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INDUSTRIES: Business History of Shipbuilding
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April 11, 1803 - John Stevens, of New York, NY, received a patent for "Producing Steam"; engine used on twin-screw propeller steamboat.

November 14, 1825 - Codorus, the first ship made in the U.S. with sheet iron fastened with iron rivets, built by Quaker John Elgar at York, PA, was tested on the Susquehanna River; weighed five tons (two tons for the coal- and wood- fueled boiler which provided power for an 8 h.p. engine);  keel length of 60-ft and a 9-ft beam, drew about seven inches of water; 1826 -  difficult three-month voyage upriver trip to Binghamton, NY proved that upstream navigation on the shallow, rock-filled Susquehanna was impractical. 

February 1, 1838 - John Ericsson (Swede in London, UK) received a patent for a "Screw Propeller" ("Purpose of Propelling Steamboats Effectually Notwithstanding any Variations in Their Draft of Water").

July 19, 1843 - S.S. Great Britain, first all-metal liner steamship, launched from Bristol, England; 1845 - world's first screw-propeller driven (and first iron-hulled) steamship to cross the Atlantic; six-masted, single-screw, 3,270-ton vessel is 322 feet in length overall, carried a crew of 130 including 30 stewards for her 360-seat dining room.

March 26, 1845 - Joseph Francis, of New York City, received a patent for a "Ship's Implement" ("Making Boats and Other Vessels of Sheet-Iron or Other Metal"); corrugated sheet-iron lifeboat.

1853 - Robert Hickson and Company opened shipbuilding yard on Queen's Island (River Lagan, Belfast) to build iron-hulled ships; hired Edward J. Harland (23) as General Manager; 1857 - Harland acquired yard for 5,000 pounds (financed by Gustvae Schwabe, Liverpool banker); 1861 - Gustav Wilhelm Wolff (Schwabe's nephew) made partner; January 1, 1862 - name changed to Harland & Wolff; merged with Black Ball and Eagle Lines, formed conglomerate called Liverpool, Melbourne and Oriental Steam Navigation Company Limited; October 1867 - failed; January 1868 - White Star Line (dated to 1845) acquired by Thomas H. Ismay (31, financed by Gustvae Schwabe with understanding that all ships to be built at Harland & Wolff yards); formed Oceanic Steam Navigation Company to sail steamers under White Star flag (Harland, Wolff big shareholders); July 30, 1869 - Harland & Wolff received first construction order from White Star Line (built more than 70 White Star vessels); August 20, 1870 - launched Oceanic for final fittings; 1871 - put into service; 1895 - William James Pirrie named chairman of Harland & Wolff (started as apprentice in 1862, made partner in 1874); 1899 - J. Bruce Ismay (son, 38) assumed control of White Star Line; 1902 - White Star acquired by Pirrie, J. P. Morgan  (subsidiary of International Mercantile Marine, shipping trust with fixed shipping prices); Harland & Wolff to build all ships for IMM trust; March 31, 1909 - construction began on Titanic; April 10, 1912- maiden voyage.

Sir Edward Harland - Harland & Wolff (http://www. Height=0)

Gustav Wilhelm Wolff -  Harland & Wolff  (

November 3, 1863 - James G. Tarr and Augustus H. Wonson, of Gloucester, MA, received a patent for "Paint for Ships' Bottoms"; antifouling paint for ships' hulls made of copper oxide, tar, naptha (to prevent clinging by barnacles, sea-weed, other substances).

April 7, 1896 - Simon Lake, of Atlantic Highlands, NJ, received a patent for a "Submarine Locomotive" ("to furnish the means for direct communication and cooperation with divers working upon submerged wrecks, means for supplying them with air under the requisite pressure, and means for relieving them so as to obviate the necessity of going to the provide for securing the apparatus to the side of of a sunken vessel when required, and to effect certain other improvements in the details of the apparatus"); April 20, 1897 - received a patent for a "Submarine Vessel"; December 16, 1897 - Columbian Iron Works and Dry Dock Company of Baltimore, MD demonstrated Argonaut, first U.S. submarine fitted with internal combustion engine invented by Simon Lake, on Patapsco River; first submarine to salvage sunken objects of value.

June 27, 1902 - Elias Gunnell, Charles West, Lynford Geer founded Manitowoc Dry Dock Company, small shipbuilding and ship repair firm, in lakeshore community of Manitowoc, WI; serving the Great Lakes maritime industry; 1910 - renamed Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company; evolved into Manitowoc Marine Group; 1925 - developed Manitowoc Speedcrane (now Manitowoc Crane Group - cranes and crane support systems); post WW I - formed Manitowoc Equipment Works (now Manitowoc Foodservice Group - commercial ice, beverage, refrigeration equipment); 1952 - reorganized as The Manitowoc Company, Inc.; 1966 - introduced first commercial grade ice-cube machine; 1995 - acquired Shannon Group, leading manufacturer of walk-in refrigerators, freezers (foodservice equipment sales 54% of company sales); 2001 - acquired Potain S.A., world's leading producer of tower cranes; 2002 - acquired Grove Worldwide, leading manufacturer of mobile hydraulic, truck mounted cranes; $1.3-billion enterprise, more than 6,000 employees, 25 manufacturing facilities in six countries.

1903 - John B. (J.B.) Caddell, two partners, opened boat yard in Red Hook, Brooklyn, NY; 1916 - established John B. Caddell Dry Dock Company at foot of Broadway (at Richmond Terrace) in West Brighton, NY; Leroy Caddell (son) succeeded; 2009 - John B. Caddell II (grandson) head of dry docking, ship repair company.

 1916 - William Todd Company purchased a shipyard from Seattle Construction and Dry Dock Company; became first iron and steel shipbuilding yard in Pacific Northwest; WW II - eleven facilities nationwide, constructed or repaired 23,000 ships; 1986 - filed for bankruptcy protection; 1990 - restructured to single 46 acre facility on Harbor Island in Seattle (Northwest's largest ship repair, construction yard).

(William Beardmore), John R. Hume, Michael S. Moss (1979). Beardmore: The History of a Scottish Industrial Giant. (London, UK: Heinemann, 364 p.). William Beardmore Ltd.--History; Industries--Scotland--History. Engineering and shipbuilding.

(Cammell Laird Shipbuilders Ltd.), Kenneth Warren (1998). Steel, Ships and Men: Cammell Laird, 1824-1993. (Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 313 p.). Cammell Laird Shipbuilders Ltd.--History; Shipbuilding industry--Great Britain--History.

(Cornell Steamboat), Stuart Murray; introduction by Roger W. Mabie ; essays by William duBarry Thomas (2001). Thomas Cornell and the Cornell Steamboat Company. (Fleischmanns, NY: Purple Mountain Press, 223 p.). Cornell, Thomas, 1814-1890; Cornell Steamboat Company; Tugboats; Steamboats; Shipyards; Shipbuilding industry; Hudson River Valley (N.Y. and N.J.).

(Harland and Wolff), Michael S. Moss and John R. Hume (1986). Shipbuilders to the World: 125 Years of Harland and Wolff, Belfast 1861-1986. (Wolfeboro, NH: Blackstaff Press, 601 p.). Harland and Wolff--History; Shipbuilding--Northern Ireland--Belfast--History; Belfast (Northern Ireland)--History, Naval.

(Harland and Wolff), Michael McCaughan (1989). Steel Ships & Iron Men: Shipbuilding in Belfast, 1894-1912. (Belfast, IR: Friar’s Bush Press, 104 p.). Harland and Wolff--History--Pictorial works; Harland & Wolff Historic Photograph Collection; Shipbuilding--Northern Ireland--Belfast--History--19th century--Pictorial works; Shipbuilding--Northern Ireland--Belfast--History--20th century--Pictorial works; Photograph collections--Northern Ireland--Holywood.

(R. & W. Hawthorn, Leslie & Co.), J. F. Clarke (1979). Power on Land and Sea: 160 Years of Industrial Enterprise on Tyneside: A History of R. & W. Hawthorn Leslie & Co., Ltd., Engineers and Shipbuilders. (Wallsend, UK: Clark Hawthorn, 118 p.). R. & W. Hawthorn Leslie & Co.--History.

(Higgins Industries), Jerry E. Strahan (1994). Andrew Jackson Higgins and the Boats that Won World War II. (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 382 p.). Higgins, Andrew Jackson, 1886-1952; Higgins Industries--History. Industrialists--United States--Biography; Shipbuilding industry--Louisiana--New Orleans--History; Torpedo-boats--Louisiana--New Orleans--Design and construction--History; Landing craft--Louisiana--New Orleans--Design and construction--History; World War, 1939-1945--Equipment and supplies.

(Howard Ship Yards and Dock Company), Charles Preston Fishbaugh (1970). From Paddle Wheels to Propellers; The Howard Ship Yards of Jeffersonville in the Story of Steam Navigation on the Western Rivers. (Indianapolis, IN: Indiana Historical Society, 240 p.). Howard Ship Yards and Dock Company.

(Marinship), Charles Wollenberg; foreword by Jack Tracy (1990). Marinship at War: Shipbuilding and Social Change in Wartime Sausalito. (Berkeley, CA: Western Heritage Press, 120 p.). Marinship (Firm)--History; Shipbuilding--California--Sausalito--History--20th century; World War, 1939-1945--Social aspects--California--Sausalito; World War, 1939-1945--California--Sausalito; Sausalito (Calif.)--Social conditions.

(Mitsubishi Z¯osen Kabushiki Kaisha. Nagasaki Z¯osenjo), Yukiko Fukasaku (1992). Technology and Industrial Development in Pre-War Japan: Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard, 1884-1934. (New York, NY: Routledge, 189 p.). Mitsubishi Z¯osen Kabushiki Kaisha. Nagasaki Z¯osenjo--History; Shipbuilding industry--Japan--Nagasaki-shi--History--20th century; Industries--Japan--History--20th century; Technology transfer--Japan--History--20th century.

(Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company), William A. Fox ; foreword by Alexander Crosby Brown (1986). Always Good Ships: Histories of Newport News Ships. (Norfolk, VA: Donning, 387 p.). Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company--History; Shipbuilding--Virginia--Newport News--History; Ships--Virginia--Newport News--History; Newport News (Va.)--History, Naval.

(Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company), William L. Tazewell (1986). Newport News Shipbuilding, The First Century. (Newport News, VA: Mariners' Museum, 256 p.). Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company--History.

(North Carolina Shipbuilding Company), Ralph L. Scott (2007). The Wilmington Shipyard: Welding a Fleet for Victory in World War II. (Charleston, SC: History Press, 160 p.). North Carolina Shipbuilding Company--History; Shipyards--North Carolina--Wilmington; Shipbuilding industry--North Carolina--Wilmington--History--20th century; World War, 1939-1945--North Carolina--Wilmington; Wilmington (N.C.)--History--20th century. 1942-1946- some 243 Liberty-, Victory-class ships built in Wilmington to bolster United States Navy's World War II fleet; impact of shipyard, its effect on Wilmington's transformation from sleepy post-Depression coastal town into major state industrial center.

(Richards Shipbuilders Ltd.), Charles Goodey (1976). The First Hundred Years: The Story of Richards Shipbuilders. (Ipswich, UK: Boydell Press, 111 p.). Richards (Shipbuilders) Ltd.; Suffolk Lowestoft Shipbuilding industries.

(Willy H. Schlieker KG), Richard Tilly (2008). Willy H. Schlieker: Aufstieg und Fall Eines Unternehmers (1914-1980). (Berlin, Germany: Akademie Verlag, 204 p.). Schlieker, Willy H., 1914-1980; Steel industry and trade -- Germany; Coal trade -- Germany.

(Southeastern Shipbuilding Corporation), Tony Cope (2009). On the Swing Shift: Building Liberty Ships in Savannah. (Annapolis, MD, Naval Institute Press, 288 p.). Liberty ships --Georgia --Savannah --History; Shipbuilding --Georgia --Savannah --History; World War, 1939-1945 --Naval operations, American; Merchant marine --United States --History. World War II - 88 of almost 3,000 Liberty ships built in America were launched in Savannah, GA (fought in Battle of the Atlantic); story of men, women  (45,000 during four years of shipyard's existence) who built these merchant ships in Savannah.

(Alexander Stephen & Sons), The Company (1932). A Shipbuilding History, 1750-1932: A Record of the Business Founded, about 1750, by Alexander Stephen at Burghead, and Subsequently Carried on at Aberdeen, Arbroath, Dundee and Glasgow. (Cheltenham, UK: E.J. Burrow & Co. ltd., 212 p.). Stephen, Alexander, 1722-1793; Shipbuilding--Great Britain--History.

(Alexander Stephen & Sons), John Lees Carvel (1950). Stephen of Linthouse; A Record of Two Hundred Years of Shipbuilding, 1750-1950. (Glasgow, Scotland: Alexander Stephen and Sons, Ltd., 211 p.). Shipbuilding--Scotland--History; Shipyards--Scotland--History.

(Todd Shipyards), C. Bradford Mitchell (1981). Every Kind of Shipwork: A History of Todd Shipyards Corporation, 1916-1981. (New York, NY: The Corporation, 320 p.). Todd Shipyards Corporation--History.

(W. H. Walker & Brothers), The Company (1991). Walkers' of Ricky: A History of W. H. Walker & Brothers Limited of Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire. (Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, UK: W. H. Walker, 248 p.). W.H. Walker & Brothers; Boats Construction Hertfordshire (England).

(Yarrow and Company), Alastair Borthwick (1965). Yarrow and Company Limited; The First Hundred Years, 1865-1965. (Glasgow, Scotland: Yarrow, 135 p.). Yarrow and Company.

(Yarrow and Company), Alastair Borthwick (1977). Yarrow and Company Limited: 1865-1977. (Glasgow, Scotland: Yarrow and Company Limited, 158 p.). Yarrow and Company. 

Anthony Burton (1994). The Rise & Fall of British Shipbuilding. (London, UK: Constable, 272 p.). Shipbuilding industry--Great Britain--History.

Jeffery M. Dorwart with Jean K. Wolf (2001). The Philadelphia Navy Yard: From the Birth of the U.S. Navy to the Nuclear Age. (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 271 p.). Philadelphia Naval Shipyard (Philadelphia, Pa.)--History.

Geoffrey M. Footner (1991). The Last Generation: A History of a Chesapeake Shipbuilding Family. (Solomons, MD: Calvert Marine Museum Press, 194 p.). Davis, Clarence E., 1883-1936; Davis family; Shipyards--Maryland--Solomons Island--History.

Sidney Pollard and Paul Robertson (1979). The British Shipbuilding Industry, 1870-1914. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 312 p.). Shipbuilding--Great Britain--History; Shipyards--Great Britain--History.

Alistair J. Reid (2010). The Tide of Democracy: Shipyard Workers and Social Relations in Britain, 1870-1950. (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 361 p.). Fellow of Girton College (Cambridge). Shipbuilding industry -- Great Britain -- History -- 19th century; Shipbuilding industry -- Great Britain -- History -- 20th century; Shipbuilding industry -- Great Britain -- Employees -- History -- 19th century; Shipbuilding industry -- Great Britain -- Employees -- History -- 20th century; Industrial relations -- Great Britain -- History -- 19th century; Industrial relations -- Great Britain -- History -- 20th century. British shipbuilding in its heyday - organization of production, relationship between leaders and members of industry's key trade union, and involvement of that union in wider labour politics; impact of new machinery on skills, significance of independent rank-and-file movements and role of craft unions in origins and early development of Labour Party; shipyards in all of major locations (industrial movements on Clydeside, north-east coast of England).

Leonard A. Swann, Jr. (1980). John Roach, Maritime Entrepreneur. (New York, NY: Arno Press, 301 p. [orig. pub. 1965]). Roach, John, 1813-1887; Ship brokers--United States--Biography; Shipbuilding--United States--History. 

William H. Thiesen; foreword by James C. Bradford and Gene A. Smith (2006). Industralizing American Shipbuilding: The Transformation of Ship Design and Construction, 1820-1920. (Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 240 p.). Historian for the United States Coast Guard, Formerly Curator and Director of Operations of the Wisconsin Maritime Museum. Shipbuilding--United States--History--19th century; Shipbuilding--United States--History--20th century; Shipbuilding industry--United States--History--19th century; Shipbuilding industry--United States--History--20th century. Story of culture dictating technology; transformation of American shipbuilding into an engineering-based industry.


Business History Links

Essex Shipbilding Museum                                                

Established in 1976 - story of a small New England village that built more two-masted wooden fishing schooners than any other place in the world; history of the wooden shipbuilding industry, an integral part of the economy and culture in New England and the United States since the 1630; one of the best maritime collections in the region.

Pier 70 San Francisco: Historic Shipyard at Potrero Point                                                          

Background and historic and modern photos of "Potrero Point ... [which] was the most important center of western U.S. heavy industry for well over 100 years." Also provides material about "Dogpatch," a neighborhood on the eastern edge of Potrero Hill, which "includes the city's largest collection of 19th and early 20th Century workers cottages." Also includes details about current uses and future development. From a member of the Citizens Advisory Group for Pier 70.


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