1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ismay, Thomas Henry
ISMAY, THOMAS HENRY (1837–1899), British shipowner, was born at Maryport, Cumberland, on the 7th of January 1837. He received his education at Croft House School, Carlisle, and at the age of sixteen was apprenticed to Messrs Imrie & Tomlinson, shipowners and brokers, of Liverpool. He then travelled for a time, visiting the ports of South America, and on returning to Liverpool started in business for himself. In 1867 he took over the White Star line of Australian clippers, and in 1868, perceiving the great future which was open to steam navigation, established, in conjunction with William Imrie, the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company, which has since become famous as the White Star Line. While continuing the Australian service, the firm determined to engage in the American trade, and to that end ordered from Messrs Harland & Wolff, of Belfast, the first Oceanic (3807 tons), which was launched in 1870. This vessel may fairly be said to have marked an era in North Atlantic travel. The same is true of the successive types of steamer which Ismay, with the co-operation of the Belfast shipbuilding firm, subsequently provided for the American trade. To Ismay is mainly due the credit of the arrangement by which some of the fastest ships of the British mercantile marine are held at the disposal of the government in case of war. The origin of this plan dates from the Russo-Turkish war, when there seemed a likelihood of England being involved in hostilities with Russia, and when, therefore, Ismay offered the admiralty the use of the White Star fleet. In 1892 he retired from partnership in the firm of Ismay, Imrie and Co., though he retained the chairmanship of the White Star Company. He served on several important committees and was a member of the royal commission in 1888 on army and navy administration. He was always most generous in his contributions to charities for the relief of sailors, and in 1887 he contributed £20,000 towards a pension fund for Liverpool sailors. He died at Birkenhead on the 23rd of November 1899.