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Drury Building, Water Street, Liverpool
c.1857 Ismay started in business on his own account as a shipbroker, in partnership with a retired sea captain, Philip Nelson, as Nelson, Ismay and Co.
1859 Alexander Stephen and Sons built the first ship for the small firm of Nelson, Ismay and Co. Their first vessel was the Angelita, a small brigantine of 129 tons, No. 21 on the Firm's books; her dimensions were 100 ft. by 16 ft. 6 ins. by 11 ft. 6 ins. Apparently the shipowners found the little vessel profitable as a similar sized ship, the schooner, Mexico, was ordered in 1860, followed by the Ismay, an iron-built barque of 423 tons, and 140 ft. in length.
1862 Ismay's ideas proved incompatible with Nelson's conservatism and so Nelson retired. Ismay moved into an office at 10 Water Street under the style of T. H. Ismay and Co.
1862 A composite-built brigantine, Arriero, a smaller vessel of 167 tons was supplied by Stephens, the company apparently feeling that it had been too progressive in building the 400-ton Ismay.
By 1868, however, Messrs. Ismay had embarked upon a policy of larger ships. With the financial assistance of the builders, who took a share in the vessel, they built the Comadre, an iron sailing-ship of 805 tons and 185 feet in length, which was followed, in 1869, by the composite-built barque Singapore. These vessels were among the last sailing-ships constructed by Stephens.