The Thayers


Adam McGuirk

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May 19, 2002
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Hey, if you go to first class passengers high detail, it will say that the Thayers boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg. But not to long ago I was reading "On board the Titanic", which is about Jack Thayers and Harold Brides experiences on the Titanic. It says that Jack was on The Deck when The near collison with the New York came and gives a detailed description of what he said to his father and how an old man said it was a bad omen for that to happen. In order for Jack to have witnessed this he would of had to have boarded at Southampton, not Cherbourg. So which is right?, The site saying Cherbourg, or the book saying Southampton?
 

Ben Holme

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Feb 11, 2001
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Hi Adam,

The Thayers almost certainly boarded at Southampton. Mrs. Marion Thayer sent a marconigram to her sister on April 10th mentioning the New York incident and recalled that her husband had the presence of mind to take "five photos of it".

Hope this helps,

Ben
 

Kyrila Scully

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Apr 15, 2001
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South Florida
I'm interested in Pauline Thayer's residence here in Palm Beach County (where I live), in an area called Hobe Sound. I understand she was a golf enthusiast. I'd eventually like to visit all the Palm Beach County Titanic survivors' hang-outs. I know the Breakers and Bath and Tennis Club were favorites, possibly Henry Flagler's mansion, and I have some addresses of residences, and people who may have known them. Anyone know of any other clues I might look into?

Kyrila
 
Jul 20, 2000
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With a special thank you to Ben, when Marian Thayer wrote to her sister saying: "Great excitement! Jack got five photos of it"; she also said: "which he is cabing to sell to papers at home."

Does anyone know how that would have been achieved? I guess the photos would have been developed in the Dark Room; but how would they have been cabled from Titanic?

Lester
 
Dec 7, 2000
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I'm guessing he would be cabling the negotiations to sell the photos. The photos themselves would have been developed in the US and published in the papers celebrating the Titanic's arrival in NY at the completion of the first leg of the maiden voyage. Of course this was not to be.

Jack Thayer in his 1940 account also said they boarded at Southampton. In Herman Söldner's book of the passenger list, he has them as boarding at Cherbourg, which is why ET has them also boarding at Cherbourg. I wonder if there is other definite proof to contradict what Jack Thayer said and confirm their port of embarkation as Cherbourg. So far I personally think they boarded at Southampton.

Daniel.
 
Jul 20, 2000
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Hi Daniel,

Thank you for that.

With regard to where the Thayers boarded I believe that you will find that ET had Cherbourg long before Hermann's book was published; but with both Jack saying Southampton and now his mother's reference to Jack taking photos of the near collision with the New York, I do not see how there can be any doubt that the Thayers boarded at Southampton. I believe that Cherbourg may have come from Deceased Passenger List MT 9/920/201 which lists Cherbourg as the Port of Embarkation for JB Thayer.

Lester
 
Dec 7, 2000
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I think I remember Hermann telling me about the marconigram as simply mentioning "great excitement" which does not necessarily mean the near-collision at Southampton.

I've had a look at both accounts, that of Jack Thayer and his mother (Mrs. Thayer's affidavit being partially reprinted in the Michael Davie book). His mother doesn't say anything about their port of embarkation, whilst Jack Thayer in his 1940 account goes on to mention the near-collision at Southampton, mentions boarding at that port, calling at Cherbourg etc.

Perhaps his mind was a little fogged after 28 years, then again perhaps not. Why would he make it all up. He was writing the account as a record for his family and if they did board at Cherbourg I don't see why he wouldn't say so.

Daniel.
 

Jason D. Tiller

Moderator
Member
Aug 20, 2000
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Hi Daniel,

I agree with you. I also don't see any reason why Jack would lie about something like that.

Best regards,

Jason
happy.gif
 
P

Paul Jones

Guest
Jack Thayer's death was ruled a suicide but there was a rumor that he was murdered. If he was murdered does anybody know who murdered him and the reason why?
 
Sep 20, 2000
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Paul: I'm one of the major adherents to the belief that Jack Thayer's "suicide" and its ascribed motives were a rather hasty call. The circumstances surrounding his death seem peculiar in a few ways -- to me, at least. And with Pennsylvania's then Lieutenant Governor, as friend of the family, having been directly involved in some of the investigative decision-making, I don't think it's at all inconceivable that a more exhaustive investigation might have been stifled, for better or worse.

As for any direct suggestion of murder (or more generally, homicide), I suspect it's entirely possible from what I've found, though I certainly wouldn't want to just venture a guess as to a culprit or motive. The one thing that's reasonably clear to me from the news accounts is that certain details and the questions that might otherwise have arisen from them seem to have been glossed over far too quickly.

I sent Phil Hind a second version of Jack Thayer's obituary and two follow-up articles a while back -- from the [Philadelphia] "Evening Bulletin" -- which include additional details of the discovery and aftermath, though I don't know if they've ever made it to the ET biographical section. (If not, and there's interest, I'll just post them here.)
 
Jul 9, 2000
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I just checked Jack Theyer's bio and nothing from The Phildelphia Evening Bulletin is listed there. Seems odd that the obit mentioned that Jack had been dead for 40 hours when the body was found. Wasn't he found in a very public place? Strange that nobody would notice if this is the case.

In any event, sign me on as interested.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
Jan 31, 2001
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Michael,

Yes, he was found in a very public place; beside a trolley line, or something of the like. I think the fact that his body wasn't discovered for two days and then it is suddenly found out in broad view is what triggered the murder theory. But, how do we know that when he was found he wasn't lying down in the seat? If that was the case, then I could see how he would go undiscovered for awhile. If you saw a parked car in a public area that appeared to be empty, would you think anything of it?

Jack Thayer has always been my favorite passenger, and I have to say that I go with the suicide idea. It has been said he did it because he was depressed over his son being killed in World War II; others argue that because that had been over two years earlier, he wouldn't have killed himself over it. But I know for a fact that once depression sets in, it won't go away easily. Plus, on top of his son's death, his mother passed away on the 32nd anniversary of the Titanic's collision with the iceberg; a little over a year before he was found dead. Throw that on top of an already existing depression, and you've got one unhappy man!


Cheers,
happy.gif


-B.W.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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I noticed that bit about his son being killed in the obit. If Jack had been lying down in his car, then people might not have paid much mind, but if they could see him there....

I don't know. The obit stated that he was found with his wrists and his throat cut. While it's not inconceivable that a suicide would be that thorough, it seems to me a bit much.

It would be interesting to see what John has dug up on this.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
Jan 31, 2001
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I'm no expert on methods of suicide, but when you slit your wrists, don't you die slowly? Perhaps he thought slitting his throat in addition to his wrists would make for a quicker death; or I could be way off on all of this. I also would like to see what John has found.


Cheers,
happy.gif


-B.W.
 
Sep 20, 2000
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"The Evening Bulletin" -- Philadelphia, Friday, September 21, 1945


JOHN B. THAYER, 3D ENDS LIFE IN AUTO; U. OF P. OFFICIAL [Bold Headline Font]
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Found at 48th & Parkside; Throat, Wrists Slashed; Dead 40 Hours [Large bold]
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SON WAS KILLED IN WAR [Bold Caps]
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John B. Thayer, 3d, member of a widely-known Philadelphia family and financial vice president of the Unievrsity [sic] of Pennsylvania, was found dead, his throat and wrists slashed, in an automobile on a West Philadelphia lot this morning.

Former Lieutenant Governor John C. Bell, a life-long friend, identified the body at the morgue and said Thayer had not been seen since he left his university office Tuesday morning.

"He has been suffering from a nervous breakdown during the last two weeks, due, I believe, to worrying about the death of his son who was killed in service," Bell stated. "A few days ago he seemed to develop amnesia."

The son, one of two who went to war, was Second Lieutenant Edward Cassatt Thayer, 22, co-pilot of an Army bomber in the Southwest Pacific, who was killed in action and was the first member of the First City Troop to die in World War II.

Coroner J. Allan Bertolet went to the scene, a lot on the south side of Parkside av., between 47th and 48th sts., near the P. T. C. trolley loop, and indicated that he believed the death a suicide. Later Deputy Coroner Matthew A. Roth announced that there was no doubt that Thayer used razor blades found in the car to kill himself.

There was a package of new blades in the car and apparently two of them had been employed to inflict the wounds.

Condition of blood stains in the car indicated that death occurred at least 40 hours ago.


[Bold] Not Seen Since Tuesday

Bell stated that Thayer had not been seen since he left his university office at 10:45 A.M. Tuesday at which time he was seen by his secretary. The family became alarmed, Bell added, when Thayer failed to appear at his Grays lane, Haverford, home, Tuesday evening. On Wednesday, Bell reported the disappearance to State Police.

Thayer, who was 50, was a survivor of the sinking of the steamship Titanic on April 14, 1912, in which his father lost his life when the world's then largest liner went down after striking an iceberg off the Grand Banks on its maiden voyage.

The automobile in which he died, one registered in the name of his wife, Mrs. Lois C. Thayer, was first noticed on the lot before noon yesterday.

George E. Wharton, of 2036 N. 56th st., a P. T. C. supervisor, saw it at that time. Yesterday afternoon boys played football on the lot within sight of the car, but saw nothing amiss.


[Bold] Saw Car Again Today

When Wharton saw it again this morning he began to suspect something was wrong. Accompanied by Daniel Petetti, of 1247 N. 54th st., a mechanic, he went to the door and looked in.

They saw Thayer's body sprawled on the front seat. He was dressed in a gray business suit and there was a brown hat on his head.

There was an amber cigar holder in the car with a cigar smoked to within an inch of the holder, possibly indicating, detectives said, that Thayer sat in the car for some time before killing himself.

The discoverers telephoned police, and Joyner and Berry, policemen, were ordered to the scene in a radio car. They said that in addition to the throat and wrist wounds they found Thayer's shirt torn, as though it, too, had been slashed. There was no wound beneath the tear, however.

The policemen took the body to Presbyterian Hospital, where the pronouncement of death was made.


[Bold] $1.88 in Pockets

Coroner Bertolet said that Thayer's pockets contained $1.88, a miscellaneous assortment of cards, and an unmailed business letter to a bank he had written on university stationary [sic]. Roth described the letter as routine, throwing no light on the death.

Dr. Thomas S. Gates, chairman of the University of Pennsylvania, in a formal statement, declared:

"In the death of Mr. Thayer, trustee, financial vice president, and former treasurer, the University of Pennsylvania has lost a trusted and loyal servant.

"He had given unsparingly of himself to his university and to community affairs, and he had re-doubled his efforts in the war period, especially after the death of his son, Edward, in the Pacific, which was followed closely by the death of his mother."

Thayer's mother, Mrs. Marian Longstreth Morris Thayer, died at her Haverford home April 14, 1944, the 32d anniversary of her husband's loss on the Titanic.


[Bold] Family Long Active at Penn

Thayer's family long has been active in the affairs of the University of Pennsylvania, and he was elected a trustee in 1928. On October 2, 1939, he became a treasurer of the university, and in [sic] February 8, 1944, he was named to the newly-created office of financial vice president. He also was director of the bi-centennial celebration of the university. A second son, John B. Thayer, 4th, is a Navy pilot.

While an undergraduate, Thayer was a member of the soccer team, a member and manager of the cricket team, manager of the crew, advisory editor of The Pennsylvanian and a director of the Athletic Association.

In addition, he was active on various undergraduate committees, and was elected to the Phi Kappa Beta Junior Society, Sphinx Senior Society, and Delta Psi fraternity. During World War 1 he served as a first lieutenant and later as a captain in the 304th ammunition train of the Field Artillery, 79th Division.


[Bold] On Managing Committee

He also served as a member of the managing committee of the university, as a member of the General Alumni Society Board of Directors, and as vice chairman of the Alumni Annual Giving Fund Committee.

An honorary member of the First City Troop, a director of the Academy of the Fine Arts, and chairman of the board of trustees of the Haverford School, of which he was a graduate. Thayer was President of the Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society. His hobby was figure skating. He was president of the Racquet Club, and a former president of the Bond Club of Philadelphia.

Thayer was a member of the Rose Tree Fox Hunt, the Rabbit Club, and the Gulph Mills Golf Club. His father was a vice president of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Mrs. Thayer, the former Lois B. Cassatt, is a granddaughter of the late Alexander J. Cassatt, former president of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Her parents were Captain and Mrs. Edward Buchanan Cassatt.

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[The above has been checked and verified, insofar as possible, as a true and accurate transcription of the original article -- JMF]
 
Sep 20, 2000
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"The Philadelphia Inquirer" -- Monday Morning, September 24, 1945


Thayer Watch Found in Home [Headline Font]


A gold watch, reported missing following the discovery of the body of John B. Thayer, 3d, financial vice president of the University of Pennsylvania, in his parked automobile last Friday, mysteriously turned up at his home yesterday.

A friend of Mr. Thayer's family confirmed the fact that the watch was "found at home," but said he was unable to state whether someone had taken it to the residence, on Grays lane, Haverford, or if it had been there all the time and mistakenly believed missing.

[Bold] FAMILY REMAINS SILENT

Members of the family would not talk about the matter last night.

First inkling that the timepiece was ostensibly missing from Mr. Thayer's clothing when his body was found in his car on a lot at 48th st. and Parkside ave. came at 2 P.M. yesterday, in a report sent out over the police teletype.

[Bold] 'LOST IN VICINITY OF LOT'

The report, which did not give the owner's name, said the watch was lost in the vicinity of the lot between Sept. 18 and 21. The latter date was last Friday, and the body had been unnoticed for some time previously.

Coroner J. Allan Bertolet, who said he believed Mr. Thayer took his own life by slashing his wrists and throat with a razor blade, estimated the victim had lain dead in the car for 40 hours or more.

The police report described the watch as a "repeater" type, and said that a locket containing a woman's photograph and a T-shaped fraternity pin were on a heavy gold chain attached to the watch.

Police officials said last night they could advance no theory as to how the timepiece might have disappeared from the man's clothing, or how it turned up again at Mr. Thayer's house, if that was what actually happened.

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[The above has been checked and verified, insofar as possible, as a true and accurate transcription of the original article -- JMF]
 
Sep 20, 2000
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"The Evening Bulletin" -- Philadelphia, Monday, September 24, 1945


THAYER FAMILY GETS BACK MISSING WATCH [Bold Minor Headline Font]

Timepiece, Gone when Body was Found, Returned Mysteriously [Large bold]


The missing gold watch of John B. Thayer, 3d, who was found dead in his parked automobile last Friday, has turned up.

The watch was missing when Thayer's body was found in his car on a lot at 47th st. and Parkside av. It turned up Saturday morning, wrapped in paper, on the running board of a station wagon in the garage of the Thayer home on Gray's lane, Haverford.

The watch was found by an employe [sic] of the Thayer family, and apparently had been put on the running board of the station wagon some time Friday night. Yesterday Lieutenant Governor John C. Bell, personal friend of Thayer, complained to Director James H. Malone, of Public Safety, about the presumed theft, and Malone ordered an immediate investigation.

Thayer, his throat and both wrists slashed, was found dead in the car in a lot near the 47th st. and Parkside av. P. T. C. trolley loop. Police of the 42d District were called, and the body was taken to Presbyterian Hospital, and then to the morgue.

Funeral services for Thayer, who was financial vice president of the University of Pennsylvania, will be held at 4:30 this afternoon in the Church of the Redeemer, Bryn Mawr. Interment will be in the church's cemetery.

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[The above has been checked and verified, insofar as possible, as a true and accurate transcription of the original article -- JMF]
 
Sep 20, 2000
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OK. Above are the other three articles I uncovered, listed in chronological order. And it's important to note that the Philadelphia Inquirer obituary and funeral notice reproduced here on ET both contain date errors in the transcriptions -- that particular Saturday was September *22*, not the 23rd. (The original newspaper is correctly dated "Saturday, Sept. 22, 1945".)

Both the Inquirer and Bulletin were leading and reputable Philadelphia newspapers that persisted for many years. The Inquirer is in circulation still. The Evening Bulletin went under in the late 1970's (I believe), purportedly the victim of competition from television news coverage.

While both were still around, the Inquirer was the "morning paper" and the Bulletin, of course, the "evening paper". Thus, the Inquirer's obituary was actually *second*, chronologically, after the Bulletin's release of the day before.

The Bulletin obituary does make it obvious that Jack was in fact "sprawled" across the seat -- not upright, as the Inquirer article at least suggests. But there are still peculiarities.

At the risk of sounding irreverent, I wouldn't be caught dead myself wearing a gray suit with a brown hat (and I doubt most men of the period would), though Jack could have been a tad color-blind in that range.

The watch story is just bizarre, and at least to me suggests some incredulousness openly expressed by the press itself eventually: "... if this was what actually happened."

The torn or slashed shirt seems a bit suspicious, too; the car registered in Lois's name, likewise (unless all the family cars were for some reason registered in her name). The boys playing football "within sight"?

Some of my initial (far stronger) suspicions were actually the result of the date error in those ET articles, which when backtracked leads to a very bizarre chronology. But there's still room for doubt there, I think. And with a man of the political stature of Lieutenant Governor Bell (particularly in 1945) "at the helm", it's not inconceivable that things might even have been wrapped up hastily "for the sake of the family."

So, while I won't say I find it incomprehensible for Jack to have committed suicide, I do think the story overall is fishy, and at least suggestive of some deeper implication. (Those pat explanations offered just seem way too convenient, in my mind -- "amnesia"??)
 
Jul 9, 2000
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John, I caught that bit about the torn shirt as well. Maybe it's something he did himself in some sort of rage, but it does leave a red flag or two flapping in the breeze. Makes you wonder if there was a struggle of some sort. I wonder if the autopsy report is available. It might answer a few questions.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 

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