Spencer Victor Silverthorne was born in Greenville, Michigan on 17th October, 1876 the son of Daniel K. Silverthorne and Elizabeth Johnson. He had a brother Ernest V. Silverthorne. In 1912, he was a buyer for Nugent's department store of St. Louis.
Silverthorne had been on a buying trip to Europe, he boarded the Titanic at Southampton as a first class passenger, he shared cabin E-24 with Edward P. Calderhead.
When the collision occurred, at 11.40 p.m. on 14th April 1912, he was sitting in the first class smoking room reading Owen Wister's The Virginian. He immediately realized that the ship had hit something, but his first idea was that it might be a whale or another ship, so he went outside to see what had happened. He claimed to have seen a giant iceberg passing astern chunks of ice falling from it. After seeing this, he went inside and told the others in the saloon that the ship had hit an iceberg. No one thought much of the incident, and everyone just went back to doing what they had been doing before the collision.
Shortly afterward an officer came and told the men to go up on deck and get into the lifeboats. When Silverthorne arrived on the boat deck, lifeboat 7 had already left, and lifeboat 5 was about to lower away. When no more women could be found he was told to get into boat 5, which he said he did reluctantly as he didn't want to go while women were still aboard. He later said: "Had we been in our rooms we would have had to stand aside, as the other men did then."
An obituary claimed that Silverthorne had actually gone to bed after the collision, only to be wakened by another buyer who told him the ship was sinking. The same obituary also claimed that Silverthorne "made his way to the bow and jumped into the dark, icy water. He swam vigorously away to avoid the suction at the ship went down. Then he reached a half-empty lifeboat and was taken aboard." In fact, Silverthorne was rescued with other first class passengers in Boat 5.
Silverthorne married Gertrude Odom and they had two children Elizabeth (later De La Montanya) and Spencer V. Silverthorne, Jr. The family settled in New York.
Silverthorne went on to become vice president of James H. McCreery & Co. a New York department store, and president of the Donaldson department store in Minneapolis. He retired in 1935. He was also an employee of the Associated Dry Goods Corporation and of Allied Stores Inc.
Silverthorne died on 17th May, 1964 at his home at 7 Colvin Road, Scarsdale, New York. He was survived by a daughter, Mrs Elizabeth De Montanya, five grandchildren, and a brother. His wife and son predeceased him.