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Who Owned the Titanic?

Updated on August 15, 2015

Was the Titanic a British or American ship?

Source

One hundred years later

April 15th, 1912

It's over a hundred years since RMS Titanic was lost with such tragic consequences. Millions of words have been written about it, there have been numerous inquiries and hundred of miles of film have been devoted to the sinking of this 'unsinkable' ship.

Because the Titanic was sailing from Southampton to New York, because she was built in Ireland, because her crew was largely British, many of us - myself included until recently - assume that the ship was British-owned.

In fact, the owner was American.

Bruce Ismay

Source

The White Star Line

The Ismay family

The name of the White Star Line is familiar to all of us who are interesting in the history and demise of this ship. And it's true that this was originally a British company, created by Thomas Ismay.

When he died in 1899, the directorship of the company passed to his eldest son, Bruce (pictured on the right).

Bruce Ismay was on the maiden voyage of the Titanic and he survived. This became incredibly controversial and in the first inquiry, which took place in the States just after the loss of the ship, it became generally accepted that Ismay was a coward who had caused the loss of the ship and the huge loss of life.

A Night to Remember

The book and film about the Titanic

These were widely regarded as the most accurate depictions of the loss of the ship. Neither treated Bruce Ismay very kindly. You may recall that Ismay was shown in the film as a rather ineffectual man, dressed in his pajamas throughout the panic-stricken hours before the sinking.

When the survivors landed in New York, they were immediately subpoenaed by a senate inquiry in which Ismay also came out quite badly.

The newspapers were particularly virulent, particularly those owned by W. R. Hearst who was an old adversary of Ismay's.

Source

But in fact, the ship was American-owned

J.P. Morgan

As you can see, Ismay had sold the entire White Star Line to American tycoon J.P.Morgan thirteen years before the Titanic went down. Why?

Morgan's aim was to monopolise the ocean traffic between Europe and the Unite States. He owned a huge conglomerate the International Mercantile Marine that had gradually acquired most of the shipping companies that crossed the Atlantic.

Ismay was encouraged to sell by several people whose opinion he respected. Under part of the agreement he was retained as White Star Line's managing director.

As can be imagined, this was viewed with differences of opinion between the two countries. The United States naturally saw this as a good thing. The British,on the other hand, in general hated the idea of losing its ships to America. 'What' they asked prophetically 'would happen if there was to be a war?'

By the time of the sinking of the Titanic, Ismay was planning to retire from the business. His departure from the company was planned for December 1912.


Another survivor

Source

Charles Lightoller

A heroic survivor

Charles Lightoller was a senior officer aboard the ship. He is generally regarded as one of the heroes of the disaster, if not the hero.

Why wasn't Ismay seen in a similar light?

It was said that Ismay:

  • As the 'owner' of the Titanic he should have 'gone down with the ship'
  • Took a place in a lifeboat then there were women and children still aboard
  • Encouraged the captain to sail at dangerous speeds
  • Was evasive when asked questions about the sinking at the American inquiry

Were these accusations valid?

When Ismay returned to Britain after the senate inquiry, he was hailed as a hero. The British press answered the accusations above as follows:

  • He was not the owner of the ship but the managing director of the British office of the American owners
  • The lifeboat he entered was the last to leave the ship and there were no women or children on that deck at the time
  • Ismay, in common with everyone else in the shipping business, knew that the Titanic could not compete with the Cunard liners when it came to speed
  • He was not aware that the purpose of the inquiry was to apportion blame but that it was simply a matter of collecting personal accounts

Ismay insisted, and the British press agreed, that he had no official position on board the ship and that his presence was that of a mere passenger. He could exert no influence over the captain,officers and crew even had he wished to do so.

How to Survive the Titanic

How to Survive the Titanic: The Sinking of J. Bruce Ismay
How to Survive the Titanic: The Sinking of J. Bruce Ismay

This is an extremely thorough account of the Titanic's sinking, the Ismay family and the events that followed the disaster. It is immaculately researched and contains details from family correspondence that has never been revealed before.

This is highly recommended and in addition to hardback and paperback versions,is also available for your Kindle.

 

A mysterious love story

Ismay's secret

The book that you see on the right has three hundred pages so it's impossible for me to tell you about every story it contains. But amongst the fascinating new revelations is the story of Ismay's curious shipboard romance.

On the Titanic,he became acquainted with an American woman - a lady from the upper echelons of society. She struck him as being incredibly sympathetic and wise. She too survived the shipwreck but became a widow when her husband was lost in the disaster.

By 1912, Bruce Ismay was disillusioned with his marriage. At forty two years old, he was susceptible to the charms of another woman. When he returned to England he continued to correspond with the woman he had met on the ship and it is obvious from his previously unpublished letters that she saw - and hoped for - a future for them together.

You can learn more about this - and the Titanic disaster in general - from the book you see here.


The lifeboats

Inadequate provisions for evacuation

The greatest accusation levelled at the owners of the ship was that there were not enough lifeboats for the full number of passengers and crew. Ismay was also blamed for the design of the ship and the fact that far from being 'unsinkable' it was at the bottom of the ocean within just a couple of hours of hitting the iceberg.

However, inadequate though they undoubtedly were, the ship had more lifeboats than the local regulations required. Ismay also was not involved with the design or the building of the ship.

Thomas Andrews, who designed the ship, was also on board for the maiden voyage and did not survive.

SS Californian

This ship was within a few miles of the Titanic when she hit the iceberg. Even though the crew of the Californian saw the distress rockets fired by the liner and received various radio transmissions, the captain did not react to these signals.

In the view of the inquiries that took place, and also in the view of modern experts, there would have been little loss of life - if any - had the Californian reacted and hurried to the stricken ship.

The Californian was also owned by International Mercantile Marine.

Source

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    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Sunshine625 -I doubt we'll ever stopped being fascinated. It's such an incredible story.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

      That wasn't very nice of the SS Californian to ignore the distress signals. That was very rude! I am a Titanic Fanatic...enjoyed this article! :)

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      Isn't it fascinating? Thanks for dropping by!

    • profile image

      ideadesigns 3 years ago

      Thanks for a great read! Titanic is an interesting story, I didn't know anything about the owners til now.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      Hi Mel, yes I think that's a big part of the reason. Thanks for visiting!

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      Very well written and thought provoking hub. I believe the reason Ismay has been demonized is that wealthy passengers like Astor elected to go down with the ship out of a sense of duty that was still common in those days. Great hub!

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @aerospacefan - thanks for the thumbs up!

    • aerospacefan profile image

      John M 3 years ago from Chicago

      What a fascinating hub! I knew very little about the Titanic before reading this hub. Thanks for taking the time to write with such quality! Voted up.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      That's an excellent way of putting it - thanks for visiting!

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image

      Melody Lassalle 3 years ago from California

      What an interesting story! I had not heard about this guy and his connection to the Titannic. It sounds like they needed someone to scapegoat and he was very convenient.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      Thank you, esmonaco. There are more strange but interesting stories on the way :)

    • esmonaco profile image

      Eugene Samuel Monaco 3 years ago from Lakewood New York

      You always seem to dig deep and find the most interesting facts, Very informative. Thanks :)

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      I like your turn of phrase, goatfury :) Thanks for reading!

    • goatfury profile image

      Andrew Smith 3 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Great story! I'm sure JP Morgan was devastated by the loss of lives, but I can imagine him thinking about toilet paper flushing down the toilet as far as the boat itself sinking. That guy was almost unfathomably rich... and powerful.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      Thank you @PegCole17! I wish I'd seen the TV series. Hopefully, it will be shown again - it's such a popular subject for so many people.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 3 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Fascinating history and lesser known facts about the Titanic. This was an enjoyable read. There was an amazing 12 part made for TV series called, "Titanic Blood and Steel" that depicted much of the political background and the characters involved in the building of the ship.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      Thanks for visiting @cherylsart! I'm glad you found it interesting.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @truthfornow - I think you'll enjoy it. It has several excellent photographs that I've never seen before too.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @boutiqueshops - I think it's a subject that will fascinate me forever :)

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      Hi TreasuresBrenda - it's all speculation now, isn't it? Thanks so much for pinning :)

    • CherylsArt profile image

      Cheryl Paton 3 years ago from West Virginia

      Wow. It was interesting to read about the other details that weren't shown in the movies. Thanks for sharing the information.

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 3 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      Cool. I am interested in reading How to Survive the Titanic - never heard of this book but it seems like a good read.

    • boutiqueshops profile image

      Sylvia 3 years ago from Corpus Christi, Texas

      The Titanic truly has kept us fascinated, hasn't it? There's information here that I hadn't seen before. Loved it! Thanks for a refreshing, new look.

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 3 years ago from Canada

      Forgot to say, pinning your page to my Pinterest Titanic board.

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 3 years ago from Canada

      The sinking of the Titanic is a story that we will never know in its entirety. Many factors may have been at play when the Californian did not come to the Titanic's rescue.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      Thanks beliza - it's certainly a fascinating subject, isn't it? Thanks for dropping by.

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      beliza 3 years ago

      Really interesting, I love reading about the Titanic!

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      That's wonderful @bravewarrior. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @pawpawwrites - I know little about him,other than his involvement with the railways and shipping lines. A subject for further research,I think :)

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 3 years ago from Central Florida

      I ordered the book, Jackie. I want to know what really happened on that fateful night.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @guyritchie - that's an excellent idea. So much more information has come to light these days.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @bravewarrior - thank you very much for your comments. The films that have been made about the disaster have been excellent (mostly) but as always, the film industry has to pander to what the public wants to see :)

      It seems that everyone who gave evidence at the inquiries (which the book goes into in depth) had different versions of events. That's hardly surprising because at the US inquiry, the survivors were hustled into the courtroom almost immediately they landed in the States. Many were bereaved and I doubt that many of them were thinking clearly. Such a fascinating subject!

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 3 years ago from Central Florida

      Jackie, apparently there's much more to the story than we know. The Titanic has been captured in motion picture twice; the most compelling of which stars Leonardo DiCaprio.

      What you have presented here is information I've not heard, nor read. Perhaps because the tragedy happened before my time and was not covered in history books.

      I will be ordering the book you've cited through the Amazon capsule. Apparently, there's much more to the story.

      Great hub, Jackie. This is very different from other articles I've read about Titanic. Touche for finding a different approach.

    • Pawpawwrites profile image

      Jim 3 years ago from Kansas

      Morgan had his hand in many things at that time, and many times, not for the betterment of the business. (except in financial terms)

    • profile image

      guyrichie 3 years ago

      eye opener. An inquiry needs to be opened.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      Thanks @Merrci - it certainly seems that the captain was more at fault than Ismay, doesn't it?

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 3 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      The Titanic and her story are so fascinating. Great read Jackie. It floored me to read the captain of the S S Californian ignored the signals. That almost seems criminal too, doesn't it? The book sounds like a very interesting book.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      Hi @Brite-Ideas - I thought I knew a lot about the Titanic but this book was a real eye-opener. Yes, if the Californian had paid attention, it could have been there so quickly before the ship had chance to sink with all those people on board.

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 3 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Well that was interesting! You brought out some facts that many of us aren't aware of! I should know better than to just go by a movie's version lol! - fascinating about who owned the Ship and Ismay's position and involvement - Was the Californian that close, wow, how sad.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      Me too, Robin. I remember when the wreckage was found. Many people, me included, thought it never would be. It's so spooky seeing the underwater footage.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      Thank you so much,Nancy Hardin! It seems that there are so many things we'll never know but it's interesting that gradually more stories are coming to light.

    • Robin Marie profile image

      Robin 3 years ago from USA

      Very interesting stuff. I've always been intrigued by everything about the RMS Titanic.

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      This is a story that is obviously that that well known to this day. I've always found the sinking of the Titanic a fascinating part of history, and this story makes it even more so. I didn't know any of this, and I'm a history buff, so thank you for the story. Voted up!