Chairman and managing director of the White Star Line (1862–1937). He came to rather negative international attention as the highest-ranking White Star official among the survivors, for reportedly deserting the ship while women and children were still on board. TLS, one page, 8 x 10, White Star Line letterhead, January 25, 1910. Letter to C. C. Cigolini at Claridge’s Hotel Restaurant in London. In full: “I am in receipt of your letter of the 22nd instant, and have to advise you that it has been decided to instal[sic] an A la Carte restaurant on board the White Star steamers ‘Olympic’ and ‘Titanic,’ which are at present being built. I note your view that the only way in which such a restaurant can be kept up-to-date is by having it run by a large Company, such as the Savoy, and when we come to consider its organization, I will bear your suggestion in mind. I further note that the Managing Director of the Savoy Company would place himself at my disposal, and should we wish to consult him, will not hesitate to ask his advice.” In very good condition, with intersecting folds, one through a single letter of signature, scattered, mild toning and foxing, and staple holes to upper left.
In 1910, the construction of the Titanic was underway in Belfast. Ismay was responsible for making the ultimate decisions regarding its design, equipment and decoration, among which was the decision not to include extra lifeboats in order to accommodate more deck space for first class passengers. As he had with other White Star Line vessels, he accompanied the Titanic on its maiden voyage and escaped the sinking ship in the lifeboat Collapsible C. In the wake of the disaster, Ismay was vilified by the press and accused of pressuring the crew to make a record passage to New York in the face of ice warnings.
Ismay's letter discusses Titanic's À la Carte Restaurant, one of the dining choices for first class passengers. Meals in the main dining room were included in the price of passage, but passengers could enjoy a greater selection at the restaurant and paid out of pocket to do so. First-class passenger Lady Duff-Gordon wrote of the experience, “Fancy strawberries in April, and in mid ocean. The whole thing is positively uncanny. Why, you would think you were at the Ritz.” The restaurant’s lavish meals were complemented by an equally sumptuous interior decorated in the French Louis XVI style. A truly exceptional letter with direct Titanic association. Pre-certified John Reznikoff/PSA/DNA and RR Auction COA.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.