Encyclopedia Titanica

JOSEPH BRUCE ISMAY : Chairman and Managing Director of the White Star Line

New York Times

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Chairman and Managing Director of the White Star Line
Joseph Bruce Ismay has been considered one of the most prominent ship owners in the world. As chairman and managing director of the White Star line he took passage on the Titanic on her maiden voyage.

He was born in Liverpool on Dec. 12, 1862, and was the son of the late Thomas Henry Ismay, of Dawpool, Cheshire, England. In 1888, he married Julia Florence Schieffelin, daughter of George R. Schieffelin, of this city. They have two sons and two daughters.

Mr. Ismay was educated at Elstree and Harrow. His residence is at 15 Hill Street, Sandheys, Mossley Hill, Liverpool. He has been a member of the Reform Club of that city, and a prominent club man in London.

As President of the International Mercantile Marine Company he has been prominently identified with mercantile interests in the United States, especially in the Atlantic ports, principally New York.

His father made a rapid rise from builder's apprentice in the ship yards to President of the White Star line. He started out without a penny and when he had completed his work he had a fortune of nearly $6,500,000. His early life gave him an opportunity to study the ships in the old picturesque Cumberland port at Maryport and in the early fifties he entered the firm of Imrie, Tomlinson & Co., as an apprentice.

Mr. Ismay, Sr., worked his way to the front until in 1867, when the managing owner of the White Star line retired, he was in a position to take over the smart fleet of clippers which then composed the line. For some years previously the White Star ships, wooden clippers of the fleetest build, had been running between England and Australia.

He was not satisfied with wood and shortly afterward installed iron vessels, to be followed by steam propelled ships. Within four years after taking charge of the White Star line, Mr. Ismay had vessels competing successfully for the high class passenger traffic of the North Atlantic in addition to those covering the older routes.

His policies were followed by his son, who was responsible for the competition in large and speedy vessels which resulted in the latest addition to the fleet, the Titanic.

[MAB Note: The first sentence of the sixth paragraph of this article is incorrect. What actually happened in 1867 was that the partnership of Wilson & Cunningham, which operated under the trade name “White Star Line” became insolvent and was liquidated. Thomas Ismay acquired the firm’s trade name and house flag and began using them for the ships of Thomas H. Ismay & Co. He did not acquire any of the ships of the Wilson & Cunningham White Star Line, nor did he “take over” any fleet of ships. Source: Anderson’s White Star.]


Mark Baber, USA


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  1. titanic1912 titanic1912

    How accurate is this information? Did you rescearch it or did you just make it up? This information is good, but some of it is not true. I am a Titanic expert, I run a business and museum about it, and I know everything there is so be about it, and just so you know this information is not accurate. Please do some rescearch and change it, so you don't give other people the wrong idea. -Titanic Expert, Orland, FL

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Encyclopedia Titanica (2004) JOSEPH BRUCE ISMAY : Chairman and Managing Director of the White Star Line (New York Times, Tuesday 16th April 1912, ref: #3112, published 29 June 2004, generated 21st March 2023 08:31:29 PM); URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/joseph-bruce-ismay-1.html