The Titanic was to be one of a series of 3 super transatlantic liners owned by the White Star Line shipping company and built by Belfast based Harland and Wolf ship builders. The other two of Titanic's sister ships would later be named as The RMS Olympic and The HMHS Britannic.
White Star Line And The Olympic Class Liners
White Star Line was purchased in 1867 as a bankrupt company by Thomas Henry Ismay for the sum of just £1,000. The White Star Line company had previously traded in the Australian trade with an Australian based sailing fleet. Thomas Ismay had purchased the company with the intention of developing a North Atlantic passenger company, one which would be in direct competition with the large US based shipping companies of that time, the main one at that time being the Cunard Line.
The first ship to be purchased by White Star and built by Harland and Wolf was the RMS Oceanic, built in 1870, followed by the Oceanic II and the Oceanic III (construction started but not completed). Following the late but successful launch of the Oceanic in 1871 it was followed by the addition of several other sister ships to the fleet which included theRMS Atlantic, RMS Baltic, RMS Adriatic, RMS Republic and RMS Celtic. With the Oceanic and it's 5 sister ships, White Star Line were now able to dominate the Australian and North Atlantic shipping services and as the company grew, so did it's fleet of liners, freighters and tenders.
In the years that followed between 1871 and 1902 White Star Line underwent several major changes to it's stock arrangement, management structure and financial organisation. This placed White Star into a complex ownership arrangement which involved the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company, International Navigation Company, Fidelity Trust Company and the International Mercantile Marine Co. In short the White Star Line was owned by Oceanic Steam Navigation, Oceanic Steam Navigation was owned in share majority by International Navigation Company (controlled by Fidelity Trust Company) and the International Navigation Company was owned by the International Mercantile Marine Co. Bruce Ismay, the son of former White Star Line owner Thomas Ismay, was the chairman and managing directory of Oceanic Steam Navigation Company. In addition, Bruce Ismay was also the president of the International Mercantile Marine Co as well as being one of it's voting trustees along with J.P Morgan et al.
This massive restructure left White Star Line as part of a massive corporation (the IMM) which at that time owned around 120 ships in it's fleet. Of this number the majority were designed for comfort rather than speed but with companies like Cunard Line and Hamburg-American Line in the shadows 1909 was the year White Star Line would combine luxury with speed in the form of the Olympic class liners.
Harland And Wolf And The Olympic Class Liners
The Harland and Wolff company was named after it's founder and assistant, Edward James Harland (founder) and Gustav Wolff (assistant). Formed in 1861 the company was built on a small shipyard which was purchased from Robert Hickson for the sum of £5,000, the company slowly grew and after purchasing the shipyard Edward Harland made Gustav Wolff a partner in the business.
Gustav Wolff was the nephew of then well known financier, Gustav Schwabe, who had made large investments ito the Bibby Line, the first significant orders for Harland and Wolff can from that company. In addition to that Schwabe was also instrumental in securing orders from the White Star Line for it's first North Atlantic Liners, one of which was the Oceanic.
When Edward Harland passed away in 1894, William James Pirrie (Lord Mayor of Belfast in 1896) became the chairman of Harland and Wolff until he himself died In 1924.
It was Lord William Pirrie who was instrumental in the conception of the Olympic class liners, he conceived ships bigger, better, faster and more luxurious than anything which had been seen before, double the size of the Mauritania and Lusitania. And rather than just coming up with 2 liners to compete with Cunard's super liners, Pirrie wanted to go one better and create 3 massive super liners, liners which would make Harland and Wolff stand out as the best ship builders in the world.
In 1908 J Bruce Ismay signed a contract for Harland and Wolff to build 3 Olympic class liners in a deal worth in excess of $20 million.
During the same period Alexander Carlisle resigned as the person in charge of designing the Titanic and Olympic, Thomas Andrews took up the position as general manager and the head of the drafting department which oversaw the construction of the Olympic class liners. Andrews would later go down with the Titanic during her maiden voyage.