Mr Joseph Bruce Ismay

Joseph Bruce Ismay

Mr Joseph Bruce Ismay was born at Crosby, near Liverpool on 12 December 1862. He was the eldest son of Thomas Henry Ismay and Margaret Bruce (daughter of Luke Bruce). Thomas Ismay was senior partner in the firm of Ismay, Imrie and company and founder of the White Star Line. The family lived at Dawpool, Cheshire.

Bruce Ismay was educated at Elstree School and at Harrow. When he left Harrow he was tutored in France for a year before being apprenticed to Thomas Ismay's office for four years. He then went on a one year tour of the world and upon his return was posted to New York where he worked at the White Star Line office for a further year. At the end of that period he was appointed the company agent in New York.

In 1888 Ismay married Julia Florence Schieffelin (eldest daughter of George R. Schieffelin of New York) and together they had two sons and two daughters.

In 1891 Ismay and his family returned to England. That year he was made a partner in the firm of Ismay, Imrie and company.

Image
(Daily Mirror, 16 April 1912, p.8)

Thomas Ismay died in 1899 and Bruce became head of the business. Bruce Ismay led a thriving firm and displayed considerable business acumen, but in 1901 his firm was approached by American interests towards forming an international conglomerate of shipping companies. After lengthy negotiations Ismay agreed terms with John Pierpont Morgan under which the White Star Line would form part of the International Mercantile Marine Company. At that time the IMM was led by C. A. Griscom, president of the American Line, but in 1904 Ismay succeeded Griscom and held the position of president until 1913 when Harold Sanderson took over.

In addition to his interest in the company his father had created, Bruce Ismay was, during his life, also chairman of the Asiatic Steam Navigation Company, chairman of the Liverpool Steamship Owners Protection Association and the Liverpool and London War Risks Association as well as the Delta Insurance Company. He was also a director of the Liverpool, London and Globe Insurance Company, the Sea Insurance Company, the Birmingham Canal Navigation Company and the London, Midland and Scottish Railway. Of the latter he had been offered chairmanship but had declined.

One summer evening in 1907 (the exact date is unknown), Bruce and Florence Ismay dined at Downshire house in Belgravia, the London home of Lord Pirrie. Pirrie was a partner in the firm of Harland & Wolff, Belfast shipbuilders with whom the Ismay's firm had enjoyed a long and lucrative partnership.

Ismay and Pirrie were determined to formulate a response to the popularity of their nearest competitors latest ships. Cunard had introduced the Lusitania in 1907 followed shortly afterward by the Mauretania. These ships had been built with the help of a governemt subsidy and had set new standards in luxury at sea as well as being faster and larger than any that had gone before.

Ismay and Pirrie decided that high speed, while desirable, was not the essential element in capturing the vital immigrant trade which was their main source of income at that time. They would concentrate on creating the largest ships to maximise steerage capacity while making them the most luxurious in first and second class accomodation in order to woo the wealthy and the prosperous middle class.

Ismay accompanied his ships on their maiden voyages and the Titanic was no exception.

On 10 April 1912 he boarded the Titanic with his valet Richard Fry and his secretary William Henry Harrison. While on board he was also assisted by Ernest Freeman who unlike the other employees was listed as a crew member.

Ismay was rescued from the Titanic in Collapsible C.

During his life Ismay would inaugurate the cadet ship Mersy for the training of officers for the merchant navy, gave £11,000 to found a fund to benefit widows of lost seamen and in 1919 gave £25,000 to establish a fund to recognise the contribution of merchantmen in the war. He divided his time between his homes in London and Ireland.

Joseph Bruce Ismay died on 17 October 1937 leaving an estate worth £693,305.

The Times obituary recalls some interesting insights into Ismay's personality but fails to make any mention of the Titanic:

[He was a man] 'of striking personality and in any company arrested attention and dominated the scene. Those who knew him slightly found his personality overpowering and in consequence imagined him too be hard, but his friends knew this was but the outward veneer of a shy and highly sensitive nature, beneath which was hidden a depth of affection and understanding which is given to but few. Perhaps his outstanding characteristic was his deep feeling and sympathy for the 'underdog' and he was always anxious to help anyone in trouble. Another notable trait was an intense dislike of publicity which he would go to great lengths to avoid. In his youth he won many prizes in lawn-tennis tournaments; he also played association football, having a natural aptitude for games. He enjoyed shooting and fishing and became a first class shot and an expert fisherman. Perhaps the latter was his favourite sport and he spent many happy holidays fishing in Connemara'.

References and Sources

New York Times, 19 October 1937, Obituary
New York Times, 1 January 1964, Obituary of Mrs J. Bruce Ismay (Julia Florence Schieffelin)
General Register Office Certified Copy of an Entry of Death
Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55[279])

Credits
Michael Poirier, USA

Pictures

J. BRUCE ISMAY

(1912) 

J. BRUCE ISMAY

 
Portraits of famous Titanic passengers

(1912) 

PORTRAITS OF FAMOUS TITANIC PASSENGERS

 
Joseph Bruce Ismay

(1912) 

JOSEPH BRUCE ISMAY

 
Joseph Bruce Ismay

JOSEPH BRUCE ISMAY

 
J. Bruce Ismay retreat for sale

(2004) 

J. BRUCE ISMAY RETREAT FOR SALE

 
Downshire House

DOWNSHIRE HOUSE

 

Articles and Stories

INTERCOLONIAL LAWN TENNIS TOURNAMENT

The Sydney Morning Herald  (1885) 

INTERCOLONIAL LAWN TENNIS TOURNAMENT

 
Passengers from Europe Grieved

New York Times  (1901) 

PASSENGERS FROM EUROPE GRIEVED

 
INTERCOLONIAL LAWN TENNIS TOURNAMENT (#3)

The Sydney Morning Herald  (1885) 

INTERCOLONIAL LAWN TENNIS TOURNAMENT (#3)

 
BIG CROWD SAILS TO-DAY

New York Times  (1912) 

BIG CROWD SAILS TO-DAY

 
STENGEL TELLS TRAGEDY STORY

Newark Evening News  (1912) 

STENGEL TELLS TRAGEDY STORY

 
ASTORS SAIL FOR EGYPT

New-York Tribune  (1912) 

ASTORS SAIL FOR EGYPT

 
J. Bruce Ismay Arrives Here

New York Times  (1910) 

J. BRUCE ISMAY ARRIVES HERE

 
ISMAY OUT OF MARINE CO.

The Sun (New York)  (1913) 

ISMAY OUT OF MARINE CO.

 
Ismay Resigns Chairmanships

The Times  (1934) 

ISMAY RESIGNS CHAIRMANSHIPS

 
THE TITANIC: MR ISMAY'S RETURN

The Times  (1912) 

THE TITANIC: MR ISMAY'S RETURN

 
£25,000 FOR BRITISH MERCHANTMEN

The Times  (1919) 

£25,000 FOR BRITISH MERCHANTMEN

 
ISMAY GOT INTO BOAT

Chicago Daily Journal  (1912) 

ISMAY GOT INTO BOAT

 
Stead's Brother Indignant-Asks What Right Ismay Saved from Wreck

Providence Journal  (1912) 

STEAD'S BROTHER INDIGNANT-ASKS WHAT RIGHT ISMAY SAVED FROM WRECK

 
ISMAY IS TO QUIT

New York Times  (1913) 

ISMAY IS TO QUIT

 
KARL BEHR LAUDS WORK OF ISMAY

Brooklyn Daily Eagle  (1912) 

KARL BEHR LAUDS WORK OF ISMAY

 
MR. BRUCE ISMAY

The Times  (1937) 

MR. BRUCE ISMAY

 
TITANIC CAPTAIN BLAMED FOR WRECK

San Francisco Chronicle  (1912) 

TITANIC CAPTAIN BLAMED FOR WRECK

 
TWO MEN HURT ON OLYMPIC

New York Times  (1912) 

TWO MEN HURT ON OLYMPIC

 
Reminiscences of Transatlantic Travellers

(1926) 

REMINISCENCES OF TRANSATLANTIC TRAVELLERS

 
Owner Who Fled Stricken Titanic Dies as Recluse

Washington Post  (1937) 

OWNER WHO FLED STRICKEN TITANIC DIES AS RECLUSE

 
GIRL SURVIVOR HAS PRAISE FOR ISMAY

New York Times  (1912) 

GIRL SURVIVOR HAS PRAISE FOR ISMAY

 
STORIES OF THE WRECK : CAPTAIN SMITH'S HEROISM

The Times  (1912) 

STORIES OF THE WRECK : CAPTAIN SMITH'S HEROISM

 
Bruce Ismay and the Ring's Taunt

Titanica!  (2001) 

BRUCE ISMAY AND THE RING'S TAUNT

 
NO ALARM FELT WHEN STEAMER FIRST STRUCK

Washington Times  (1912) 

NO ALARM FELT WHEN STEAMER FIRST STRUCK

 
J. Bruce Ismay Returns to England

New York Times  (1901) 

J. BRUCE ISMAY RETURNS TO ENGLAND

 
Tells of Ismay's Escape

Brooklyn Daily Eagle  (1912) 

TELLS OF ISMAY'S ESCAPE

 
NOT LOCKED IN CABIN ON CARPATHIA, SAYS ISMAY

Chicago Examiner  (1912) 

NOT LOCKED IN CABIN ON CARPATHIA, SAYS ISMAY

 
ISMAY ASKS TO LEAVE THE WRECK PROBE

Chicago American  (1912) 

ISMAY ASKS TO LEAVE THE WRECK PROBE

 
PEOPLE OF ISMAY, TEX., THINK NAME A BLOT

The San Francisco Call  (1912) 

PEOPLE OF ISMAY, TEX., THINK NAME A BLOT

 
 INTERCOLONIAL LAWN TENNIS (#6)

The Sydney Morning Herald  (1885) 

INTERCOLONIAL LAWN TENNIS (#6)

 
ISMAY AND OFFICERS OF TITANIC GO TO EUROPE

The Syracuse Herald  (1912) 

ISMAY AND OFFICERS OF TITANIC GO TO EUROPE

 
STORY OF DISASTER TO MAMMOTH LINER FROM A SURVIVOR

Rahway Daily Record  (1912) 

STORY OF DISASTER TO MAMMOTH LINER FROM A SURVIVOR

 
Canceled Passages Aboard Titanic

Voyage  (2008) 

CANCELED PASSAGES ABOARD TITANIC

 
ISMAY LEFT SHIP AT WOMEN'S PLEA

Washington Herald  (1912) 

ISMAY LEFT SHIP AT WOMEN'S PLEA

 
SEALBY DEFENDS ISMAY

New York Times  (1912) 

SEALBY DEFENDS ISMAY

 
OBITUARY---MR. C. BOWER ISMAY

The Times  (1924) 

OBITUARY---MR. C. BOWER ISMAY

 
Ismay, James [sic] Bruce

Encyclopaedia of Ships and Shipping (1908)  (1908) 

ISMAY, JAMES [SIC] BRUCE

 
THE BIGGEST LINER IS NOW IN PORT

New York Times  (1907) 

THE BIGGEST LINER IS NOW IN PORT

 
AN ATLANTIC MAN FINDS EVIDENCE FAVORING ISMAY

Atlantic City Daily Press  (1912) 

AN ATLANTIC MAN FINDS EVIDENCE FAVORING ISMAY

 
LINER DID NOT SPEED, ISMAY DECLARES

New York Times  (1912) 

LINER DID NOT SPEED, ISMAY DECLARES

 
Mrs. Cassebeer Account

Binghamton Press  (1912) 

MRS. CASSEBEER ACCOUNT

 
MARRIED IN EARLY DECEMBER

New York Times  (1888) 

MARRIED IN EARLY DECEMBER

 
LORD ROTHES AWAITS WIFE

New York Times  (1912) 

LORD ROTHES AWAITS WIFE

 
SOME OF THE SAVED

Daily Graphic  (1912) 

SOME OF THE SAVED

 
ISMAY AS BEHR SAW HIM

New York Evening Post  (1912) 

ISMAY AS BEHR SAW HIM

 
A Pen to Sink a Thousand Ships

Titanica!  (2006) 

A PEN TO SINK A THOUSAND SHIPS

 
THINGS THAT ISMAY DID NOT OBSERVE

The Toronto World  (1912) 

THINGS THAT ISMAY DID NOT OBSERVE

 
C. E. H. STENGEL TELLS IN DETAIL OF BATTLE FOR LIVES

Newark Star  (1912) 

C. E. H. STENGEL TELLS IN DETAIL OF BATTLE FOR LIVES

 
New Play about Joseph Bruce Ismay

Worcester Journal  (2010) 

NEW PLAY ABOUT JOSEPH BRUCE ISMAY

 
SOCIETY---HOME AND ABROAD

New York Times  (1911) 

SOCIETY---HOME AND ABROAD

 
[There are 59 more items in the Joseph Bruce Ismay document archive]

External Links

Titanic Town - Crosby, Merseyside's links to the Titanic and other ships TITANIC TOWN - CROSBY, MERSEYSIDE'S LINKS TO THE TITANIC AND OTHER SHIPS  
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    (2015) Joseph Bruce Ismay Encyclopedia Titanica (ref: #171, accessed 3rd July 2015 04:36:48 PM)

    URL : http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-survivor/j-bruce-ismay.html