hetero Lusitania survivor, female, received a surprisingly graphic "mash note" from another female survivor, that was preserved among her papers. No room for interpretation. Face value in every paragraph. It reads QUITE a bit like what I suspect the next step in this odd encounter would have been.
 

Arun Vajpey

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That's an interesting view Jim. Digressing slightly but on a similar note, I have often wondered what people thought of the 40-something Professor Ian Holbourn befriending 12 year old Avis Dolphin on the Lusitania's last voyage. In my view, that relationship was clean and simple. The Prof was a happily married man with 3 sons and in Avis he probably saw the daughter figure that he never had. Likewise, Avis never knew her father and so subconsciously substituted the friendly Holbourn, who was about the right age.
 
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Jim Kalafus

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>In my view, that relationship was clean and simple.

Was it? This WAS the era in which, oh, about 3000 cautionary books were issued warning mothers to keep there daughters clear of "friendly" middle aged men; pimping, white slavery, and pedophilia having been thrust into the public eye by the efforts made to clean up Chicago.

>The Prof was a happily married man

Was he? He had resided on Lincoln Terrace, in Yonkers, NY, for almost a year, had not seen his family and, I may add, had not sent for any of them either.
 

Arun Vajpey

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I am sorry Jim, but I cannot buy that. It is one thing talking about Milton Long but I believe that Prof Holbourn was a decent man. It would be bordering on perverse to look at every unusual friendship with jaundiced eyes. Those points that you have mentioned are not evidence that Prof Holbourn was predatory in any way. There are plenty of genuine examples why people have had to live apart from their families for a while.

Ian Holbourn was known to be fond of kids in a paternal sort of way and he befriended Avis Dolphin on the Lusitania while trying to cheer her out of seasickness. After both survived the disaster, Avis was a frequent visitor at the Hobourn home on the Isle of Foula where she was welcomed by both Prof & Mrs Holbourn. In fact, I believe it was during one of those visits to Scotland that Avis met journalist Thomas Foley, whom she later married.
 
May 27, 2007
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Seems I missed quite a conversation! I kinda get the feeling that Milton Long wasn't trying to solicit Jack Thayer but that maybe Thayer didn't remember the events of the meeting clearly! A lot happened that night! Perhaps Long told Jack about how he passed as a teenager later on as an amusing antidote or for a laugh after they had gotten to know each other! Perhaps he just wanted a match as well and to make a "Friend"!

Howdy Arun!

I believe that Prof Holbourn was a decent man.
Who said he wasn't! I agree with what you said about Holbourn, Arun! I think he always wanted a daughter like Avis Dolphin and perhaps Avis always wanted a father like Prof. Holbourn! When he sent a telegram to his wife Mrs. Holbourn was under the impression that Avis was a much younger child. Probably from the description her husband gave of Avis and that is probably the way the good Prof. saw Avis when he first met her. As a little girl!
 

Arun Vajpey

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>>>> Arun! I think he always wanted a daughter like Avis Dolphin and perhaps Avis always wanted a father like Prof. Holbourn <<<< That seems quite likely and I can understand the feeling more than most. I am a middle aged man myself and though my wife and I have been happily married for 31 years, unfortunately we never had children. I do have a paternal sort of affinity towards children that is usually (and perhaps instinctively) reciprocated. As a GP many parents have remarked that I am good in handing the younger patients.

I sincerely hope that no one sees anything perverse in that!
 
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I sincerely hope that no one sees anything perverse in that!
Nonsense Arun, some folks just get on with kids well and can understand them. It's the Predators that have eroded trust! Rightly so but sad too! I myself am sometimes an over protective parent so maybe I should practice what I preach! I'm sorry to hear you never had any children. Although as I'm sure a few other parents will agree with me while it's wonderful being a parent, kids can also be a handful and require a lot of sacrifice and "Patience"! Especially when their at the preschool age!
 
May 27, 2007
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Actually according to Diana Preston "Lusitania An Epic Tragedy" Prof. Holbourn wrote an Adventure story for girls after hearing Avis complain that most Adventure Stories were geared for boys and that adventure stories about or geared for girls were few and far between! I believe it was called "Child Of the Moat"? I always wanted to read it!
 
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Jim Kalafus

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A few things to ponder....

First, going back to Long and Thayer.

Going into semi-confessional mode here. I crossed, and cruised, at least twice yearly from the point in my life where I could legally do so. And, did so alone until I was 26.

I am VERY familiar with the way that adults relate to young, solo, male travelers. People who sat at my dining table, once they learned I was articulate, WOULD often join me for conversation in public rooms during the course of the voyage. Likewise, people who knew me from team trivia...etc... were in their comfort zone with me, and vice-versa, despite frequent 30-50 year age differences.

NOTHING good ever came out of Milton Long like encounters. Adults who attempt to befriend same-sex barely legal strangers are NOT doing so out of sympathy, empathy, etc. "Got a match?" indeed.

Adults who befriend pubescents of either sex are an even scarier lot. The Holbourn/Dolphin story struck me as creepy when I was a kid, and strikes me as even creepier as an adult. In 42 years I've NEVER met an adult who pursued one-on-one friendships with people Avis' age, particularly minors with whom they have had no past relationship, where there HASN'T been something unwholesome afoot. Organizing games for bored kids is one thing. Socializing with pubescent minors is another.

The pre-WW1 era is, alas, strewn with accounts of girls, and boys, who met fairly dire fates at the hands of "Pillars of the community. Who would have THOUGHT?" with whom they had indecent contact. I am fairly interested in the WIDE gap between the Victorian lip-service about children being sexless and innocent and the massive exploitation of children, in the carnal sense, during that era.

I know nothing of Holbourn's 'decency' or lack thereof. I've done little primary research on him, as his story is well known and does not fit my criteria of obscurity. I've also avoided him because, since age 11, his story has given me the creeps.
 
May 27, 2007
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And HOW! (Just kidding...couldn't resist...George's comment was just begging to be responded to).

Yes it is to laugh!
happy.gif
I hope what folks will consider who read this topic thread is that Thayer might of remembered what Long said out of context! Which as my comment worded as it is shows how easy it is to do! Or and a big or at that perhaps Long did try to solicit Thayer. We should keep all the options open and not judge!

Myself, I think there was more to it! Long seems to be looking for trouble if he was trying to solicit Thayer. Thayer's Parents weren't dumb and would of probably had words with Mr. Long about trying to seduce their son not to mention Thayer himself being upset and angry!

Although there are hints that Thayer wasn't what he seemed! I believe he committed suicide in the 40's! Was Thayer secretly a Homosexual and fighting it all his life to finally give up the game by killing himself or was he a hetero-sexual and his suicide totally unconnected to his sexual orientation. Lot of clues here or wild theories! Of course this could be a bunch of hokum as well and Long and Thayer could of had an innocent friendship! Somebody could write a book on this but it isn't going to be me!
 

Arun Vajpey

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>>>>> The Holbourn/Dolphin story struck me as creepy when I was a kid, and strikes me as even creepier as an adult. In 42 years I've NEVER met an adult who pursued one-on-one friendships with people Avis' age, particularly minors with whom they have had no past relationship, where there HASN'T been something unwholesome afoot. <<<<<

Jim, you are entitled to your opinion of course, as we all are. But I think it is a very sad that you feel the need to make a blanket statement like that. I have also seen more than my share of the world and am very glad to say that I do not share your outlook.

I can guess the sort of image Prof Holbourn would have been given in that "400 page manuscript" mentioned elsewhere. I am sure that you'll not be short of thousands of interested buyers when the publication comes out but I think I'll keep my distance.
 
Jun 11, 2000
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I can't believe this really.
Of course there were gays in 1912. Of course there were predators. Of course, there were people who weren't sure into which category they fell, and who can be 'analysed' now with hindsight.

But whatever Milton Long's proclivities, I doubt he did anything on the night of the disaster other than try his best to keep both himself and Jack Thayer alive. You're projecting a life / lifestyle which hasn't been proven, in order to draw conclusions about him. Not worth it, 93 years' later.
 
May 27, 2007
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I can't believe this!
Neither can I but Researchers do it all the time it seems on flimsier evidence then this.
sad.gif

You're projecting a life / lifestyle which hasn't been proven, in order to draw conclusions about him. Not worth it, 93 years' later.
I agree with that 100%! Which is as I said before a bunch of wild theories with >random< clues! Thayer's account may sound strange to some modern ears but I think it was remembered out of context or some key element explaining the whole thing was missing from Thayer's memory!
Jim, you are entitled to your opinion of course, as we all are. But I think it is a very sad that you feel the need to make a blanket statement like that. I have also seen more than my share of the world and am very glad to say that I do not share your outlook.
A wise choice Arun! I agree with you as I stated before Prof. Holbourn was just looking out for Avis. There is nothing there to give the impression otherwise really! Prof. Holbourn had children at home which I think Jim Kalafus isn't aware of and probably thought to look out for Avis Dolphin! They remained lifelong friends and Holbourn later wrote a book for Dolphin. An Adventure story for Girls called "Child Of The Moat"!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_Holbourn
 
> You're projecting a life / lifestyle which hasn't
> been proven, in order to draw conclusions
> about him

Monica - I'm sure you didn't mean anything but it. But homosexuality is not a "lifestyle"...it's an orientation. A lifestyle is chosen. Orientation is part of you as a person. I'm not in any way interested in a debate on this topic. I'm just relaying information from "the other side of the fence".

As far as your post, Long and Thayer were acquainted before the collision. I don't think after the collision that Long was plotting to get Thayer back to his cabin. But, there's a possibility that Long was interested in spending time with a younger man based on the circumstances of their meeting and the fact that Long was unmarried and in his 30s. It doesn't mean that he had intentions other than spending time with an attractive younger man.

After the collision, it's another matter.

But given Long's status, I don't think that he was probably cruising the women aboard.
 

Jim Kalafus

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>I can guess the sort of image Prof Holbourn would have been given in that "400 page manuscript" mentioned elsewhere. I am sure that you'll not be short of thousands of interested buyers when the publication comes out but I think I'll keep my distance.

Actually, it's for free. It is appearing here on ET, and it is survivors speaking in their own, unedited, words on May 8-14, 1915. I COULD very well have included Holbourn, but our M.O. from the beginning was to counteract the sad trend among Lusitania authors of using the same 15 accounts again and again and again and again. Holbourne, in addition to being creepy, is overexposed and so didn't make the cut.

And, Arun, it's not a blanket statement. It is a very specific statement, drawn from specific personal experience. Which is why the statement contained "I." It would be a blanket statement if I had phrased it as "you" or "one." If YOU do not find 43 year old men who socialize with lonely 12 year old girls creepy, then that is your option. Similarly, if your life experience includes middle aged men who befriend, and socialize with, 12 year old girls on public conveyances for utterly benign reasons then...again....so be it.

But the account has made me uncomfortable since the mid-1970s. In 1915, no less 1977 (when I first met Holbourn)or 2009, girls were cautioned, strongly, about men becoming "familiar" in pseudo-social settings. And, for good cause, because the newspapers regularly carried tales of pregnant 13 year olds strangled and thrown into wells, or pregnant 15 year olds hanging themselves. I've been careful, throughout, not so say that he DID, or MIGHT HAVE. Just that his account is VERY creepy. If you find a 43 year old man latching on to a 12 year old girl heartwarming, then so be it.

Rather like Lewis Carroll, no? So GOOD with kids. Wonderful companion, great storyteller, kids adored him...etc. You know the rest....

>Prof. Holbourn had children at home which I think Jim Kalafus isn't aware

Of course I am aware of that. I am also aware of the fact that the popular image of a pedophile being a slobbering, single, deve in a run-down apartment is most often not true.

>But, there's a possibility that Long was interested in spending time with a younger man based on the circumstances of their meeting and the fact that Long was unmarried and in his 30s.

Seems like a long game of "Escalating Smiles" playing out. But....again.... virtually EVERY experience I had aboard a ship, at Jack Thayer's age and thru about 22, involving people in their 30s and 40s who I had not previously been introduced to, who sat down and started chatting in the PM, was NOT intended to go in the direction of benign chatter. One wonders about the portions of the conversation Jack did NOT recount, and if "What are you drinking?" was among the lost bon mots. I view Milton with a jaundiced eye.
 

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