Haarold Sanderson was born in Bebington, Cheshire on 20 October 1859, the son of Richard Sanderson (1831–1921) and Eliza Palmer Zara Hicks (1831–1889).1
Sanderson's father had moved to New York City where, in 1878 he founded the firm of Sanderson & Son. His son Harold would take over the management of the firm in the 1880s.
He married Maud Blood in New York on 9 March 1885. They would have five children: Lee Sanderson (1887-1941), Olga Sanderson (born 1891), Harold Winchester Sanderson (1892 – 1955), Basil Sanderson (1894 – 1971) and David Sanderson (born 1895).
He returned to England in about 1893 to take on the management of Wilson & Sons in Hull and then, in 1895 he was appointed general manager of the White Star Line.
In 1899 he became a partner in Ismay, Imrie & Co., the parent company of the White Star Line. When, in 1902, the White Star Line was subsumed into the International Mercantile Marine conglomerate of J. Pierpont Morgan he was made vice president of the giant concern, from this position he found himself on the board of several other associated companies, including Shaw, Savill & Albion, Ltd.; Atlantic Transport Company, Ltd.; Frederick Leyland & Co., Ltd. and the International Navigation Company, Ltd.
Harold Sanderson travelled aboard the Titanic, on the delivery trip from Belfast to Southampton. There was only one regular passenger Mr Wyckoff van der Hoef.
After the Titanic disaster, Sanderson appeared before the board of trade inquiry led by Lord Mersey. During his testimony, he maintained, despite the recent tragedy that he:
[did] not feel that it would be a wise or a necessary provision to make; that is to say, to provide boats for everybody on board the ship.
Sanderson took over as President of IMM and Chairman of WSL after Ismay resigned in 1913, but Sanderson was ousted as President of IMM in 1916 and was replaced by PAS Franklin (who held the position until 1936). Sanderson stayed on as Chairman of WSL, only, until 1928.
For some time he owned a substantial country home at Jenkyn Place, Bentley, Hampshire.2
His wife, Maud, died 9 March 1927. Harold Sanderson died 26 Feb 1932 in Rapello, Liguria during a tour of Italy to visit his daughter. He left an estate valued at £71,086.