Lost Titanic tale resurfaces
John B. “Jack” Thayer, who boarded the ship at age 17 with his parents, printed his recollections of the catastrophe as a family record in 1940 and made just 500 copies.
The tome was recently unearthed by Lorin Stein, editor of the Paris Review, who recalled a family tie he had to the Titanic after Luke Pontifell, who runs handmade-book publisher Thornwillow Press, said he wished he could track down documents from the ship.
In the pages, Thayer recalls boarding in Southampton as a first-class passenger. As the ship sank 800 miles off New York on April 14, 1912, he was separated from his parents but assumed they had made it into a lifeboat. He describes how he jumped: “The shock of the water took the breath out of my lungs. Down and down I went, spinning in all directions.”
Thayer clung to an overturned lifeboat as he watched the Titanic go down. “Suddenly the whole superstructure . . . appeared to split . . . and blow and buckle upwards,” he wrote.
“We could see groups of the almost 1,500 people still aboard, clinging in clusters of bunches like swarming bees; only to fall in masses, pairs or singly, as the great after-part of the ship, 250 feet of it, rose into the sky, till it reached a 65- or 70-degree angle.”
Thayer was rescued by a lifeboat. His mother survived, but his father perished.
Thornwillow is hosting a dinner April 4 at the St. Regis Hotel, where it has a library. The hotel was built by John Jacob Astor, who died on the Titanic. The imprint is making 5,000 copies of the book with a foreword by Stein.