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Characters in the Titanic Story

Avoiding Project Disaster

Every project has its heroes and for lack of a better phrase villans. Titanic's project was no exception.


Project Timeline

1902 - JP Morgan purchases White Star Line
1907 - Vision/strategy for White Star Line
1908 - Olympic's construction begins
1909 - Titanic's construction begins
1910 - Olympics maiden voyage
1911 - Titanic's maiden voyage in April

Characters From the Project 

One of the characteristics of the LFH series are the characters presented in each book which help bring to life the project and make it more real and memorable. Each of these characters had a significant role to play in the project and a set of responsibilities. The section below discusses these, and some of the significant decisions made and actions taken, and the resulting consequences. In Avoiding Project Disasters the following individuals were critical to the project and the story:


Bruce Ismay Thomas Andrews  JP Morgan  Lord Pirrie Captain Smith



Director Bruce Ismay

Probably the most important player in the overall project. As the owner of White Star Line he had an absolutely critical part in the whole project. He was the project sponsor responsible for initiating the project, articulating the vision with Pirie and building the business rational/case for the venture. Ismay had a very specific agenda related to the vision he helped create which was centered around building a reputation for the 3 liners as being the end word in luxury. In targeting the first class passengers he shaped everything around the ultimate passenger experience. However, this proved to be detrimental overall because he interfered with decision processes through the design and construction of the project. In reality his meddling forced compromises to be made beyond what could be recognized as reasonable. Further his drive in securing publicity around the maiden voyage led to risks being taken to prove Titanic was technically superior to Olympic. Ismay adopted the role of pseudo captain on the maiden voyage pushing the crew to hit maximum speed through the treacherous ice strewn waters. After the collision the papers called Ismay "The Most-Talked-of Man in the World"  chiefly because he saved himself. This was a dubious honor when the title was put in conjunction with terms as "public opinion," "on trial," and "pariah."


Lord Pirrie

As the Chairman of Harland and Wolff the ship builders Pirie worked with Bruce Ismay to initiate a project to build 3 super liners back in 1907. Pirie over dinner with Ismay articulated the vision for 3 super liners sweeping the Atlantic. Both men recognized that White Star's current fleet of liners was hopelessly outclassed by the competition Cunard Liners which was a class of ship built for speed and to capture the prestigious blue ribbon award. Pirie the project integrator helped shape the brilliant strategy of providing a clear differentiator of luxury or comfort over speed based on using the latest in emerging technologies. Pirie remained involved in the project till 1909.


JP Morgan

Arguably the richest man in the world at the time of the project. He was chairman of International Mercantile Marine, IMM, and he owned a controlling interest in White Star Line. The public believed White Star to be a British shipping line because of the colors flown and the British officers and crew employed, but in fact Titanic was US owned and part of Morgan's strategy to leverage the best in global technology. Although not immediately identified with Titanic's story Morgan provided the capital for the 3 super liners to be built. Also his connections with the noveau riche class in the United States helped draw the who's who list of millionaires for the maiden voyage. Morgan was due to sail on the maiden voyage himself but canceled the night before because of illness. Morgan can be viewed as the project financier and principal executive.

Alexander M. Carlisle

The Head Designer at Harland & Wolff when the Olympic and Titanic were ordered. He was responsible for coordinating the designs, his main area was the equipment used on the ships. He resigned from Harland & Wolff in 1910 after a dispute with Lord Pirie over the nonfunctional requirements in terms of number of lifeboats, height of the bulkheads, and the double skin hull. He gave evidence at the Board of Enquiry in 1912 regarding the designed lifeboat capacity of Titanic. He was Lord Pirrie's brother-in-law.


Architect Thomas Andrews

He was the one of the principal architects of the 3 super liners accountable for turning the vision into reality. He was involved from the outset of the project and he took responsibility for the decision processes through the 4 year design and construction of the project. When Carlisle resigned he became the managing director of Harland and Wolff. In today's language he was the program/project manager. A diligent man he carefully planned for all aspects of the operation and a recently discovered personal notebook highlights his foresight as he planned for 48 lifeboats, a place for everybody on board. In sailing on the maiden voyage he was seen with a note book at all times carefully notifying flaws that would be rectified before the next transatlantic crossing.


Captain EJ Smith

Portrayed by White Star as the most experience captain and promoted to commander of the fleet he was given the honor to captain Titanic on her maiden voyage. Responsible for the operation of the solution his role began at the later stages of the project with the sea trails, as he and his officers took Titanic through her paces. They brought with them their 9 months of experience with Olympics and 6 Atlantic crossings. However, in reality he was haunted by a couple of incidents notably Olympic's collision with HMS Hawke which delayed Titanic's maiden voyage by a month as she was repaired. Smith's actions contributed to Titanic's disaster for several reasons. First, he was over confident in the ship, its safety systems, and viewed is as unsinkable. Second, his mistrust of technology swayed him from paying close enough attention to warning signs like the Marconigram ice warnings. Third, during the maiden voyage he failed to prevent a situation where Bruce Ismay took command of the ship. This resulted in the ship racing towards ice-berg alley at top speed. He was possibly the only person on board who could have countered Ismay