J. Bruce Ismay

Joseph Bruce Ismay ( born December 12, 1862 in Crosby near Liverpool, † October 17, 1937 in Mayfair in London ) was a British businessman and director of the White Star Line. In this capacity, he took a major role in the planning and construction of the three Atlantic liners of the Olympic - class Olympic, Titanic and Britannic. He took part in the maiden voyage of the Titanic and survived the sinking, unlike most of the passengers and crew members, which cost him the public reputation.


Bruce Ismay was the eldest son of Thomas Henry Ismay (1837-1899), founder of the White Star Line, and his wife Margaret Bruce (1837-1907), the daughter of shipbuilder Luke Bruce. The parents were married in 1859 and get six daughters and three sons. Bruce Ismay attended Harrow School in London before he was taught for a year in France. After he completed a four- year long apprenticeship in his father's office, he traveled the world. Finally, he went to New York, where he represented the White Star Line.

On December 4, 1888, he married Julia Florence Schieffelin, who came from a prominent family from New York. They had five children (one of which died as an infant ):

  • Margaret Bruce Ismay (* December 29, 1889, † May 15, 1967 ), married in 1912 George Ronald Cheape ( 1881-1957 )
  • Henry Bruce Ismay (* April 1891; † October 1, 1891 )
  • Thomas Bruce Ismay (* February 18, 1894, † April 27, 1954 ), married Margaret Jane Seymour
  • Evelyn Constance Ismay (* July 17, 1897; † August 9, 1940 ), married in 1927 Basil Sanderson ( 1894-1971 )
  • George Bruce Ismay (* June 6, 1902, † 30 April 1943 ), married in 1926 Florence Victoria Edrington

After the birth of the first two children Ismay and his family returned back to the UK and became a partner in his father's company Ismay, Imrie and Company. 1899 his father died and he took over the company. Bruce Ismay had a flair for the business, which the White Star Line flourished. In addition, Ismay also served as a director of several other companies. 1901 Americans were up to him, which wanted to set up an international shipping conglomerate. Ismay agreed to merge his company in the International Mercantile Marine Company under the leadership of JP Morgan. But even after his family had sold the line to the American shipping group, he remained the director of the White Star Line.

1907 Ismay met Lord Pirrie of the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast. Together they planned to build a new type steamer, the Olympic - class RMS Lusitania and RMS Mauretania was to surpass its main competitor, Cunard Line. While Ismay's new type of ship was not faster, easier to control, be more efficient and much more luxurious than anything ever seen before. Three ships were planned: the Olympic, the Titanic, and the Gigantic, which should be later renamed Britannic. The best-known today was the Titanic, which expired on her maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York on 10 April 1912.

Ismay took part as a passenger on the maiden voyage of the Titanic, the clock collided at 23:40 on April 14 with an iceberg and sank on April 15 at 2:20 clock. Witnesses loaded him that he had pressure on Captain Edward John Smith exerted to drive at excessive speed. He left the Titanic in one of the last lifeboats, which was veered from the First Officer William McMaster Murdoch, while most of the men were denied access. This suggested to him later by the public as cowardice.

After his return to Ismay saw some of fierce attacks from the press and the public exposed, his reputation was irreparably damaged. In 1913, he resigned as president of the International Mercantile Marine Company.

On October 17th, 1937 J. Bruce Ismay died after a long illness at a blood clot in the brain. He was buried in Putney Vale Cemetery in London. His widow, Florence died on 31 December 1963 at Kensington, London.

Representations in film

In the movie Titanic of 1997, the role of Bruce Ismay by actor Jonathan Hyde was played. In other Titanic films, he was by Ernst Fritz Fürbringer ( Titanic, 1943), Frank Lawton shown ( the last night of the Titanic, 1958), Ian Holm (SOS Titanic, 1979) and Roger Rees ( Titanic, 1996).

Pictures of J. Bruce Ismay