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 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
The 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.
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
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 Ship Names||Year of Building||Service Period|
|Tayleur||1854||Sank on her maiden voyage in 1854|
|Titanic||1912||Sank on her maiden voyage in 1912|
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.