UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


New York Ship Building

New York Ship Building Corporation, also known as the New York Shipyards, was located in Camden NJ. This south New Jersey facility closed in 1967. Between its founding in 1899 and its closing in 1967, The New York Shipbuilding Corporation built more than 500 vessels for the United States Navy, the American Merchant Marine, the Coast Guard, and assorted other concerns. The yard grew to instant success and became a leader in naval construction by 1914. New York Ship produced over 670 naval and merchant ships in total, and left behind a legacy of mass production techniques and marine engineering. It established a high reputation for itself by building the newest, high-speed warships from the beginning of the 20th century into the 60s.

New York Shipbuilding Corporation was organized in 1899 by Henry G. Morse. The original plan was to build the new plant on Staten Island, and the company which was formed was therefore called the New York Shipbuilding Company. Inability to acquire the desired site, however, necessitated a survey of other locations down the coast as far as Virginia. The result of investigations by several inspection parties was the purchase of a tract of approximately 160 acres on the east side of the Delaware River in the southern part of the city of Camden, New Jersey, across the river from Philadelphia. A 160 acre farm on the Delaware River selected as the site of the New York Shipbuilding Company. An old farmhouse was moved to the street and is now an integral, but distinctive, part of the Employment Office and Hospital Buildings. The ground conditions were especially suited to the building of shipway foundations, and railway facilities were adequate. Time has shown the selection to have been a good one.

At the outset it was decided to break away from the old century's accepted traditions of shipbuilding and build a yard in which could be applied the most up-to-date labor-saving machinery and advanced methods of structural steel construction. The planning and opening of the New York Shipbuilding Company yard was due mainly to the foresight and energy of the late Henry G. Morse, its first president. Mr. Morse, who had resigned from the presidency of the Harlan and Hollingsworth Company, of Wilmington, Del., to form the new shipyard, was the guiding force throughout "New York Ship's" organization. He survived the completion of the yard and the delivery of the first nine ships. Up to the time of his death he had secured for his company twenty contracts. Among these was the armored cruiser WASHINGTON, first Naval vessel ordered from New York Ship.

Morse implemented a revolutionary idea of connecting all the parts of the yard with overhead cranes, making transportation of materials significantly easier. To speed up the construction process, many tasks were completed before launching that had once been done during outfitting. Ground was broken for New York Ship on July 3, 1899. Contracts for preliminary work and equipment for the yard were let within a month. On June 15, 1900, in the sixth month of the new century and the twelfth month of the new yard, the contract for New York Ship's first vessel was signed. On November 29, 1900, the keel was laid.

In 1903 NYS received its first Navy contract for the cruiser Washington. This was a big step for the yard and constructing a mighty ship was imperative. Washington was delivered on July 30, 1906, ten days before the scheduled release. The USS Washington, of 15,712 tons, was the first naval vessel on which the templet system of hull construction was employed. This cruiser was followed shortly bv the battleships Kansas, New Hampshire, and Michigan of 17,617 displacement tons, the Utah of 23,033 tons, Arkansas and Oklahoma of 27,243 and 28,415 tons respectively.

New York Shipbuilding and the Great War

During the fifteen years preceding war-time activity New York Ship developed a well rounded and capable organization. Upon this organization the Government in its war program laid the heaviest demands of production and of plant enlargement. From this period the yard emerged trebled in size, even more capable from the experience gained in added work done, yet without a lowering of its ideal of quality.

New York Ship grew to become the largest shipyard in the world by 1917. Nineteen thousand employees of the New York Shipbuilding Company, with their families, streamed into Camden, creating a mammoth housing problem. Yorkship Village is the name of the housing project of the Emergency Fleet Corporation for employees of the New York Shipbuilding Company at Camden, NJ. The site is an irregular tract of 225 acres of farm land on the outskirts of Camden, just within the city line near Gloucester and Westmont. lt is shut off from Camden and Gloucester by a marshy brook. A highway with a new trolley leads to Gloucester, and a new road crosses the marshy land toward Camden. Electus Litchfield was one of the main architects and town planners of Yorkship Village. It was built in response to the need for building homes for the growing numbers of workers at the nearby shipyard in Camden. World War I (1914-1918) was underway at the time, with the United States entering the war in 1917.

The Idaho of 34,759 tons which established a record as the premier ship of the Pacific Fleet. From 1903, when the first naval contract was awarded, this yard kept pace in its facilities and shiphuilding capacity with the increasing demands for more and larger war vessels. This naval construction included cruisers, destroyers and miscellaneous vessels in addition to the baattleships. Throughout this entire range of production, New York Ship was more than able to meet the exacting rcquiranents, the infinite detail, of these dificult types of ship construction. It was at the same time able to contribute to the development and efticiency of the United States Kavy through improved methods of construction and through maintenance of the highest standards of accuracy and craftsmanship.

Small in size by comparison with these battleships, but large in number, important in their contribution to naval power, and intricate and exacting in the requirements of their construction, are the thirty-nine torpedo boat destroyers which New York Ship built. The war service record of many of these destroyers was alone an epic of valiant seamanship, of gruelling, unceasing demands upon these quick-moving, hard-hitting units of concentrated power-demands that test the skill of the shipbuilder, the care and thoroughness of his workmanship. Under these demands, this fleet of New York Ship's destroyers brought further prestige to the reputation of its builders, mcasuring up without exception to the highest confidence placed in it.

Other naval vessels built here include the destroyer tender 12fel~ille and the sea-going tugs Sononzn and Ontario; and for foreign governments the protected cruiser Helles of the Greek Navy, originally the Fei Hung ordered bv the Chinese Government, and the battleship Moreno of the Argentine Navy.

Merchant and naval construction, each on so large a scale, each contributed to the character of workmanship and to improvements in shipbuilding methods reflected in the service rendered by the great fleet of vessels of all kinds built here. In particular, it was true that the more rigid requirements of naval practice in steel work and in machinery installation strengthened the application of these high standards to the construction of merchant tonnage. On the other hand, the application of the templet system to large war vessels, already referred to, was the result of the departure from traditional practice in the extended use of these patterns for merchant ships, one of the principles upon which the yard was established.

New York Shipbuilding Between the Wars

This great plant contributed to the construction of ships for peace-time requirements, the best features, the most comprehensive knowledge both of quantity and of specialized production. It is a specialist, not in one type of ship but in all types. Consider these different types of ships, the facilities afforded for their construction, the craftsmanship gained and maintained in their design and production. Passenger liners, tankers, colliers, s~perdreadnou~hts, destroyers; general cargo vessels, coastwise and river steamers; lightships, revenue cutters, fire boats, carfloats-from the smallest to the mightiest vessel. Each type has contributed its share to the complete experience of the yard; each repetition of the same type has strengthened this skill through increased knowledge of the requirements.

By 1921 thirty per cent of the battleships in commission in the United States Navy were the product of New York Shipbuilding Corporation. Twenty-five percent of the first line battleships and forty-three percent of the second line battleships in commission in the United States Navy on 01 July 1921 were built hy New York Shipbuilding Corporation, in addition to various other warships. New York Shipbuilding Corporation also had under construction for the Navy two new battleships, the Colorado and Washington of 33,590 tons, which were driven by electricity; and the USS Saratoga, a battle cruiser of 44,973 tons, representative of the largest type of warship.

By 1921 seventy percent of the entire fleet of passenger liners under construction for the Shipping 'Board were ordered from New York Shipbuilding Corporation which was building nine of the sixteen 535-foot class and had completed all seven of the 522-foot class. The first four of these liners to be delivered were the product of this yard. Fourth of the 535-foot class to be delivered, the Anzerican Legion, is a twin-screw, oil-burning vessel of 21,425 tons displacement and had accommodations for 280 first class passengers and 194 third class. The liners of this group have a sea speed of 17% knots.

The New York Shipbuilding Company eventually constructed a total of thirteen aircraft carriers, and amazingly, ten of them started out as cruisers. The first was the USS SARATOGA, laid down in 1920 as a Battlecruiser. In 1922, the Navy ordered that she be converted to an aircraft carrier, in order to comply with the Washington Treaty limiting naval armaments. After major design changes, she was finally commissioned in 1927, and became the Navy's first fast carrier.

In the summer of 1933 wages and conditions were so bad in Camden that the men began to get really sore about it. They had all heard about the NRA and the promised New Deal, but our earnings were lower than ever. At the same time food prices and the cost of living were going up. There was a company union in the Camden yard, but it was worse than useless. The American Federation of Labor gave the workders no help. They wanted the machinists to go into one union, the chippers into another, the coppersmiths into another, etc.

The Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America (Marine and Shipbuilding Union) rose to power in 1934 when a carefully planned strike by predominantly socialist and Scottish workers at New York Shipbuilding in Camden (across the Delaware River from Philadelphia) halted construction on US Navy vessels. New York Shipbuilding's weak company union, lack of political savvy, and lackluster managers provided an opening for the Camden-Philadelphia region's leftist and socialist workers to organize the Marine and Shipbuilding Union. Grass-roots organizing together with government pressure to resume defense production legitimized union activity and hastened recognition. The radical organizers who founded the Marine and Shipbuilding Union immediately sought to expand it to other shipyards. Representing a quarter of a million members at its peak, the Marine and Shipbuilding Union for a time was one of the largest of the Congress of Industrial Organization's (CIO) unions that sought to organize workers ignored by the American Federation of Labor (AFL).

Industrial South Jersey was injected with new vitality when the impending war in Europe triggered increased production along the Delaware. Camden was the first to feel the effects. In December, 1938, under a contract from the Navy Department, construction was started on the South Dakota at the yards of the New York Shipbuilding Company. Ship construction at NYS for the United States' impending entrance World War II began July 5, 1939, with the laying of the keel for the battleship USS South Dakota (BB-57).

New York Shipbuilding During World War II

When the Navy needed more aircraft carriers during WWII, they went to NYS because of their experience with the SARATOGA. NYS had just begun work on a series of cruisers, and the Navy wanted them converted to carriers. The result was the Independence Class of light carriers, also known as the Sunsetters, because of their success in the Pacific.

With America's entry into the Second World War, thousands of new workers poured into the shipbuilding factories of Camden County in a mad rush to fill Navy contracts for battleships, cruisers, aircraft carriers, destroyers, and landing craft. At the New York Shipbuilding Company alone, 35,000 employees worked to turn out every conceivable type of modern warship.

In addition to the light aircraft carriers, the yard constructed 2 destroyer tenders, 3 seaplane tenders, 1 repair ship, 8 light cruisers, 2 battle cruisers, and 1 battleship. NYS built other vessels to service the navy in the war, totaling 70 NYS-built ships that were on active duty in the war. Moreover, 148 landing craft (LCIs and LCTs) were constructed by the yard during the year 1942.

New York Shipbuilding After the War

State legislatures, local governments, and a wide variety of business, labor and environmental organizations petitioned Congress to pass legislation to provide economic benefits. The Township of Glouchester, NJ, passed a resolution in 1959 asking for Federal legislation allocating funds to cover the construction of a superliner ship at the neighboring New York Shipbuilding Corporation -- a project that would provide 3 years work for 3,500 men and would greatly benefit the economy of the Delaware Valley area. Nothing came of the effort.

After the War noteworthy construction included the nuclear ship SAVANNAH, designed by and built by New York Shipbuilding Corporation in 1959. The N.S. Savannah was the first nuclear-powered cargo-passenger ship. The keel for USS TRUXTUN (DLGN-35) was laid 17 June 1963 at New York Shipbuilding Corporation, Camden, New Jersey. TRUXTUN was christened on 19 December 1964.

The USS Kitty Hawk, launched in 1961, was one of the last major shipbuilding projects at the yard. Too large to be constructed on the ways, a special drydock was built just for the KITTY HAWK. She turned out to be the only ship NYS ever constructed in a drydock.

New York Shipbuilding Closes

The New York Shipbuilding Corporation closed its shipyards in 1967. The yards were leased to ship breaking and salvage firms. Construction of the SSN-647 Pogy began at Camden, though in January 1968 the boat was towed to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard for completion, following the cancellation of the contract with New York Shipbuilding on 05 June 1967.

Since 1971, the New York Ship site has been owned by the South Jersey Port Corporation, a state agency, and operated as the Broadway Street Terminal. The Destroyer Yard was replaced in the 1960s by the Kitty Hawk drydock. That drydock is now the 850' principal berth for the Broadway Terminal, and is used for general cargo including petroleum coke, coal, dolomite, steel products, wood products, minerals, cocoa beans and perishables.

The outfitting basin and wet slip, which are separated by Pier 1, are still usable by vessels. The Iowa-class battleship New Jersey (BB-62) completed her Final Voyage home from Bremerton, Washington to the former Philadelphia Naval Ship Yard, arriving there appropriately enough, on Veteran's Day 1999. The Navy's decision to permanently berth the Battleship in Camden was announced on January 20, 2000. In 2001, the USS New Jersey was moored at Pier 1 for a $7.2 million renovation prior to becoming a museum ship on the downtown Camden waterfront. The Battleship New Jersey opened as a Museum and Memorial in October 2001.

Camden City, located in the southwestern section of New Jersey, is the seventh largest City in the state. The nearby Audubon Park community was created for New York Shipyard employees in 1941. Camden was once self-sufficient, a thriving metropolis turning out battleships during World War II from the New York Shipyard that employed thousands in the city. Campbell Soup and RCA Victor were there, too. But the shipyard closed; RCA merged, diversified and eventually sold out; and Campbell has closed the plant where it once made soup. Camden is faced with a dwindling tax base and a dearth of industry and commerce.

Despite Camden's socio-economic decline, the City's strategic location offers hope that this trend may be reversed. Located directly across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, Camden has easy access to many different forms of transportation. Camden has access to the international market through the City's ports which rank among the nation's leaders in the shipment of bulk cargo.

The Port of Camden, has served this region and the nation as a major gateway of commerce and trade. The Port of Camden is poised to grow and meet the challenges of a new and evermore competitive marketplace. Situated on the Delaware River with easy access to the Atlantic Ocean, South Jersey Port Corporation specializes in handling breakbulk and bulk cargo. The Beckett Street Terminal and the Broadway Terminal, well known as the Port of Camden, receives hundreds of ships moving international and domestic cargo through the Port's modern and efficient facilities every year.

While ably handling all types of breakbulk and bulk cargoes, the Broadway Terminal is also a bustling industrial park with over 25 maritime business related tenants making Camden their home. Trucking companies, stevedores, tug companies, manufacturers, ship chandlers and a host of other business make the Port of Camden an efficient and successful place to do business and to ship cargo through.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:43:46 ZULU