The White Star Line
The White Star Line became one of the most famous and prestigious shipping lines of the 19th and 20th centuries. The White Star Line was originally founded in Liverpool in 1845 by John Pilkington and Henry Wilson. After James Chambers married Henry Wilson's daughter he became a partner. However, in 1867, the Royal Bank got into a financial bind and closed down, revealing a debt of £527,000 which the line owed. White Star Line was now facing forced bankruptcy. This is when Thomas Henry Ismay (a man of vision and organisational genius, named in his lifetime the Merchant Prince)purchased the White Star Line. In, 1870 his good friend William Irmie Jr merged his company with T.H. Ismay & Company forming the Ismay, Imrie & Co. Gustuv Wolff and Edward Harland soon formed a business partnership with the intent to build faster, longer lasting iron ships and continue in the North Atlantic shipping trade market.
Under the new White Star Line ownership, Harland and Wolff received its first vessel construction orders on 30 July 1869. On 20 August 1870, what many believe to be White Star's "Greatest Triumph," the liner Oceanic was launched for final fittings and put into service in 1871 and this was the start of many great ships including Atlantic, Baltic and Republic.
When Sir Edward Wolff died in 1895 and Thomas Henry Ismay died in 1899, Ismays son, Joseph Bruce Ismay (38), joined partnership with the new Harland and Wolff chairman Lord W.J Pirrie bringing a new management to the White Star Line. In 1907, Ismay and Pirrie decided to build two twin leviathans and a third ship to follow to join the group called 'Olympic class liners'. The first ship would be named the Olympic, the second Titanic and the third Gigantic (later named the Britannic after the Titanic disaster). When Ismay was forced to retire after the Titanic disaster, JP Morgan of International Mercantile Marine Company (IMM) took over the White Star.