New York Shipyard.jpg

New York Shipyard

New York Shipyard


Mr. Henry G. Morse wanted to innovate construction methods and improve the production process in building ships. His ideas were developed through previous experience in steel bridge building and ship building companies. He first arranged financing with Andrew Mellon and Henry Frick to build his shipyard. The original plan was for a site in New York but the site purchase could not be completed. A site in Camden NJ was later selected. 

Mr. Morse's innovative ideas included:

  • Detailed and accurate plans that allowed him to construct prefabricated subassemblies and three dimensional templates for bending ship hull panels.

  • One hundred ton crane that allowed movement of subassemblies and panels to anywhere in the ship construction ways.

  • Covered shipways to minimize weather impact on construction.

  • Practice “just in time” manufacturing by having materials and subassemblies delivered at the right time in the ship construction process.


In 1900 these ideas were revolutionary but were later accepted in the industry.

Drafting Room.jpg
Three Dimensional Templates.jpg

Left: the drafting room at New York Shipyard. Right: three dimensional templates.

The First Ship

In early 1900’s, conversion of American heating energy source from coal to oil was just starting. The first ship produced at NY Ship was the tanker JM Guffey. The ship started as a freighter (MS Dollar) but was converted to a tanker before delivery in 1902. The owners of the tanker, JM Petroleum Company, was later bought out by Gulf Oil Corporation. (Learn more about the JM Guffey here

JM Guffey.jpg

The SS J.M. Guffey: the first ship produced at New York Shipyard.

Early Years: 1900 to WWI

NY Shipyard produced a large variety of ship types throughout its existence. Prior to World War I it had produced almost 150 ships including tankers, cargo/passenger ships, battleships, smaller Navy vessels like mine layers and tug boats. A complete list may be seen here. Of note, two of the largest ships, Mongolia and Manchuria (1904) for Transpacific service, are among the largest produced at this time. (see Ships/Mongolia, Manchuria in this virtual museum). The first transcontinental rail road was completed in 1869 but convenient and safe transportation by rail road was not possible until later when the railroad system was built out. Coastwise and transcontinental mail was carried by ship for many years (see “Pacific Mail Steamship Company” and “Dollar Shipping Company” under internet APL (Shipping Company). 

World War I: July 1914 to November 1918

As World War I loomed, the US Federal government was concerned about:

  • Low numbers of ocean going ships in the US fleet.

  • Loss of control over ocean going ships if there was a war with Germany.

  • Increase in demands for ships to support any war effort.

  • Threats to shipping from German submarines and use of self propelled torpedoes.


The Shipping Act of 1916 established the United States Shipping Board and Emergency Fleet Corporation whose purpose was “acquire, maintain, and operate merchant ships”. They established a priority of increasing production of freighters, passenger liners (troop ships) and destroyers as threats of war increased. NY Ship received orders for 16 large transport ships (all over 500 feet) and 30 destroyers. The order resulted in building additional ship ways south of the existing covered ship ways (More on destroyers here). The ships were not completed in time to participate in WWI. The transport ships were redesigned as passenger liners and formed the basis of a modern merchant fleet. Most of the destroyers were placed in service after the war, laid up and later activated for WWII. With the expansion of ship ways south of the original covered ship ways, NY Ship was the biggest ship yard in the world. Be-tween years 1914 and 1918 the shipyard produced more than 50 vessels of all types.

Shipping Board Advertisement.jpg

United States Shipping Board advertisement.

Hoosier State.jpg

The Hoosier State (1922), renamed President Lincoln (1923) and sold to Dollar Line in 1938.

Between Wars: 1919 to 1941

Shipbuilding followed the usual cycle and declined sharply in the post-war period. The Disarmament Conference in 1922 resulted in scrapping of the Battleship Washington (1924) when nearly completed, USS Colorado (BB 45, 1923) was finished and Battle Cruiser Saratoga (CV3, 1927) was converted to the first major aircraft carrier of the United States Navy .

Salt Lake City.jpg

Launching the Salt Lake City (CA25, 1929).