Many years before the airplane was invented, travel by steamship was the only feasible way to cross the North Atlantic ocean, and the United States growing westward expansion attracted millions of immigrants from European countries.
Thomas H. Ismay, a British shipping line owner purchased the White Star Line in 1867, seeking potential profits in servicing the increased immigration to the United States.
The White Star Line was a fleet of sailing vessels that provided service to the Australian emigrant trade.
Thomas Ismay believed that there was more money to be made by serving the trade between North America and Europe than with Australia.
Thomas Ismay had competition with many other established steamship companies already serving the North America to Europe route, and he decided that his niche would be that his ships would be far more luxurious than any other ships.
It took approximately 6.5 days to complete the transatlantic voyage at a speed of 22 knots, which is just over 25 miles per hour, or 40 kilometres per hour.
Instead of focusing on a faster travel time which resulted in increased fuel costs, Ismay believed it would be best to attract more wealthy First Class passengers by providing a superior luxury travel experience.
First Class passengers created the majority of the profits for steamship companies, and Second and Third Class passengers covered the operating and running costs.
First Class passengers were aggressively sought after due to the prestige and glamour they brought, which helped to attract a consistent inflow of wealthy profit producing passengers.
Harland and Wolff, the ship building company that built the Titanic, agreed in 1867 with Thomas Ismay that they would only build ships for White Star Line and wouldn't build for any competitors.
The first ship built by Harland and Wolff was the steamship Oceanic in 1970, and was launched in Belfast, Ireland.
Many ships were built at the Belfast shipyard after Oceanic, including Atlantic, Baltic, Republic, Celtic and Adriatic.
All ships built by White Star Line used "ic" in the end of their names, including Olympic, Titanic and Britannic.
The Atlantic, sister ship to the Oceanic, ran aground in 1973 off of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and 546 people drowned only 15 miles, or 24 kilometers from its destination.
The Oceanic II, completed in 1899, was the premier attempt by White Star Line to focus on the three aspects of comfort, luxury and service over the main point of their competitors, which was speed.
The primary competitor of Harland and Wolff was a company called Cunard Line, who launched the two fastest, largest and most luxurious ships in 1906 named Lusitania and Mauretania.
Cunard Line was heavily subsidized by the British Government in return for possible military service if needed, and therefore had the technology to build faster and more powerful engines than other independent companies.
To stay competitive, Harland and Wolff took on a major modernization project at their Belfast shipyard in 1906 that spanned over two years.
To aid in the construction of ships at the updated Belfast shipyard, a floating crane was built that was the largest in the world at the time.
The safety record for over two million passengers on all White Star Line ships from 1902 to 1912 was excellent, with only two fatalities on the Republic, however this was to change drastically.