A Look Back at South Jersey's Days as a Shipbuilding Power

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CAMDEN, N.J. -- Opening a new century as well as a new era in the technology of shipbulding, New York Shipbuilding Corp. began operations on the shore of the Delaware River in Camden in 1900. Its founder, Henry G. Morse pioneered the concept of building ships in an assembly line much the same as Henry Ford built Model Ts. Above, left, the USS Independence is launched in 1942 at the time the facility had become the largest privately-owned shipyard in the world and the central engine of the local Camden economy.

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The enormous metal ship sections were prefabricated from templates in closed shops and then transported to, and assembled in, twelve-story-high, covered ship ways. The covered ways allowed assembly to continue regardless of the weather. A chain of massive cranes served as a conveyor belt system across 180 acres of factory complex.

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New York Ship boasted the largest ways in the world (above, left). Here, the U.S.S. Saratoga is launched from them in 1925, the largest ship ever built in North America at that time. Above right, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had a long association with the shipyard as former assistant secretary of the Navy, visited Camden in 1940 and 1944 as President. Read his remarks on two different visits: 1940, 1944.
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Beyond the riverfront ways, New York Ship was a virtual city of massive assembly shops linked by a "conveyor belt" that was actually twelve miles of railroad line. Above, left, the 16-inch barrel of a battleship gun moves to the next stage. Above, right, gun turrets are mass prdouced for U.S. Navy cruisers under construction.
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Although best remembered as a heavy metal works that built warships, New York Ship also built luxury liners and maintained a staff of world-class cabinetmakers, carpenters and wood sculptors to create the vessels' sumptuous interiors and furnishing. Above left, is the liner Santa Clara, launched from Camden in 1927. Above right, is a portion of the sumptuous smoking room of the ocean liner Washington, launched from Camden in 1933.

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