Joseph Bruce Ismay
Joseph Bruce Ismay
Bruce (by Molly)
December 12, 1862
October 17, 1937
Thomas Ismay (father)
Julia Schieffelin (married)
New York, U.S.A.
Passenger, ship owner
Survived on Collapsible Lifeboat C
He was one of the few survivors of the shipwreck later collected by the RMS Carpathia, but was grimly looked upon by the other survivors. He was branded by public opinion as a coward for the rest of his life.
When Rose died and went into the great beyond version of Titanic, Ismay could be seen in the background, along with Smith implying everyone forgave him.
Behind the scenesEdit
The scene were he persuades Smith to push the Titanic's speed is based on one of the historical controversies (see link) around Ismay, although there is no evidence. The controversy varies between pushing Smith to arrive in New York ahead of schedule, to pushing him to maintain speed after hitting the iceberg (causing the ship to sink faster).
The myths surrounding Ismay are many but almost all center on allegations of his cowardice in escaping the sinking ship whilst fellow passengers, notably women and children, were left to fend for themselves. The claims made at the time and repeated today were that he 'saved his own skin' whilst others died.
In reality Ismay helped with loading and lowering several lifeboats and acquitted himself better than many of the crew and passengers. He only entered a lifeboat when it was actually being lowered and no other passengers were in the vicinity. Some witnesses stated he was ordered into the lifeboat but, whatever happened, Lord Mersey said at the British inquiry into the loss of Titanic, 'Had he not jumped in he would simply have added one more life, namely his own, to the number of those lost'.
Ismay's fault was that he survived and as a consequence laid himself open to the high and somewhat dubious moral code of the US press. Almost universally condemned in America, when he finally arrived home he was cheered and applauded as he descended the gangway at Liverpool. The British press had treated the whole episode in a far less judgmental way.
In a second, more serious allegation (the one played in the movie), it was claimed he ordered Captain Smith, to 'make a record crossing' thus indirectly causing the collision with the iceberg. It is highly unlikely that an experienced shipmaster like Smith, on his last voyage before retirement and the highest paid commander in the mercantile marine, would defer to Ismay on matters of navigation. No firm evidence has ever come to light to suggest that Ismay in any way interfered with the navigation of Titanic and, other than talking with the various heads of departments on the ship, conducted himself like many other passengers. Yet the opposite image of him exists today.
But where did all these stories come from? All of the negative stereotypes can be tracked back to the American press and in particular to those newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst, one of the most powerful and influential men in America. Hearst and Ismay had met years before in New York when Ismay was an agent for his company. The shy and private Ismay disliked press attention and the two men fell out as a consequence of his refusal to cooperate.
Hearst never forgot, and in April 1912 his syndicated press prosecuted a vicious campaign against Ismay, who was defenseless in the eye of the hurricane. Stories were invented and witnesses, wishing to strengthen exorbitant insurance claims for lost baggage against the company, lied by saying he had in fact ordered Smith to make a record crossing.