White Star Line: the history of RMS Titanic owner

The White Star Line’s Titanic ship was the second from three Olympic Class Ocean Liners owned by this British cargo and passengers shipping company. The name of White Star Line will be forever linked to the tragically sank RMS Titanic liner.

White Star Line  RMS titanic ship

White Star Line history – the early years

White Star Line was founded by Henry Wilson and John Pilkington. The year was 1845 and the place – Liverpool. The idea was to follow the early 1850’s trend – trading Australian gold. The company started with chartered fleet. White Star Line bought their first vessel when they had increased their capital. This was the clipper Iowa, a 879-ton barque class ship.

James Chambers, the husband of Henry Wilson’s daughter, joined the White Star Line as a partner in 1853.

The first White Star Line competitor was Black Ball Line, owned by James Baines. Their “war” ended to a point where they started leasing vessels to one another. White Star Line and two other small lines, Black Ball and Eagle Lines, merged in the Liverpool, Melbourne and Oriental Steam Navigation Company Limited. The conglomerate did not prosper long and White Star Line broke away to save itself.

At that time White Star Line were operating with their first steamship, the Royal Standard, but they were experiencing serious problems. Henry Wilson tried to expand the fleet by mortgaging assets. Unfortunately, the Royal Bank of Liverpool closed down due to a financial bind in October 1867. That forced White Star Line into bankruptcy with a debt of £527,000.

The Oceanic Steam Navigation Company: White Star Line’s second start

TWhite Star Line logohe only person who saw an opportunity in White Star Line was Thomas Ismay, director of National Lines. He bought the company from Henry Wilson on January 18th 1868 for £1000. The headquarter was set to be in Albion House, Liverpool. The first thing Thomas Ismay did was selling all the old clipper vessel. He utilized the chartering practice and began to buy after his capital had increased.

The White Star Line purchase was the begging of Thomas Ismay’s Oceanic Steam Navigation Company. The White Star Line name and flag were for the company steamers.

White Star Line Atlantic accident

Thomas received one very interesting offer during a billiards game. Gustav Schwabe, a prominent merchant fro Liverpool, suggested to finance Ismay if his new line was built by Schwabe’s nephew company – Harland and Wolff (Wiki, and company website). Ismay accepted.

The first order came on July 30th 1869. The result came a year later on August 20th 1870 – the liner Oceanic. After Oceanic came Atlantic, Baltic and Republic – vessels built again by Harland&Wolff.

The first fatal accident with White Star Line vessel came in 1873. Atlantic stranded close to Halifax and that caused many deaths.

Thomas Ismay was stimulated to expand the company after his ship Teutonic won the prestige award Blue Ribband. It was given for a speed record while crossing the Atlantic ocean. White Star Line was noticed.

White Star Line as a part of the International Mercantile Marine

White Star Line Fleet Ismay son

Thomas Ismay died in 1899 and his position was taken by his son Joseph Bruce Ismay. At that time, Harland and Wolff also had a new chairman, Lord W.J. Pirrie, who took the position after Sir Edward Harland died in 1895.

In the begging of 20th century all the shipping companies acted in a vicious rate war. John Pierpont Morgan, an American multimillionaire, saw a big opportunity in the shipping trade over the Atlantic. That’s how in 1902 White Star Line became a part of a big American shipping conglomerate – the International Mercantile Marine Co (IMM). It ended in 1932.

White Star Line ships list (by year built)

White Star Line Fleet

White Star Line Ship Names Year of Building Service Period
Red Jacket 1853 1853–1878
White Star 1854 1854-1867+
Blue Jacket 1854 1854–1869
Tayleur 1854 Sank on her maiden voyage in 1854
Oceanic 1870 1870–1895
Atlantic 1871 1871–1873
Baltic 1871 1871–1889
Tropic 1871 1871–1873
Asiatic 1871 1871–1903
Republic 1872 1872–1910
Adriatic 1872 1872–1899
Celtic 1872 1872–1898
Traffic 1872 1872–1896
Belgic 1873 1873–1888
Gaelic 1873 1873–1896
Britannic 1874 1874–1903
Germanic 1875 1875–1903
Arabic 1881 1881–1915
Coptic 1883 1883–1908
Doric 1883 1883–1911
Belgic 1885 1885–1899
Gaelic 1885 1885–1905
Cuffic 1885 1885–1896
Runic 1889 1889–1895
Teutonic 1889 1889–1921
Majestic 1890 1890–1914
Nomadic 1891 1891–1903
Tauric 1891 1891–1929
Magnetic 1891 1891–1935
Naronic 1892 1892–1893
Bovic 1892 1892–1921
Gothic 1893 1893–1906
Cevic 1894 1894–1914
Pontic 1894 1894–1930
Georgic 1895 1895–1916
Delphic 1897 1897–1917
Cymric 1898 1898–1916
Afric 1898 1899–1917
Medic 1899 1892–1921
Persic 1899 1899–1935
Oceanic 1899 1899–1914
Suevic 1900 1900–1928
Celtic 1901 1901–1928
Athenic 1902 1902–1928
Corinthic 1902 1902–1931
Ionic 1903 1903–1934
Cedric 1903 1901
Victorian 1895 1911
Armenian 1895 1911
Arabic 1903 1911
Romanic 1898 1903
Cretic 1903 1911
Republic 1903 1912
Canopic 1900 1913
Cufic 1895 1900
Baltic 1904 1909
Gallic 1894 1914
Adriatic 1907 1914
Laurentic 1908 1914
Megantic 1909 1918
Zeeland 1901 1910–1911
Nomadic 1911 1911–1925
Traffic 1911 1911–1927
Olympic 1911 1911–1935
Belgic 1903 1911–1913
Zealandic 1911 1911–1926
Titanic 1912 Sank on her maiden voyage in 1912
Ceramic 1913 1913–1934
Vaderland 1900 1914–1917
Lapland 1909 1914–1920
Britannic 1914 1912–1916
Belgic 1914 1917–1923
Justicia 1914 1917–1918
Vedic 1918 1918–1934
Bardic 1918 1919–1925
Gallic 1918 1920–1933
Mobile 1893 1920–1933
Arabic 1909 1920–1931
Homeric 1913 1922–1935
Haverford 1901 1921–1922
Poland 1897 1922–1925
Majestic 1914 1922–1936
Pittsburgh 1922 1925–1926
Doric 1923 1923–1935
Delphic 1918 1925–1933
Regina 1917 1925–1945
Albertic 1920 1927–1934
Calgaric 1918 1927–1934
Laurentic 1927 1927–1940
Britannic 1929 1929–1949
Georgic 1932 1932–1949

Today, on James Street in Liverpool, the Head Office of White Star Line still exists. The last survived ship of White Star Line is Nomadic, French passenger tender. In January 2006 the Northern Ireland Department for Social Developmentin bought it. Fully restored she can be seem in Belfast.

In memory of the RMS Titanic ship disaster, on every April 15th , the White Star Line flag can be seen raised in Belfast on all Cunard vessels and also on the Nomadic. Continuing with White Star Line history after Titanic.