Sir Edward James Harland, 1st Baronet

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Edward James Harland

Death: December 24, 1895 (64)
Immediate Family:

Son of Dr William Harland and Anne Harland
Husband of Rosa Harland
Brother of John Harland; Reverend Albert Augustus Harland and Dr William Aurelius Harland

Occupation: Co-founder of Harland and Wolff
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Sir Edward James Harland, 1st Baronet

Sir Edward James Harland

Sir Edward James Harland, 1st Baronet (15 May 1831 – 24 December 1895) was a British shipbuilder and politician. Born in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, he was educated at Edinburgh Academy. In 1846, aged 15, he took an apprenticeship at the engineering works of Robert Stephenson and Company in Newcastle upon Tyne. Afterwards he was employed in jobs in Glasgow and again in Newcastle, before moving to Belfast in 1854 to manage Robert Hickson's shipyard at Queen's Island. Four years later he bought the yard and renamed the business Edward James Harland and Company, before in 1861 he formed a business partnership with Gustav Wilhelm Wolff, his former personal assistant, creating Harland and Wolff. Later, Harland recruited William James Pirrie as another partner. Edward Harland, Gustav Wolff and William James Pirrie maintained a successful business, receiving regular orders from the White Star Line, before Harland's retirement in 1889, leaving Wolff and Pirrie to manage the shipyard.

Outside of his company, Harland served as a Belfast harbour commissioner. In 1885, Harland was granted a knighthood and a baronetcy. Harland was a member of the Conservative and Unionist Party, and served as Mayor of Belfast; later he moved to London and served as Member of Parliament for Belfast North until his death.

Founding of Harland and Wolff

Edward Harland's new company quickly attracted an order of three boats from John Bibby & Sons.[1] These boats were named Venetian, Sicilian and Syrian; the current company's order book still has the three boats listed as No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3.Impressed with the boats, Bibby ordered six more boats from Harland in 1860.The boats that Edward Harland designed were long, had a narrow beam and were flat-bottomed; the boats became known as "Bibby's coffins" On 26 January 1860, Harland married Rosa Matilda Wann, of Vermont, Belfast, who was the daughter of Thomas Wann, a stockbroker and insurance agent. In 1861, Harland chose the 27-year-old Gustav Wilhelm Wolff, his former personal assistant, to become a partner in the firm, forming Harland and Wolff. Harland's company had a prosperous relationship with Thomas Henry Ismay's White Star Line, a prominent shipping company, ensuring regular orders and financial success. Harland's designing skills created ships with flatter bottoms and squarer bilges to increase capacity. According to Edward Harland's obituary in The Times, he designed his company's ocean liners "on the model of a fish swimming through the water." Harland's company received orders during the American Civil War from the Confederate States of America, who bought fast steamers to evade the Union blockade. In 1874 Edward Harland recruited William James Pirrie, a former apprentice at the company as a partner;Pirrie later became chairman of the company, and was given the task of finding buyers and negotiating deals.Harland was once asked the nature of the three men's business relationship and replied:

   Well, Wolff designs the ships, Pirrie sells them and I smoke the firm's cigars.
   —Edward Harland, 

Harland applied for several patents including, in 1860 for "improvements in constructing and covering the decks of ships and other floating bodies", in 1871 for "improvements in apparatus for propelling vessels",in 1878 for "improvements in screw-propellers." In 1880 Harland and his two partners decided to expand further and built their own engine works.] Harland began having less involvement in the running of the shipyard, and in 1889 he retired from daily involvement in the business.

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