May 22, 2022

Acquisitions: Collection of Rare Titanic-Related Documents Donated to the Penn Libraries

From the University of Pennsylvania Libraries:

More than 100 years after the sinking of the Titanic, the Penn Libraries is honored to acquire the John B. Thayer Memorial Collection of the Sinking of the Titanic, an extensive archive based upon the personal experience of John B. Thayer III (known as Jack), a Penn alumnus who went on to serve the University as Vice-President of Finance from 1939 to 1945.

At the age of seventeen, Jack was among the first-class passengers aboard the ill-fated ship, in the company of his mother, Marian Longstreth Morris Thayer, and his father, John B. Thayer II. When the ship began to sink after striking an iceberg, the three became separated. While Marian was placed in a lifeboat wearing a lifejacket, son Jack jumped from the increasingly elevated stern of the sinking ship and clung through the cold night to an overturned lifeboat from which he was eventually rescued. He was reunited with his mother aboard the rescue ship Carpathia, but no trace of his father was ever found.

The John B. Thayer Memorial Collection of the Sinking of the Titanic was donated to the Penn Libraries by members of the Thayer family. The collection provides a fascinating record of an historically important world event. Items in the collection include the manuscript of Jack’s memoir published in 1940, contemporary newspaper clippings documenting Jack’s tale of survival, and correspondence between Marian Thayer and J. B. Ismay, CEO of the White Star Line which commissioned the Titanic.

These materials will now be located in the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts for researchers to access.


“The Penn Libraries and the Kislak Center are humbled by this gift,” shared David McKnight, Director of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library in the Kislak Center. He added, “These materials, which have not been made accessible publicly until now, will certainly bring new researchers to Penn and the Kislak Center. We feel fortunate that the family of Jack Thayer is making this rare documentation of their family’s experience available to the broader public through our repository.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.