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 afterwards by the Mauretania. These ships had been built with the help of a government 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 accommodation 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 Mersey 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])

Research Articles

Senan Molony Titanica! (2001) Bruce Ismay and the Ring's Taunt
As Ismay pushed the brute oar, his eye fell on his ring. The ring inscribed:- Be Mindful.
Senan Molony Titanica! (2004) A Race Through a Nightmare
How a shipwreck a suffragette and a scandal settled the 1913 Derby
Lee Kendall Titanica! (2006) A Pen to Sink a Thousand Ships
The British Titanic Inquiry and the Art of Fortunino Matania
Senan Molony Titanica! (2008) 12.45am - A Time to Go!
What time did the first lifeboat depart the Titanic?
John P. Eaton Voyage (2008) Cancelled Passages Aboard Titanic
Who Redeemeth Thy Life From Destruction

Newspaper Articles

The Star, Christchurch, New Zealand (24 February 1885) [Bruce Ismay and Gustav Wolff arrive in New Zealand, 1885]
The Sydney Morning Herald (30 April 1885) INTERCOLONIAL LAWN TENNIS TOURNAMENT
The Sydney Morning Herald (4 May 1885) INTERCOLONIAL LAWN TENNIS TOURNAMENT (#2)
The Sydney Morning Herald (5 May 1885) INTERCOLONIAL LAWN TENNIS TOURNAMENT (#3)
The Sydney Morning Herald (6 May 1885) INTERCOLONIAL LAWN TENNIS TOURNAMENT (#4)
The Sydney Morning Herald (7 May 1885) INTERCOLONIAL LAWN TENNIS TOURNAMENT (#5)
The Sydney Morning Herald (8 May 1885) INTERCOLONIAL LAWN TENNIS (#6)
New York Times (5 December 1888) MARRIED IN EARLY DECEMBER
New York Times (17 August 1889) An Unpleasant Incident
The London Gazette (8 January 1892) Legal notice of the retirement of Thomas Ismay
New York Times (24 November 1899) THOMAS HENRY ISMAY DEAD
New York Times (8 September 1901) Passengers from Europe Grieved
New York Times (19 September 1901) J. Bruce Ismay Returns to England
New York Times (24 February 1904) GRISCOM IS NO LONGER HEAD OF SHIP COMBINE
New York Times (28 February 1904) CLUBMEN AND THEIR CLUBS
The Los Angeles Herald (20 April 1904) A Word to Fishermen
New York Times (10 April 1907) Obituary of Margaret Ismay
New York Times (10 May 1907) 3,000 ON THE ADRIATIC
New York Times (17 May 1907) ISMAY UPHOLDS STRIKE POLICY
New York Times (17 May 1907) THE BIGGEST LINER IS NOW IN PORT
New York Times (22 May 1907) ADRIATIC TO SAIL TO-DAY
Encyclopaedia of Ships and Shipping (1908) Ismay, James [sic] Bruce
New York Times (27 February 1910) J. Bruce Ismay Arrives Here
New York Times (26 November 1911) SOCIETY---HOME AND ABROAD (1)
Unidentified Newspaper (1912) ISMAY SAILS FOR ENGLAND
New York Times (24 January 1912) BIG CROWD SAILS TO-DAY
New-York Tribune (25 January 1912) ASTORS SAIL FOR EGYPT
New York Times (25 January 1912) TWO MEN HURT ON OLYMPIC
New York Times (16 April 1912) JOSEPH BRUCE ISMAY : Chairman and Managing Director of the White Star Line
New York Times (16 April 1912) LORD ROTHES AWAITS WIFE
Worcester Evening Post (16 April 1912) NO HOPE FOR MORE SURVIVORS
Le Petit Journal (17 April 1912) Joseph Bruce Ismay
Excelsior (17 April 1912) Portraits of famous Titanic passengers
Newark Star (19 April 1912) C. E. H. STENGEL TELLS IN DETAIL OF BATTLE FOR LIVES
Chicago Daily Journal (19 April 1912) I'M STARVED WAS ISMAY'S FIRST WORD
"For God's sake get me something to eat. I'm starved. I don't care what it costs or what it is, bring it to me."
Washington Times (19 April 1912) ISMAY CONDEMNED FOR TAKING BOAT
Chicago Daily Journal (19 April 1912) ISMAY GOT INTO BOAT
Brooklyn Daily Eagle (19 April 1912) ISMAY IN COMMAND SAYS MRS. APPLETON
Washington Herald (19 April 1912) ISMAY LEFT SHIP AT WOMEN'S PLEA
Washington Herald (19 April 1912) ISMAY OUTLINES VIEW OF WRECK
Karl H. Behr Brooklyn Daily Eagle (19 April 1912) KARL BEHR LAUDS WORK OF ISMAY
New York Times (19 April 1912) LINER DID NOT SPEED, ISMAY DECLARES
MISS CAROLINE BONNELL Washington Times (19 April 1912) NO ALARM FELT WHEN STEAMER FIRST STRUCK
New York Times (19 April 1912) SAYS ISMAY TOOK FIRST BOAT
Newark Evening News (19 April 1912) STENGEL TELLS TRAGEDY STORY
Rahway Daily Record (19 April 1912) STORY OF DISASTER TO MAMMOTH LINER FROM A SURVIVOR
Brooklyn Daily Eagle (19 April 1912) Tells of Ismay's Escape
Atlantic City Daily Press (20 April 1912) ALARMED COUNTY MAN FINDS SISTER WAS RESCUED
Worcester Evening Gazette (20 April 1912) BE BRITISH, MY MEN CAPT. SMITH'S ORDER
Titanic was going 23 knots an hour. She ripped herself clear apart.
Chicago Daily Journal (20 April 1912) ISMAY TIRED TO ESCAPE ON CEDRIC, WIRELESS SHOWS
Newark Evening News (20 April 1912) LIFEBOAT NOT FILLED, KARL BEHR DECLARES
Chicago Daily News (20 April 1912) Not All Stock Issued
Worcester Evening Gazette (20 April 1912) Says Ismay Chose Own Boat Crew
Daily Graphic (20 April 1912) SOME OF THE SAVED
Providence Journal (20 April 1912) Stead's Brother Indignant-Asks What Right Ismay Saved from Wreck
The Toronto World (20 April 1912) THINGS THAT ISMAY DID NOT OBSERVE
New York Times (20 April 1912) WOMEN REVEALED AS HEROINES BY WRECK (3)
Washington Herald (21 April 1912) DESCRIBES LAST MEAL ON TITANIC
“It Was the Gayest Night of Trip Among Diners,” Says Assistant Steward
Washington Herald (21 April 1912) PEUCHEN COMES BACK AT ISMAY
The New York Times (21 April 1912) SEALING THE LIPS OF TITANIC'S CREW
New York Times (22 April 1912) SEALBY DEFENDS ISMAY
Washington Times (22 April 1912) SURVIVOR TELLS OF THE HEROISM OF CLARENCE MOORE
Banker Went to His Death Like a Man
New York Times (22 April 1912) TO HOLD ISMAY TO THE END
Smith is determined that the Director-Manager of the White Star Line shall be held in this country until the investigation is closed
Atlantic City Daily Press (23 April 1912) AN ATLANTIC MAN FINDS EVIDENCE FAVORING ISMAY
New York Times (23 April 1912) GIRL SURVIVOR HAS PRAISE FOR ISMAY
Forced her into a lifeboat
Newark Evening News (23 April 1912) TITANIC SURVIVOR TO THE DEFENSE OF ISMAY
Chicago American (24 April 1912) ISMAY ASKS TO LEAVE THE WRECK PROBE
Washington Times (24 April 1912) J. BRUCE ISMAY
New York Times (27 April 1912) NO WIRELESS ORDER TO HOLD BACK NEWS
Binghamton Press (29 April 1912) Mrs. Cassebeer Account
The Times (29 April 1912) STORIES OF THE WRECK : CAPTAIN SMITH'S HEROISM
The San Francisco Call (30 April 1912) PEOPLE OF ISMAY, TEX., THINK NAME A BLOT
Chicago Examiner (1 May 1912) NOT LOCKED IN CABIN ON CARPATHIA, SAYS ISMAY
The Syracuse Herald (3 May 1912) ISMAY AND OFFICERS OF TITANIC GO TO EUROPE
Atlantic City Daily Press (5 May 1912) LOCAL SURVIVOR DEFENDS ISMAY
Western Times (13 May 1912) MR. BRUCE ISMAY : Arrival at Liverpool: A Hearty Reception
The Times (13 May 1912) THE TITANIC: MR ISMAY'S RETURN
New York Times (14 May 1912) $100,000 GIFT FROM ISMAY
New York Times (15 May 1912) ISMAY AIDS SAILORS' WIDOWS
Camden Post-Telegram (15 May 1912) ISMAY PRAISED BY TITANIC SURVIVOR
The Sketch (15 May 1912) Ismay Returns
(17 May 1912) EDITOR WHO FLAYED ISMAY RESIGNS HIS SEAT IN PARLIAMENT
San Francisco Chronicle (29 May 1912) TITANIC CAPTAIN BLAMED FOR WRECK
The Times (11 June 1912) Presumed Death in the Titanic
(10 September 1912) ISMAY TO RESIGN AS PRESIDENT OF THE SHIP TRUST
New-York Tribune (1 January 1913) BRUCE ISMAY RESIGNS AS HEAD OF WHITE STAR
New York Times (1 January 1913) ISMAY IS TO QUIT
The Times (1 January 1913) MR. ISMAY AND THE WHITE STAR LINE
(30 June 1913) ISMAY OUT OF MARINE CO.
(16 June 1914) MRS. 'WILLIE' CARTER GETS DIVORCE DECREE
New York Times (1 September 1914) MRS. CARTER WEDS AGAIN
New York Evening Post (28 June 1915) ISMAY AS BEHR SAW HIM
The Times (2 January 1919) £25,000 FOR BRITISH MERCHANTMEN
The Times (3 January 1919) MR. ISMAY'S GIFT TO THE MERCANTILE MARINE
The Times (26 May 1924) OBITUARY---MR. C. BOWER ISMAY
The Times (29 January 1930) INSURANCE DIRECTOR'S RETIREMENT
The Times (30 July 1934) Ismay Resigns Chairmanships
The Times (23 August 1937) Mr Bruce Ismay - An Anonymous Tribute
The Times (18 October 1937) MR. BRUCE ISMAY
Washington Post (18 October 1937) Owner Who Fled Stricken Titanic Dies as Recluse
New York Times (19 October 1937) J. BRUCE ISMAY, 74, TITANIC SURVIVOR
New York Times (19 October 1937) J. BRUCE ISMAY, 74, TITANIC SURVIVOR (1)
The Times (20 October 1937) Death Notice: Bruce Ismay
The Times (21 October 1937) MR. BRUCE ISMAY (1)
The Times (22 October 1937) FUNERALS---MR. BRUCE ISMAY
The Times (23 October 1937) MR. BRUCE ISMAY (2)
The Times (4 December 1937) ESTATE OF TITANIC SURVIVOR
New York Times (1 January 1963) MRS. J. BRUCE ISMAY
Birmingham Daily Post (22 September 1964) ROLLS LEFT TO DRIVER
Irish Independent (9 July 2004) J. Bruce Ismay retreat for sale
A Titanophile's Dream for $1.5 million
Worcester Journal (21 October 2010) New Play about Joseph Bruce Ismay

Testimony

Limitation of Liability Hearings (1912) Deposition of J. Bruce ismay, Titanic Inquiry Project
British Inquiry (1912) American Inquiry Testimony of J. Bruce Ismay, Titanic Inquiry Project
British Inquiry (1912) British Inquiry Testimony of J. Bruce Ismay, Titanic Inquiry Project

Images

Downshire House
Joseph Bruce Ismay (1)
From 'Sinking of the Titanic'
Julia Florence Ismay
Julia Florence Ismay
Julia Florence Ismay
Leeds Mercury (1912) Portrait of Bruce Ismay
Evening Telegraph and Post (1912) Bruce Ismay at Titanic Inquiry

Reviews

Senan Molony Titanic Review (2011) How to Survive the Titanic. Or The Sinking of J. Bruce Ismay
Ismay as Ecce Homo

Documents and Certificates

J Bruce Ismay - Death Certificate

Miscellaneous

Charles Spedding Reminiscences of Transatlantic Travellers
Frances Wilson (2011) Notes on the Ismay family archive
Search archive online

Comment and discuss

Was Ismay really a villain? (212 posts)
Ismay and the speed of the Titanic (127 posts)
Ismay (86 posts)
Ismay's homes (77 posts)
Ismay's escape (71 posts)
Could the Media's Attacks on Bruce Ismay be Character Assassination (47 posts)
The IsmaySmith reception room conversation (45 posts)
Ismay's role in the ship's navigation (36 posts)
Ismay after Titanic (35 posts)
Bruce Ismay travels (34 posts)
Bruce Ismay Unfairly treated (34 posts)
J Bruce Ismay Zero to Hero (32 posts)
Bruce Ismay's Servants (30 posts)
Would the press still have chewed out Ismay? (28 posts)
Was Bruce Ismay present on the Bridge? (27 posts)
Would Lightoller or Lowe have evicted Ismay (26 posts)
The haunting of J Bruce Ismay (21 posts)
Bruce Ismay's descendants (21 posts)
Bruce ismay (19 posts)
Conversation with Thayer on Carpathia (18 posts)
Bruce Ismay's anklet (8 posts)
Orders from Mr. Ismay. Superior Force? (8 posts)
Ismay or Andrews (7 posts)
News from 1885 INTERCOLONIAL LAWN TENNIS TOURNAMENT (6 posts)
US Immigration records on JBI (6 posts)
The Ismays in the 1930s (6 posts)
News (?) from 1904: JBI denounces fishing (5 posts)
Was Ismay allowed in technical rooms etc (4 posts)
News from 1888: Bruce Ismay Marries Florence Schieffelin (3 posts)
This ship can't sink! (3 posts)
Ismay (3 posts)
JB Ismay (2 posts)
Ismay and Hearst (1 post)
Great play about Bruce Ismay! (1 post)
Paul Louden-Brown Ismay article (1 post)
Bruce Ismay's fashion (1 post)
Bruce Ismay retired from White Star he wasn't forced out (1 post)
News from 1913: Ismay's Resignation from White Star (1 post)
News from 1913 ISMAY IS TO QUIT (1 post)
Why did Ismay travel with two secretaries? (1 post)

Credits

Peter Engberg-Klarström, Sweden
Michael Poirier, USA

Link and cite this biography

Encyclopedia Titanica (2017) Joseph Bruce Ismay (ref: #171, last updated: 18th August 2017, accessed 24th July 2021 17:02:27 PM)
URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-survivor/j-bruce-ismay.html

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