Thomas Henry Ismay was born on 7 January 1837 in the town of Maryport, Cumberland. He studied navigation and became an experienced seafarer, while also acquiring the nickname ""Baccy Ismay"" due to his habit of chewing tobacco. He founded the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company, known commonly as the White Star Line. Thomas believed the future was in iron ships, despite teaming up with a proponent of wooden sail ships, Philip Nelson; also from Maryport. In July 1882, he commissioned renowned architect Richard Norman Shaw to design his red sandstone home, Dawpool, at Thurstaston on the Wirral. In 1887 he donated £20,000 to provide pensions for Liverpool seamen. His son Joseph controversially survived the maiden voyage of his company's new liner, the RMS Titanic in 1912.