The 19th century was a period of transition for the shipbuilding industry, as it moved from ships that were built of wood and powered by sail to ships that were built of iron and powered by steam.  In the U.S., the years from 1830 to the Civil War were boom years, as the industrial revolution drove increasing volumes of trade and U.S. shipyards built hundreds of full-rigged ships and schooners for both north-south and east-west trade, transoceanic and coastal.  After the Civil War, however, the surplus ships were sold off or scrapped and most of the remaining builders of wooden ships went out of business, leaving only those yards which had invested the considerable capital needed for iron shipbuilding and for steam propulsion.  As a result, we can effectively date the modern shipbuilding industry from 1865 and concentrate here on those yards that were active in the 50 years between the Civil War and World War One, and could be seen to be making the transition to iron and steam.  Despite the romance associated with the multi-masted sailing ships of the 19th century, these are not the subject of this web site. 

Documenting the construction records of these 84 pre-World War One yards is not, however, simple.  First, it should be noted that there are quite a few shipbuilders that were not only significant before World War One but that continued to be significant for many years after World War One - Newport News, for example - as a result of which they are already included in the Large Shipbuilders section of this web site.  This section is, therefore, confined to those shipbuilders that were active before World War One, i.e., they were not emergency yards, but were gone by the time World War One ended, or shortly thereafter.  It should also be noted that these are generally large yards, yards that built deep-draft vessels designed to carry cargo and/or passengers: they did not generally build fishing vessels, tugs or other types of work boat.

Atlantic Coast - New England (23)

Atlantic Iron Works

East Boston MA

Frank S. Bowker & Sons

Phippsburg ME

City Point Iron Works (formerly Harrison Loring)

South Boston MA

Cobb, Butler & Co.

Rockland ME

Deering & Donnell (later G. G. Deering and William T. Donnell)

Bath ME

Dunn & Elliott

Thomaston ME

Eastern Shipbuilding

Groton CT

Flint & Chapman

Bath ME

Gildersleeve Shipbuilding

Gildersleeve (Portland) CT

Houghton Bros.

Bath ME

John F. James (formerly James & Tarr)

Essex MA

Kelley, Spear

Bath ME

McKay, Donald

East Boston MA

McKie, William

East Boston MA

Montgomery & Howard

Chelsea MA

Palmer & Son, Robert (later Groton IW and Noank SB)

Noank CT

Percy & Small

Bath ME

William Rogers & Son

Bath ME

Sawyer Shipyards

Milbridge ME

Stetson, E. & I. K.

Bath ME

Story, Arthur D.

Essex MA

Texas Steamship (formerly New England SB and Arthur Sewall & Co.)

Bath ME

Welt, Reed & Co.

Waldoboro ME

Other Pre-WWI Yards in New England


Atlantic Coast - New York (17)

Bayles Shipyard (later New York Harbor DD Co.)

Port Jefferson NY

Brown & Bell

New York NY

Divine Burtis

Red Hook NY

Collyer, Thomas and William

New York NY

Continental IW (formerly Sneeden & Co. and Sneeden & Rowland)

Greenpoint NY

Delamater IW (formerly Phoenix Foundry and Hogg & Delamater)

New York/Brooklyn NY

John Englis & Son

New York/Greenpoint NY

Lawrence & Foulks

Williamsburg/Greenpoint NY

Perrine, Patterson & Stack (later Thomas Stack)

Williamsburg NY

Roosevelt, Joyce & Co.

New York NY

Jeremiah Simonson

Greenpoint NY

Henry Steers (formerly James R. & George Steers)

Greenpoint NY

Ward, Stanton (later James Bigler, Marvel Shipbuilding)

Newburgh NY

Eckford Webb (later Webb & Bell)

Greenpoint NY

William H. Webb (formerly Webb & Allen)

New York NY

West Point Foundry

Cold Spring NY

Westervelt & Son

New York NY

Other Pre-WWI Yards in New York


Atlantic Coast - South of New York (9)

Abbott Shipbuilding

Milford DE

American Shipbuilding

Philadelphia PA

John H. Dialogue & Co.

Camden NJ

Harlan & Hollingsworth (later Bethlehem Wilmington, Dravo Wilmington)

Wilmington DE

Hillman Ship & Engine Building

Philadelphia PA

John W. Lynn

Philadelphia PA

Neafie & Levy Ship & Engine Building Co

Philadelphia PA

Charles Reeder & Sons

Baltimore MD

Trigg Co., William R.

Richmond VA

Woodall & Co. (formerly Fardy & Woodall)

Baltimore MD

Other Pre-WWI Yards on the South Atlantic Coast


Gulf Coast (1)

Clooney Construction

Westlake LA

Other Pre-WWI Yards on the Gulf Coast


Great Lakes and Inland Rivers (25)

Anderson, Alex

Marine City MI

Bell, David (Bell's Steam Engine Works)

Buffalo NY

Cleveland Shipbuilding

Cleveland and Lorain OH

Cowles Shipyard

Buffalo NY

Davidson Shipbuilding

West Bay City MI

Empire Shipbuilding

Buffalo NY

Gibson, Samuel (King Iron Works)

Buffalo NY

Goble, George

Oswego NY

Howard Shipyard & Dock Co. (later JeffBoat)

Jeffersonville IN

Jenks Shipbuilding

Port Huron MI

Johnston Boiler

Ferrysburg MI

Langell, Simon

St. Clair MI

Milwaukee Shipyard

Milwaukee WI

Morley & Hill

Marine City MI

Quayle & Sons

Cleveland OH

Racine Boat Manufacturing

Racine WI/Muskegon MI

Radcliffe, William H.

Cleveland OH

Rees and Son, James

Pittsburgh PA

Robertson, Duncan

Grand Haven MI

Swift & Co., Alexander

Cincinnati OH

Turner, A. A.

Trenton MI

Union Iron Works (James B. Eads)

Carondelet MO

Charles Ward Engineering

Charleston WV

Wheeler Shipbuilding (later West Bay City SB)

West Bay City MI

Wolf & Davidson

Milwaukee WI

Other Pre-WWI Yards on the Great Lakes and Inland Waterways


Pacific Coast (8)

Babare Bros. Shipbuilding

Tacoma WA

Bendixsen Shipbuilding

Fairhaven CA

Crawford & Reid

Tacoma WA

Dickie Bros. (later John W. Dickie & Son)

San Francisco CA/Alameda CA

Lindstrom Shipbuilding  (later Grays Harbor Motor Ship)

Aberdeen WA

Matthews Shipbuilding

Hoquiam WA

Nilson & Kelez

Seattle WA

Wolf & Zwicker Iron Works

Portland OR

Other Pre-WWI Yards on the Pacific Coast