John "Jack" Borland Thayer, III

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John "Jack" Borland Thayer, III

Also Known As: "Jack Thayer"
Birthdate: (50)
Birthplace: Haverford, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, United States
Death: Died in Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, United States
Cause of death: Knife wound - suicide
Place of Burial: Bryn Mawr, PA, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of John Borland Thayer, Jr. and Marian Longstreth Thayer, Jr.
Husband of Lois Buchanan Thayer
Father of John Borland Thayer, IV; Alexander Johnston Cassatt Thayer; Edward Cassatt Thayer and Lois Frazier
Brother of Frederick Morris Thayer; Margaret "Peggy" Talbott and Pauline Dolan

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About John "Jack" Borland Thayer, III

In addition to the following there are links on this page to many articles connected to this family

  • Name: Mr John Borland jr Thayer
  • Born: Monday 24th December 1894
  • Age: 17 years
  • Last Residence: in Haverford Pennsylvania United States
  • Occupation: Scholar
  • 1st Class passenger
  • First Embarked: Cherbourg on Wednesday 10th April 1912
  • Ticket No. 17421 , £110 17s 8d
  • Cabin No.: C70
  • Rescued (boat B)
  • Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912
  • Died: Thursday 20th September 1945
  • Cause of Death: Knife Wound
  • Buried: Church of the Redeemer Churchyard Bryn Mawr Pennsylvania United States

Mr John Borland ("Jack") Thayer Jr., 17, was born December 24, 1894, the son of Marian and John Borland Thayer. They lived in Haverford, PA. The family boarded the Titanic as first class passengers Jack occupied cabin C-70.

John Thayer was in bed, and Jack and his mother were preparing for bed when Jack noticed the breeze through his half-open porthole stop. He remembered no significant shock and did not lose his balance. Pulling an overcoat over his pajamas he called to his parents that he was 'going out to see the fun.' He ran up on A deck on the port side but could see nothing amiss. He went towards the bow where, as his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he could make out ice on the forward well deck.

He returned to the stateroom (C-68) to get his parents They went to the starboard side of A deck where John B. Thayer senior thought he saw small pieces of ice floating around, but Jack saw nothing. As they crossed to the port side they noticed that the ship had developed a list to port. They then returned to their room and dressed. Jack put on a tweed suit and vest with another mohair vest underneath in order to keep warm. Having put on life-belts, with overcoats on top, they returned to the deck. They stayed together until the order was given for women and children to board the boats. Jack and his father said good-bye to Marian at the top of the grand staircase on A-Deck. Then Marian and her maid Miss Fleming went out on A deck on the port side while Jack and his father went to the starboard side.

Thinking that Marian was safe on board a boat the two men were surprised to learn from Chief Second Steward George Dodd that she was still on board.

Reunited, John and Marion Thayer went on ahead to find a boat. Jack lagged behind and finally lost them, perhaps he was talking to his friend Milton Clyde Long whom Jack had met for the first time, over coffee that evening and who had attached himself to the Thayers; or perhaps he just got caught up in the crowd. He searched for them for a while, but then, thinking they had probably escaped in a boat he went forward on the starboard side accompanied by Milton Long.

The boats were leaving rapidly and the two young men discussed getting into one of the boats but the crowds were great. They stood by the empty davits of a lifeboat that had left. Here, close to the bridge they watched a star through the falls of the davit to measure the rate at which the ship was going down.

As they stood there the only person Jack recognized nearby was Mr Lindley [?] whom he had also just met that evening. Another man Jack saw lurched by drinking from a bottle of Gordons gin, he said "If I ever get out of this there is one man I'll never see again" in fact Charles Joughin was one of the first survivors that Thayer did meet!

As the ship sank deeper and more rapidly Jack thought about jumping for it as others appeared to be doing towards the stern, after all, he was a strong swimmer. However Long was not and persuaded Jack against it.

Eventualy, however, they could wait no more and after saying goodbye to each other they jumped up on the rail. Long put his legs over and held on a minute and said 'You are coming, boy, aren't you?' Jack replied 'Go ahead, I'll be with you in a minute.' Long then slid down the side of the ship. Jack never saw him again.

A short while later Jack jumped out, feet first. He surfaced well clear of the ship, he felt he was pushed away from the ship by some force.

'The ship seemed to be surrounded with a glare, and stood out of the night as though she were on fire.... The water was over the base of the first funnel. The mass of people on board were surging back, always back toward the floating stern. The rumble and roar continued, with even louder distinct wrenchings and tearings of boilers and engines from their beds. Suddenly the whole superstructure of the ship appeared to split, well forward to midship, and bow or buckle upwards.

The second funnel, large enough for two automobiles to pass through abreast, seemed to be lifted off, emitting a cloud of sparks It looked as if it would fall on top of me. It missed me by only twenty or thirty feet. The Suction of it drew me down and down struggling and swimming, practically spent. ' Jack Thayer (Ballard 1987)

'This time I was sucked down, and as I came up I was pushed out again and twisted around by a large wave, coming up in the midst of a great deal of small wreckage. As I pushed my hand from my head it touched the cork fender of an overturned life-boat. I looked up and saw some men on the top and asked them to give me a hand. One of them, who was a stoker, helped me up. In a short time the bottom was covered with about twenty-five or thirty men. When I got on this I was facing the ship. Jack Thayer 1912 (Logan Marshall 1912)

'Her deck was turned slightly toward us. We could see groups of the almost fifteen hundred people aboard, clinging in clusters or bunches, like swarming bees; only to fall in masses, pairs or singly, as the great part of the ship, two hundred and fifty feet of it, rose into the sky, till it reached a sixty-five or seventy degree angle. Here it seemed to pause, and just hung, for what felt like minutes. Gradually she turned her deck away from us, as though to hide from our sight the awful spectacle."

"I looked upwards - we were right under the three enormous propellers. For an instant, I thought they were sure to come down on top of us. Then, with the deadened noise of the bursting of her last few gallant bulkheads, she slid quietly away from us into the sea.'

Jack Thayer (Ballard 1987)

Algernon Barkworth recalled seeing young Jack Thayer:

'I did not know the Thayer family well," declared Mr Barkworth, "but I had met young Thayer, a clear-cut chap, and his father on the trip. The lad and I struggled in the water for several hours endeavoring to hold afloat by grabbing to the sides and end of an overturned life-boat. Now and again we lost our grip and fell back into the water. I did not recognize young Thayer in the darkness, as we struggled for our lives, but I did recall having met him before when we were picked up by a life-boat. We were saved by the merest chance, because the survivors on a life-boat that rescued us hesitated in doing so, it seemed, fearing perhaps that additional burdens would swamp the frail craft. Algernon Barkworth (Logan Marshall 1912)

As they balanced precariously on the upturned Collapsible B the cries of those swimming in the water came to them. It sounded to Jack just like the high-pitched hum of locusts back home in Pennsylvania.

After a night on the upturned boat Jack and the others, a "grimy, wiry disheveled, hard-looking lot," were picked up by lifeboats 4 and 12, Thayer was so distracted trying to get into boat 12 that he did not notice his mother in 4 nearby and she was so numbed by cold she did not see him.

At 8.30 a.m. boat 12 finally arrived at the Carpathia where Jack was reunited with his mother. She asked him 'Where's daddy?' he answered 'I don't know, mother.'

A kind passenger on the Carpathia lent Jack pajamas and a bunk. Jack then crawled into bed and reflected that the brandy he had just drunk was his first shot of hard liquor - he slept.

While on the Carpathia he described the sinking to passenger L.D. Skidmore who drew a sequence of pictures based on the recollections.

After their arrival in New York, Jack, his mother and Miss Fleming took the Thayer's private train carriage from Jersey City, NJ back home to Haverford.

Jack Thayer graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and went into banking; later he returned to the University as Financial Vice-President and Treasurer. He married Lois Cassatt and they had two sons. Edward C. Thayer and John B. Thayer IV.

In 1940 Jack produced a pamphlet relating his experiences on the Titanic as an attempt, perhaps, to exorcise some of the memories that still haunted him.

During the second world war both of Jack's sons joined the services. It is likely that the bout of depression that afflicted Jack following the death of his son Edward on active service in the Pacific [in 1943] led directly to his death, by his own hand, in 1945.

He was buried at the Church of the Redeemer Cemetery, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.

Courtesy of Michael A. Findlay, USA

Travelling Companions (on same ticket)

  • Miss Margaret Fleming
  • Mr John Borland Thayer
  • Mrs Marian Longstreth Thayer

References and Sources

  • Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Certificate of Death (Jack Thayer)
  • Daily Sketch (London), 1 June 1912 Mrs Astor Entertains Carpathia 's Captain
  • Colonel Archibald Gracie (1913) The Truth about the Titanic. New York, Mitchell Kennerley(Mrs Thayer's Affidavit)
  • Hanford Sentinel (California), 1998 Reliving a Tragic Night on the Sea
  • Logan Marshall [ed.] (1912) The Sinking of the Titanic and Great Sea Disasters. (Jack Thayer's account)
  • The Philadelphia Inquirer, 4 March 1981 Obituary: Pauline Thayer Dolan
  • The Philadelphia Inquirer, 23 September 1945 Funeral Notice: Jack Thayer
  • The Philadelphia Inquirer, 23 September 1945 Obituary: Jack Thayer
  • Jack Thayer Last Will & Testament
  • Dave Bryceson (1997) The Titanic Disaster: As Reported in the British National Press April-July 1912. Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN-1-85260-579-0
  • Dr. Robert D. Ballard & Rick Archbold (1987) The Discovery of the Titanic: Exploring the Greatest of all Lost Ships. Hodder & Stoughton / Madison Books. ISBN 0 340 41265 8
  • John P. Eaton & Charles A. Haas (1994) Titanic: Triumph & Tragedy, 2nd ed. Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1 85260 493 X
  • John Eaton & Charles Haas (1992) Titanic: Destination Disaster, Patrick Stevens Ltd. ISBN 1 85260 534 0
  • Marshall Everett [ed.] (1912) Wreck and Sinking of the Titanic: The Ocean's Greatest Disaster.
  • Walter Lord (1976) A Night to Remember. London, Penguin. ISBN 0 14 004757 3
  • Walter Lord (1986) The Night Lives On: Thoughts, Theories and Revelations about the Titanic. London, Penguin. ISBN 0 140 27900 8
  • Don Lynch & Ken Marschall (1992) Titanic: An Illustrated History. London, Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0 340 56271 4


  • Phillip Gowan, USA
  • Michael Lima, USA

Survivor of the Titanic at age 17. Jack's father, John B. Thayer, II, died on the Titanic.

This is Jack's obit in the Philadelphia Inquirer, 23 Sept. 1945:

John B. Thayer, 3d, financial vice president of the University of Pennsylvania and a member of an old Philadelphia family, who had been reported missing since Wednesday, was found dead, his wrists and throat cut, in a parked automobile near the P.T.C. loop at 48th St. and Parkside Ave. yesterday morning.

Coroner J. Allan Bertolet, one of the first to arrive on the scene after the body was discovered by to P.T.C. employees, said Mr. Thayer probably had died 40 hours before the body was found at 8:50 A.M.

The Coroner, who was accompanied by his chief deputy, Matthew A. Roth, said he believed that the death was a suicide.

Frederick M. Thayer, a brother, of Newtown Square, and Lieutenant Governor John C. Bell, Jr., a lifelong friend, identified the body at the Morgue.

Mr. Bell said that Mr. Thayer had been suffering from a nervous breakdown during the last two weeks. "The breakdown," Mr. Bell explained, "was due, I believe, to worrying about the death of his son, Edward C. Thayer, who was killed in the service."

Mr. Bell said that he had reported Mr. Thayer missing to the State Police when the latter failed to return to his home in Grays Lane, Haverford, Tuesday night.

The Lieutenant Governor stated that a few days ago Mr. Thayer had "seemed to develop amnesia." Mr. Bell added that Mr. Thayer had not been seen since he left his office in the University of Pennsylvania Tuesday morning.

The son, one of two who went to war, was Second Lieutenant Edward C. Thayer, a co-pilot of an Army bomber, who was killed in action in the Pacific last October, the first member of the First City Troop to die in the Second World War. The other son, John B. Thayer, 4th, is a lieutenant (jg) and a Naval Air Force pilot.

The P.T.C. employees who found the body on the front seat of the car with the feet under the steering wheel are George E. Wharton, of 2036 N. 54th ST., a supervisor, and Daniel Petetti, a mechanic, of 1247 N. 54th St.

They said they first saw the automobile, a sedan, registered in the name of his wife, Mrs. Lois C. Thayer, parked adjacent to the trolley loop on the south side of Parkside Ave. at noon Thursday. When they saw the same car parked there yesterday, they investigated.

The auto, with Mr. Thayer's body in it, had gone unnoticed by trolley-car passengers and boys who played football nearby.

The P.T.C. men, after finding the body, telephoned police. Patrolmen John Berry and John Joynes, of the 50th St. and Lancaster Ave. station, took the body to Presbyterian Hospital.

Deputy Coroner Roth, after the body was identified, said that there was no doubt that Mr. Thayer used razor blades, which the police found in the car, to kill himself.

Dr. Thomas S. Gates, chairman of the University of Pennsylvania, in a formal statement, declared: "In the death of Mr. John B. Thayer, trustee, financial vice-president and former treasurer, the University of Pennsylvania has lost a trusted and loyal servant. He has given unsparingly of himself to his university and to community affairs, and he had redoubled 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."

Mr. Thayer's mother, Mrs. Marian Longstreth Morris Thayer, died at her Haverford home April 14, 1944, which was the 32nd anniversary of her husband's death on the liner Titanic, which sank after striking an iceberg in the Atlantic.

Mrs. Thayer and a younger son, Frederick, had been placed in a lifeboat, while John stood with his father on the Titanic's deck when the ship went down.

The younger Thayer was rescued. (Note by PG: Frederick Thayer was not aboard the Titanic and Jack stood on the deck with Milton Long-not his father-as the ship sank.)

Mr. Thayer, who was 50, came from a family which had long been active in the affairs of the University of Pennsylvania. In 1928 he was elected a trustee, and on October 2, 1939, he became treasurer of the university. In February, 1944, he was appointed to the newly created office of financial vice president. He also was a director of the bi-centennial celebration of the University of Pennsylvania in 1940.

A graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences at the university, Mr. Thayer was active in athletics and on undergraduate publications, and was a member of the Phi Beta Junior Society, Sphinx Senior Society and the Delta Psi Fraternity.

During the First World War he served a captain in the artillery of the 79th Division, and was an honorary member of the First Troop, Philadelphia Cavalry. In 1919 Mr. Thayer entered the employ of Lee, Higginson & Co., bankers, in charge of their Philadelphia office. He left that firm in 1932 to become a partner in Yarnall & Co., from which he resigned in 1937.

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.

He also was 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. He was president of the Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society, and his hobby was figure skating.

Mr. Thayer was president of the Racquet Club, and former president of the Bond Club of Philadelphia. He 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 and was a member of the class of 1882 at the University of Pennsylvania.

Mrs. Thayer, who was the former Lois B. Cassatt, is a granddaughter of the late Alexander J. Cassatt, former president of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Her parents were Colonel and Mrs. Edward B. Cassatt. Colonel Cassatt, a graduate of West Point, served throughout the Spanish-American War, Philippine campaign and the First World War.

Separately included in the same newspaper is the following notice:

THAYER.--Sept. 21, 1945, JOHN B. THAYER, son of the late John B. and Marian Longstreth Morris. Funeral services, Church of the Redeemer, Bryn Mawr, Pa., Mon., 4:30 P.M.

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John "Jack" Borland Thayer, III's Timeline

December 24, 1894
Haverford, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, United States
September 16, 1918
Age 23
January 31, 1920
Age 25
January 22, 1921
Age 26
Haverford, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, United States
May 31, 1923
Age 28
Pennsylvania, United States
September 20, 1945
Age 50
Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, United States
Bryn Mawr, PA, USA