TITANIC-TITANIC.com | Titanic Articles: American Ismays

BY PHILLIP GOWAN

 

Upon any mention of the surname Ismay, one is likely to think of the wealthy shipping family in England, and particularly of Titanic's Joseph Bruce Ismay. Descendants of the family have been prominent in England and Scotland for centuries. But the Titanic Ismay family has American branches as well, scattered across the fruited plain of the United States.

Joseph Bruce Ismay lived in New York City in the 1880's and was an active part in high society there. He was to fall in love with the beautiful Julia Florence Schieffelin, herself a society belle. The couple married at noon on December 4, 1888 in the Church of the Heavenly Rest on Fifth Avenue in front of what was then termed "a fashionable assemblage." The presiding clergyman was the Rev. Dr. Huntington of Grace Church assisted by Rev. D. Parker Morgan, Rector of the Church of the Heavenly Rest. At the time Joseph Bruce Ismay was the local agent of the White Star Line in that city.

From the New York Times, December 5, 1888:

"The bride wore a gown of white brocade richly trimmed with old point lace. A veil of old point also fell over her face, confined by a tiara of diamonds. A diamond pendant hanging from a necklace of pearls sparkled at her throat. She carried a large bouquet of lilies of the valley. Preceding her were the two little maids of honour, her sisters, Miss Saide and Miss Constance Shieffelin, who wore white silk dresses, white hats, and carried baskets of pink roses. Two ushers were Messrs. Bond Emerson, T. J. Oakley Rhinelander, Amory Sibley Carhart, Edward Perry, and Fleming Crooks of England. The groom's best man was Mr. Ernest Bliss."

Following the wedding the couple was treated to a "wedding breakfast" at the Schieffelin family home on East Forty-Ninth Street. Many notable New Yorkers attended the ceremony and breakfast and the couple then left for their honeymoon.

Wedding Photograph

Some years later, Constance Schieffelin, Florence's sister, would marry Joseph Bruce Ismay's brother, C. Bower Ismay. After marriage they lived at Haselbech Hall, Northampton, England.

On December 29, 1889 Bruce and Florence Ismay welcomed their first child, daughter Margaret Bruce Ismay, born in Manhattan. Her birth was followed by son Henry Bruce Ismay before the family left the United States to live in England. Thus, the first two Ismay children were citizens of the United States by birth, though later they would become British subjects. Several more children were born in England, the last of which was George Bruce Ismay. He was born in Mossley Hill, Liverpool, Lancashire on June 6, 1902.

In late 1925, Mr. and Mrs. William R. Edrington of New York set off on a world tour and by the end of the year were visiting Naples. Their daughter, Florence, left later on November 25 on the Belgenland, planning to join her parents on their trip. It was aboard the ship that she met and quickly became enamoured of another passenger, George Bruce Ismay. Engagement followed quickly and the couple were married in early November of 1926. Diana Bruce Ismay was born to them in 1932 followed by her sister, Margaret Ann Bruce Ismay in 1934. The family lived in England when the girls were small but life was to change when George was killed in North Africa on April 30, 1943 while serving in World War II. Following his death his widow returned to the United States with her daughters. Florence followed a daughter to Fort Worth, Texas and remained there until her death in 1970. Diana survived her mother by 13 years, dying in 1983. While it seems unremarkable that some of Bruce Ismay's descendants still live in luxury on English estates, it is singular that others thrive on the grand prairie of north-eastern Texas where the luxury liners of days past are only read about in books and seen in movies.

Joseph Bruce Ismay died in 1937 and his widow then spent many years in England and America visiting her children, grandchildren and other relatives. She had become a British subject after marrying but in later life felt a desire to be repatriated with her native land. In 1949 Julia Florence Ismay executed an Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance and surrendered her British citizenship. She then took an Oath of Repatriation with the United States and again became a citizen on November 14, 1949. She eventually died in England on New Year's Eve, 1963.

 

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