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The White Star Line



Thomas H. Ismay founded the White Star line in 1869. It soon established a reputation for, ever improving size, speed, comfort and safety of their Transatlantic Liners on the Liverpool – New York and Australian Runs. A worthy rival of the Longer established lines: Cunard, Guion and Inman. “I consider that he was the most far-seeing man of steamers, and I am not sure that the travelling public realised the debt they owe to his foresight. He was the pioneer of most of the comforts, not to say luxuries, which they now take as a matter of course.” Sir Bertram Hayes (one of the many Captains of Titanic’s sister ship the Olympic.) on Thomas H. Ismay.

Among the Many Liners White Star owned there were; Two ‘Britannic’s', two ‘Republic’s', two ‘Majestic’s, two ‘Oceanic’s', ‘Celtic’, ‘Cedric’, ‘Baltic’, ‘Adriatic’,  ‘Runic’, ‘Suevic’, ‘Germanic’, 'Albertic', 'Calagric', 'Doric', 'Medic' 'Homeric', 'Georgic',  'Gothic', ‘Teutonic’, 'Ceramic', 'Tropic', 'Belgic', 'Cymric', ‘Olympic’, and ‘Titanic’. A Splendid list.


Some of the largest, and defiantly most luxurious ships of the time were White Star liners. At least two, if not more, held the Blue Riband: ‘Teutonic’ and the first ‘Majestic’. Some of the other Steamship Line’s ships also held it for a time, most notably Cunard, whose four-Stack steamer ‘Mauretania’ held the Blue Riband for about 22 years, On it’s maiden voyage in 1907 till took just four days and 19 hours to cross the Atlantic. Although not as remarkable as that were the two American Line (Previously Inman Line ships) ships, ‘City of Paris’ and the ‘City of New York’ who both held it.

 In 1899, Thomas H. Ismay passed away, leaving White Star to his Son, J. Bruce Ismay. Late in 1900, The American Line embarked in a business development, which would affect Southampton. The Line's Owner's, the INCPC (International Navigation Company of Philadelphia), who also owned Red Star, Supported J. Pierpont Morgan to create a huge American shipping Syndicate. Gradually, all the American lines were bought and integrated including two very important clients of Harland and Wolff (Shipyard, Belfast). The Chairman, W. J Pirrie, quickly made a contract with Morgan, and by July the next year, was promoting Morgan's American syndicate with the chairmen of Hamburg America and White Star. Eventually, Ismay was persuaded. White Star was bought for Ł10,000,000. The new syndicate was known as the International Mercantile Marine. To complete it they wanted Cunard to join, but they declined.

It became public in 1902. Two of the directors (out of 13, 8 being American) were J. Bruce Ismay and W. J. Pirrie. Then came more highly successful years for White Star. They built lots of ships and in 1907 an idea for the most luxurious, and largest steamers ever was born. It was decided to build three of these giants, the ‘Olympic’, ‘Titanic’ (Largest of them all!) and the ‘Gigantic’ (Renamed ‘Britannic’ in the aftermath.) The first two were built, side-by-side and launched about a year apart. Then came ‘Titanic's’ maiden voyage. After the sinking, and then enquiries in 1912, J. Bruce Ismay resigned. All, continued, and in 1916 the ‘Britannic’, ‘Titanic’ and ‘Olympic's’ sister ship was sunk by a mine in the Aegean Ocean. White Star acquired some new ships, as spoils of war and life got back to relatively normal. Throughout the 1920's ‘Olympic’ and the other liners ran a good service.

 In 1926-7 White Star was bought off IMM by Lord Kylsant (who succeeded Lord Pirrie as Chairman of Harland and Wolff.) and suffered greatly in the long run from this. In 1931 Lord Kylsant was arrested, tried and found guilty of falsely wording a stock market prospectus. Kylsant resigned and went to prison for a year. Things were looking worse and worse. The company was falling into loss. The depression had hit hard and some older liners were sold off. It was the beginning of the end. In 1934, Cunard, with the help of the Ocean steam Navigation Company and the Treasury, bought White Star. White Star was officially wound up in 1935. The End Of the White Star era had come at last.