Mrs Florence Briggs Cumings

Florence Briggs Cumings

Mrs John Bradley Cumings was born as Florence Briggs Thayer in Boston, Massachusetts on 31 December 1873.1

She was the youngest daughter of George A. Thayer (1848-1922), a store housekeeper, and Ella Stetson Briggs (b. 1849), both Bostonians who had married on 9 February 1871.

One of two children born to her parents, Florence's only sibling was her elder sister Elaina (b. 3 March 1872).

Florence and her family first appear on the 1880 census when they were residing at an address in Boston owned by her maternal grandparents Harrison and Elizabeth Thayer. 

She was married in Brookline, Massachusetts on 24 September 1896 to fellow Bostonian John Bradley Cumings (b. 1872), a banker and stockbroker, later a partner in Cumings & Marckwald located at Wall Street. 

The couple initially lived in Brookline, Massachusetts and had their first two children there: John Bradley Jr (b. 15 August 1897) and Wells Bradley (b. 18 September 1899). They moved to Manhattan around 1900, appearing there on that year's census, and they would have another son whilst in that city, Thayer (b. 16 March 1904). The family appeared on the 1910 census still living in Manhattan at 50 East 64th Street and with four female servants, all Irish. 

In the Spring of 1912, Mrs Cumings and her husband embarked for a six-week-long European vacation and for their return to the USA boarded Titanic at Cherbourg as first-class passengers (ticket number 17599 which cost £71, 5s, 8d). Whilst aboard they occupied cabin C-85

Following the collision with the iceberg, Mr and Mrs Cumings went to the boat deck and was among the group of first-class passengers herded down to A-deck to enter lifeboat 4. Mrs Cumings stayed with the other women around lifeboat 4 and waited until the boat was finally lowered. She refused to leave her husband but he assured her that he would follow in a later boat. Mr Cumings died in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified.

Florence returned to her New York home, 50 East 64th Street, where she was prostrated with grief and confined to bed. She remained hopeful that her husband had somehow survived, perhaps picked up by a schooner she claimed to have seen in the vicinity of the Titanic wreck site. In late May 1912, and whilst still in mourning and wearing suitably dark attire, Mrs Cumings attended a dinner hosted by Mrs Madeline Astor at her New York home to honour Carpathia's Captain Arthur Rostron and surgeon Frank McGee; also in attendance was Mrs John Borland Thayer, another widow. 
Florence was to suffer another loss when her middle son Wells later entered the Marines during World War I and died on 30 June 1918 from wounds sustained earlier during the Battle of Belleau Wood, France; he was just 18 years old.

In 1921 Mrs Cumings was remarried to the divorcee and attorney Chester Odiorne Swain (b. 29 January 1877), a native of Shenandoah, Iowa who was employed by the Standard Oil Company as general counsel. The couple lived for several years in Bedford Hills, New York and would continue to travel extensively, she accompanying her husband on business trips abroad; they appear on numerous passenger lists in the 1920s and 1930s, including those of Europa, Majestic and a voyage aboard Olympic in 1928. Places they visited included Britain, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium and France.

The year 1937 was to be a cruel one for Florence; in March that year, she lost her eldest son John Bradley Jr when he died from a stroke aged just 39.

Later on 21 April, she became a widow a second time when Chester Swain died. 

Florence appears on the 1940 census living at 1220 Park Avenue with her three servants; she spent her last days living at 755 Park Avenue and passed away on 2 September 1949. She was buried in Mt Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Her first husband is commemorated on her monument:

Sacred to the memory of John Bradley Cumings
Born September 26, 1872, Lost at Sea on S.S. Titanic, April 15, 1912 -
'Greater love hath no man than this - that a man lay down his life for his friends.'


  1. Birthdate sometimes stated as 31 December 1876.


Florence Briggs Cumings grave marker
marker epitaph detail
Chester Odiorne Swain, second husband of Florence Thayer Cumings
Chester Odiorne Swain, second husband of Florence Thayer Cumings.

Articles and Stories

New York Times (1949) 
New York Times (1912) 
New York Evening Journal (1912) 
New York Times (1912) 

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John Bradley and Florence Cumings (38 posts)
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Gavin Bell, UK
Michael A. Findlay, USA
Phillip Gowan, USA

References and Sources

Borough of Manhattan Certificate of Death
New York Times, 3 September 1949, Obituary
Search archive British and Irish newspapers online

Link and cite this biography

(2020) Florence Briggs Cumings Encyclopedia Titanica (ref: #86, updated 13th January 2020 09:36:49 AM)