Encyclopedia Titanica

Florence Briggs Cumings

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.

References and Sources

Borough of Manhattan Certificate of Death
New York Times, 3 September 1949, Obituary

Newspaper Articles

New York Times (16 April 1912) John Bradley Cumings
New York Evening Journal (22 April 1912) Insists Husband Escaped Disaster
New York Times (1 June 1912) Capt. Rostron Guest Of Mrs. J. J. Astor
New York Times (3 September 1949) Mrs. Chester O. Swain

Documents and Certificates

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Comment and discuss

  1. Jorge Pena (Jorge)

    Jorge Pena (Jorge)

    I remember reading somewhere that John Thayer and Florence Cumings were brother and sister. This site does not say that. Is it true that they were even related?
  2. Jeffrey Kern (Jeffrey)

    Jeffrey Kern (Jeffrey)

    Yes, they were most definitely related. I do not know for certain how (although I, myself, thought brother and sister, but who knows? They might be first cousins). You can tell, for later on, when Mrs Astor was to host a dinner for the Captain of the Carpathia, Arthur Henry Rostron, both Mrs Marian Thayer and Mrs Florence Cumings arrived, as they were both the most prominent of women on board of the Titanic. I know they are definitely related, but as to where, I could not say. I hope this helps you.
  3. Michael Findlay

    Dear Jeffrey and Jorge, John B. Thayer and Florence Thayer Cumings (later Swain) were not brother and sister, nor were they related. I knew Thayer Cumings, Florence's son, for several years and asked him this question one time. He replied that there was absolutely no connection between his mother and the Thayers of Philadelphia. If there was a connection, it was extremely distant. Thayer Cumings was also surprised when I told him that his mother was a guest of Mrs. Astor shortly after the disaster. Along with Mrs. Thayer, Mrs. Cumings attended a luncheon at the Astor mansion in honor of Captain Rostron. Thayer Cumings never knew about this. He believed that since his mother dreaded the very mention of the disaster, she never spoke of it to her family. Hope this helps. Michael Findlay
  4. Jeffrey Kern (Jeffrey)

    Jeffrey Kern (Jeffrey)

    Thank you truly for letting us know of this. The connection seemed "obvious", and thankfully I now know the truth to this answer. Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year, Michael!
  5. Jorge Pena (Jorge)

    Jorge Pena (Jorge)

    Thank you for your help Michael.
  6. Mark Bray

    Mark Bray

    Can someone tell me more about Thayer Cumings? Living? Family? Email Me: Mark
  7. Nathan Heddle

    Nathan Heddle

    I was just wondering if Mrs John B. Cumings, born Florence Thayer, was the sister of Mr John B. Thayer. She was born in Mass. and he in PA., but they have the same name and seemed to be travelling together. Mrs Thayer and Mrs Cumings were both in Boat No 4, and after the sinking they both attended a dinner hosted by Mrs Astor. It seems rather a coincidence if there was no relationship. nathan
  8. Nathan Heddle

    Nathan Heddle

    OK so I have sort of answered my own question, but still need a little help. John B. Thayer was the son of John B. Thayer and was therefore J. B. Thayer jr. Which of course makes Jack Thayer, John B. Thayer III, not infact jr., as he is often written as. Obviousally this means Mrs J.B. Cumings and Mr J. B. Thayer can't be brother and sister as Mrs Cumings father was George A. Thayer but maybe they were cousins. Surely they had to be related? nathan
  9. Edmund Turner

    Edmund Turner

    I've read elsewere that somebody thought that Jack Thayer and Florence Cummings were brother and sister this is incorrect,I think I'm right in saying that there was no relation between Florence Cummings and the John Borland Thayers but somebody else may be able to answer this question better than me Ed
  10. Nathan Heddle

    Nathan Heddle

    Thanks Ed, Yeah I've had a look around since I posted that and it seems that they weren't closely related anyway. In JB's family tree there isn't a mention of a George A. Thayer, that I saw anyway. It just seemed such a coincidence that she was friendly with the Thayers and then went to lunch after the tragedy with Mrs Astor and Mrs JB. Oh well nathan
  11. Michael Findlay

    Dear Nathan, Thayer Cumings, the youngest son of John and Florence Cumings, told me that his family was of no relation to the John B. Thayer family of Philadelphia. I hope this will help answer your question. Michael Findlay
  12. Nathan Heddle

    Nathan Heddle

    Thanks Michael, I'd sort of thought this already, but conformation is good. nathan
  13. Teri Lynn Milch

    Mr. Philip Gowan, Your name (and Michael Findlay's) was listed as a contributor to this passenger, is the reason I am directing this post to you. Your contribution was to passengers Mr. John Bradley Cumings and Mrs. Florence Cumings of New York City. My co-worker mentioned during our brief chat about Titanic, that his grandmother (and her husband) was a passenger aboard the Titanic. His grandmother's name was Mrs. Mary Cummings and the husband's name was Mr. John Bradley Cummings. They were first class passengers from New York City. Mary survived. The spellings are different, as you can see, and the wife's name is different as well. I confirmed with my co-worker the spelling and the name of his grandmother, and he assured me that the information he gave me was correct. He also gave me the name of a book where their names were listed in the back as passengers. The name of that book is, "Titanic and Other Great Sea Disasters." I looked on Tennaro's site,... Read full post
  14. Michael H. Standart

    Teri, "The Sinking of the Titanic and Other Great Sea Disasters" was one of the books that came out in 1912 and is written by Marshall Logan. I checked Fiona's site on this and found that the full text can be downloaded at the project Gutenberg site at http://promo.net/pg/ Hope this helps. Cordially, Michael H. Standart
  15. Phillip Gowan

    Teri, The passengers real names were Florence and John Bradley Cumings--no mistake in names or spelling of the surname. One question you might ask your co-worker (which he should definitely know if he is a grandson of the Titanic Cumings family)--is who his grandmother married as her second husband. The correct answer is Chester Odiorne Swain. In the back of my mind I'm thinking there might have been a "Titanic imposter" in California that used the surname Cummings as well--but I haven't tried to keep up with the details of all the imposters (though I was recently astonished to discover that one person generally accepted as a survivor can't possibly be one--more later on this one after I've had time to investigate further). Phil

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Titanic Passenger Summary

Name: Mrs Florence Briggs Cumings (née Thayer)
Age: 35 years 3 months and 15 days (Female)
Nationality: American
Marital Status: Married to John Bradley
Last Residence: at 50 East 64th Street New York City, New York, United States
Embarked: Cherbourg on Wednesday 10th April 1912
Ticket No. 17599, £71 5s 8d
Cabin No. C85
Rescued (boat 4)  
Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912
Died: Friday 2nd September 1949 aged 72 years
Cause of Death:
Buried: Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

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