Vintage style art print of Belfast’s iconic Harland and Wolff twin cranes, Samson and Goliath.
Harland & Wolff Heavy Industries is a heavy industrial company, specialising in ship repair, conversion, and offshore construction, located in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Harland & Wolff is famous for having built the majority of the ships intended for the White Star Line. Well known ships built by Harland & Wolff include the Olympic-class trio: RMS Titanic, RMS Olympic and RMS Britannic, the Royal Navy’s HMS Belfast, Royal Mail Line’s Andes, Shaw Savill’s Southern Cross, Union-Castle’s RMS Pendennis Castle, and P&O’s Canberra.
Harland & Wolff was formed in 1861 by Edward James Harland (1831–95) and Hamburg-born Gustav Wilhelm Wolff. In 1858 Harland, then general manager, bought the small shipyard on Queen’s Island from his employer Robert Hickson.
After buying Hickson’s shipyard, Harland made his assistant Wolff a partner in the company. Wolff was the nephew of Gustav Schwabe, Hamburg, who was heavily invested in the Bibby Line, and the first three ships that the newly incorporated shipyard built were for that line. Harland made a success of the business through several innovations, notably replacing the wooden upper decks with iron ones which increased the strength of the ships; and giving the hulls a flatter bottom and squarer cross section, which increased their capacity. Walter Henry Wilson became a partner of the company in 1874.
When Harland died in 1895, William James Pirrie became the chairman of the company until his death in 1924. Thomas Andrews also became the general manager and head of the draughting department in 1907. It was in this period that the company built Olympic and the two other ships in her class, Titanic and Britannic, between 1909 and 1914, commissioning Sir William Arrol & Co. to construct a massive twin gantry and slipway structure for the project.