Marian Thayer (November 9th, 1872 - April 14th, 1944) was the wife of John Borland Thayer, Vice President of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Both were passengers on the RMS Titanic. Marian and her son Jack survived the sinking, but John perished when the ship sank.

Early life[edit | edit source]

Marian Longstreth Thayer was born in 1872 in Pennsylvania. Her father was Frederick Wistar Morris and her mother was Elizabeth Flower Paul. She was a member of a large family of seven children, three boys and four girls.[1]

Her father Frederick was part of the Morris family firm of Morris Wheeler and Co. which was a prosperous iron and steel company. Her grandfather, Israel Morris II, who owned the firm, bought the Dundale Estate at Villanova, Pennsylvania as a country residence for himself and his children. On this estate he built numerous large houses for his sons[2] one of which was for Frederick (shown on the left). It was in this house that Marian spent much of her childhood.

In 1892 at the age of 20 Marian married John Borland Thayer who at that time was a clerk in railway administration[3] and ten years her senior. Over the years John was progressively promoted and he eventually became Vice President of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

The couple had four children, one of whom was Jack Thayer (1894 - 1945). He was the only one of their children to travel with them on the Titanic. The family lived in Haverford in a very large house called Redwood. The Federal Census shows that in 1910 Margaret Fleming was employed by the Thayer family as a maid. She travelled with John and Marian in 1912 when they went to Europe and returned home with them on the Titanic.

On board the Titanic[edit | edit source]

The family and their maid boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg and they occupied cabins C-68 and C-70. On the Sunday afternoon before the ship sank Marian and her friend Emily Ryerson went for a stroll on the deck and encountered J. Bruce Ismay. According to Emily Ryerson, Ismay showed them a telegram which said there were icebergs in the area. She also claimed in a deposition to the US Senate Inquiry about the Titanic that Ismay said that they were going to start extra boilers on the ship.[4]

After the Titanic struck the iceberg, Marian and her maid Margaret Fleming were taken to Lifeboat 4 where they joined other women such as Madeleine Astor, Lucile Carter, and Emily Ryerson. After the lifeboat had rowed away from the Titanic, Marian gave her own account of what happened as follows:

"The after part of the ship then reared in the air, with the stern upwards, until it assumed an almost vertical position. It seemed to remain stationary in this position for many seconds (perhaps twenty), then suddenly dove straight down out of sight. It was 2.20 am. when the Titanic disappeared, according to a wrist watch worn by one of the passengers in my boat.
We pulled back to where the vessel had sunk and on our way picked up six men who were swimming - two of whom were drunk and gave us much trouble all the time. The six men we picked up were hauled into the boat by the women. Two of these men died in the boat. The boat we were in started to take in water; I do not know how. We had to bail. I was standing in ice cold water up to the top of my boots all the time, and rowing continuously for nearly five hours. We took off about fifteen more people who were standing on a capsized boat. In all, our boat had by that time sixty-five or sixty-six people. There was no room to sit down in our boat, so we all stood, except some sitting along the side.
The boat I was in was picked up by the Carpathia at 7 a. m. on Monday, we having rowed three miles to her, as we could not wait for her to come up on account of our boat taking in so much water that we would not have stayed afloat much longer.
" [5]

Marian, her maid and her son Jack Thayer survived the sinking of the Titanic but her husband John Borland Thayer went down with the ship. When the RMS Carpathia docked, Marian’s brother was there to meet them and took them in a special train that had been arranged for survivors back to their home in Haverford.[6] Unknowingly Marian still had in the pocket of her overcoat the White Star brochure about the Titanic which contained information about the ship and included a list of First Class Passengers.[7] The cover of the brochure and the first page of the passenger list are shown on the right. It still bears the mark of being folded.

After the Titanic disaster[edit | edit source]

Unlike many of the widows of the Titanic disaster, Marian did not remarry but remained in her house, Redwood, in Haverford. Soon after the tragedy Marian joined Madeleine Astor in a luncheon to thank Arthur Rostron, captain of the Carpathia and Dr Frank McGee, the ship’s surgeon, for their assistance in their rescue.[8] After this Marian invited these two to stay a few days at her home in Haverford where she, her son Jack and other passengers from the Titanic expressed their gratitude for their help.[9]

Marian died at her house (Redwood) in 1944 at the age of 72.[10]

Portrayals[edit | edit source]

S.O.S. Titanic (1979)[edit | edit source]

Marian Thayer (left) with Jack Thayer on board the Carpathia in S.O.S. Titanic

In S.O.S. Titanic, Marian Thayer only appeared after all of the passenger being rescued, portrayed by an uncredited actress.

On board the Carpathia, she was seen sitting on a chair while her son Jack Thayer sat beside her. Mrs. Odgen came and had time to offer her tea and biscuits but was refused by Jack because his mother and many other ladies were grieving the loss of their husbands.

2012 Miniseries Titanic[edit | edit source]

Christine Kavanagh as Marian Thayer in the 2012 Miniseries Titanic

Jack, It's past your bedtime.

—Marian Thayer to Jack Thayer

In the 2012 miniseries, Marian Thayer, portrayed by actress Christine Kavanagh, appeared in episode 1 and episode 4.

In episode 1, after the dinner, she picked up her son Jack who was dancing with Dorothy Gibson, saying that it was past his bedtime. Jack, however, couldn't believe that his mother was still spoiling him at the age of 17.

Dorothy advises Jack to better go and make sarcastic comments so that Marian will get her for baby snatching. Jack thought Marian embarrassed him, but Marian told him to never mind about it and immediately took him away, leaving Dorothy Gibson alone.

Marian Thayer worrying about her son Jack

But he's only just 17!

—Marian Thayer to Harold Lowe

In episode 4, when the Titanic sank, Marian and Jack went to the starboard side, seeing Lifeboat 5 being loaded by Fifth Officer Harold Lowe. Jack is rejected to entry the boat by Lowe, Marian pleads him with saying that Jack is only 17 years old. Lowe still doesn't allow it, making Marian worry about Jack's fate. Jack then assured Marian that he would be fine and said goodbye to her when the boat was launched (Marian Thayer escaped in lifeboat 4 in real life instead of 5).

After the Titanic sank, Marian's lifeboat was among the boats Lowe gathered. On the lifeboat, Marian is seen comforting Madeleine Astor, until she gets back her dog Kitty from Grace Rushton.

Lowe returns after picking up the survivors from the overturned Collapsible B, including Jack. Jack immediately realized Marian was in a nearby lifeboat and Marian immediately approached and hugged Jack (Marian and Jack did not reunited until they boarded the Carpathia, they did not even notice that they were very close when the boats gathered).

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Moon, R. C. 1898 “The Morris family of Philadelphia, Descendants of Anthony Morris, Born 1654-1721”, p. 855. Online reference
  2. Villanova University “Dundale revisited”. Online reference
  3. The Hawaiian Star., May 10, 1912, p. 11. Online reference
  4. US Senate Inquiry ‘Deposition of Emily Borie Ryerson”. Online reference
  5. Affidavit by Marian Thayer reported in Gracie , A. 1913 “The Truth about the Titanic”, p. 191. Online reference
  6. Mowbray, J. H. “Sinking of the "Titanic," Most Appalling Ocean Horror”, p. 132. Online reference
  7. Independence Seaport Museum. Online reference
  8. The Evening World (New York)., May 31, 1912, p. 1. Online reference
  9. New York Times 2 June 1912. Online reference
  10. Philadelphia Inquirer, 15 April 1944. Online reference
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