I was also wondering, just who the Thayers were. I know J. B. was a Vice-President of Penn. Railroad, and that his wife had Mayflower ancestors, but was J.B of old stock as well.

In terms of society of the time, the Wideners for instance were very new money, not really in the social league of the Astors or Colonel Gracie.

I wondered where the Thayers fitted in. If Mrs J.B had colonial connections then she definately was high society, but what about him.

I wonder if they would have been found on the 400 register.


John Thayer I think had started quite low on the ladder at the Pennsylvania Railroad. As to colonial connections of Mrs. Thayer I don't know if that necessarily means she was wealthy. A lot of comparitively impoverished people had distinguished family connections and so were "permitted" in high society.

I don't think the nouveau riche stigma was as bad in 1912 as it once would have been and, anyway, the "new rich" factor was never as big a deal in the US as it was to Europeans. Remember any money made in the US was "new money" to England or France.

So I'd say the Thayers were very much in the class of Astor, who couldnt have been too choosy about friends anyway, as eccentric as he seems to have been and in light of his scandalous divorce which had removed him from center-stage in the goings-on of society.

I'd think the Thayers would have been on the Social Register.

Thanks Randy, it will be interesting to find out where exactally they do come from, especially if JB did start low in the railroad.

I do have to disagree about the nouveau riche stigma, however. Even in 1912 it was social death to be caught with people who weren't of your own class. People who had lots of money weren't necassarily of your own class either.

Don't forget JJA's mother was the founder of the New York 400 which set the rules of society and excluded many people from it. The most famous of course being the Vanderbilt family.

You could have a lot of money back then but there were serious differences between nobs, parvenous and the nouveau riche. An example being, the Roosevelt family were nobs, old landed money. The Astor family were parvenous, acceptable money, but not as old as the nobs. The Vanderbilts were nouveau riche, crass and completly unacceptable to society. W. K. Vanderbilt had more money than the Astors and Roosevelts put together.

Even "Titanic" the movie, got some points right. "Molly" Brown was socially inferior and was not welcomed by the other first class women. Even some of their ideas mirror Ruth in "Titanic". Mrs Thayer herself, saying that the steerage people had as much opportunity as everyone else. Now we know that is not strictly true.


I have to gently disagree. There may have been gossip (and there was) and there may have been jealousies (a-plenty) but the Vanderbilts, crass or not (and I don't believe they were), were prime movers in the inner circle. Anne Vanderbilt and Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney were major social leaders right along with THE Mrs. Astor (who was no longer THE anything by 1912, being rather dead). One has only to flip through old society or fashion mags to see the Vanderbilts featured right alongside the Astors and other famous hostesses like Mamie Stuyvesant Fish and Evalyn Walsh MacLean.

The old guard in society was relaxing and, following the example of old King Eddie who liked the company of diplomats and stage people and writers and musicians and artists, the inner sanctum was increasingly ripe for anyone to make their mark within it provided they had money and manners or at least pulled off a good front that they had them!!! It was the beginning of "cafe society" culture and so before long Diamond Jim was doin' the Charleston with Bessie Smith (whose greatness, by the way, the young Prince of Wales, later Duke of Windsor, once compared to that of his mother, Queen Mary!!!)

I also must disagree that Molly Brown was shunned. She was not. She was eccentric and had her critics but she was also greatly admired. She was a friend of the Astor family and other big-wigs, including Alva Belmont and Anne Vanderbilt. So she was definitely a part of the "in" crowd, even if as only a minor player.

Have you read The Big Spenders by Lucius Beebe (Doubleday, 1966)? There's a lot in there on old Molly (not all of it true and some of it not so nice) and "Lucile" gets a paragraph or two about her dresses for Evalyn MacLean (the "Hope Diamond" gal); it would appear even Evalyn's poodle wore Lucile clothes!!!


PS) For those interested in books on Edwardian society, apart from the above, I'd suggest Kate Caffrey's The 1900s Lady, James Laver's Edwardian Promenade, Mayfair: A Social History by Carol Kennedy, The Edwardian Age by R.J. Minney, and Edwardian England by Simon Nowell-Smith. Also Anita Leslie's The Marlborough House Set.

The last word on Molly Brown is definitely the brilliantly researched recent biography by Kristen Iverson, Molly Brown: Unraveling the Myth.
Hey Randy,

I have to continue in my disagreeance I'm afraid. You are right in saying that the rules of society had been relaxed by 1912, but there still was a heirachy. The Vanderbilts had only been in society for about fifteen years at that stage, and Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney was married to an old name and old money.

I think it is a situtaion of when the Vanderbilts had married themselves into high society, often poorer members, then of course they were going to be prolific and eventual leaders.

As too Molly Brown, a friend of the Astors she may have been but before the sinking she was never accepted into Denver society, and only begrudgingly afterwards, and not for that long. Her nonconformance to the rules of society rankled with everyone, even her own children.

I think it was still, in 1912, a situation of no matter how much money you had, if you didn't have the manners then you were shunned.


The influence of old Commodore Vanderbilt goes back further than 15 years prior to 1912.

And beautiful Consuelo Vanderbilt was afterall Duchess of Marlborough and one of the King's intimate friends so her position was unimpeachable, whatever gossipy people liked to circulate about her marriage troubles, etc.

Re: Molly. The Iversen book to me puts to rest this idea that Denver society monolithically shunned her before OR after the Titanic. Mrs. Crawford Hill herself, the so-called leader of Denver society, readily acknowledged Molly and all her family in her Social Register. There may have been some other people who looked askance at her because of her brashness and odd dress but the "uppers" all liked the old gal's spirit.

It was only the bores who worried endlessly over etiquette and protocol. There's always a way, if you have class, to flout the rules and still maintain your dignity. And I think Molly had class, regardless of how the movie musical portrays her.

And Molly's family feuded with her only over the estate after JJ died. Iversen indicates that the relationship between her and her children and neices was entirely loving before that - and even afterwards the misunderstanding was settled.

Well, we're straying far from the subject of the Thayers and since we won't solve this other debate here let's shake hands and move on while we still like each other!!! Deal?

All my best,

Hey Randy,

I'll have to agree and say deal. Last thing I want is to make enemies around here, and I do get a bit lively sometimes.

I look forward to more debates.


Does anyone know what become of the maid of Mrs. Thayer, Miss Margaret Flemming.

Did she stay at the Thayers after the disaster?

What was her age at time?

Kind Regards,

Hi Hildo,
Yes, she stayed throughout the rest of her life with the Thayers and Mrs. Thayer was even mentioned in Margaret's obituary. She never married, left no family members, and is buried in an unmarked grave in Philadelphia. By the way, Mrs. Thayer left a bequest to Margaret in her own will for the loyal service over so many years, but unfortunately Margaret did not live to receive it.