“….Over There, Over There
Send the word, send the word,
That the Yanks are coming,
The Yanks are coming….”
The United States entry into the “War To End All Wars” was eye-opening for everyone involved…especially American industry, just finding out for the first time the appetite for destruction modern war had on equipment, men, and perhaps most importantly, shipping. No ships, no resupply, no end of war. In July 1918, the National Geographic said this:
“…Since August, 1914, the world of commerce has lost 21,500,000 tons of Allied and neutral shipping–more than one-third of the sea-going tonnage existing at the outbreak of the war…” (source link: National Geographic, pg. 179)
To offset this, crash shipbuilding programs were put into play, with various corporations and industries springing up overnight. The United States Shipping Board along with the Emergency Fleet Corporation, with Charles Schwab as its director were put into place to stop the bleeding. Agreements were formed and contracts were soon signed to get the production moving forward. One of the outcomes of this was Hog Island.
Rising from the swampland near Philadelphia PA, Hog Island was a giant in the making. With dormitories, a model plan, electrical capacity for several large cities, and a “mile and a half of shipways stretching along the waterfront.” (Nat. Geographic, pg. 186) this colossus was a premonition of what effects the Great War would have on American industry.
With huge contracts and a will to build, Hog Island launched the first ship in 1918 amid a crowd of 100,000 plus onlookers. The contribution to the war effort was underway and production ensued.
By the early years of the Twenties, over 120 plus ships were eventually launched from the ways at the island. The war had ended before many ships could be finished and soon, trouble was in the air, with expenses mounting and no pressing need for the volume of bottoms that had originally been visioned.
Workers began to be dismissed and soon Hog Island would, like the war, be a memory……
Demolished…the yards in the remaining years of the Twenties and Thirties soon became no more, giving way to an airport, dedicated by Lindbergh, but not fully used until the Forties, due to the devastation brought about by the Depression. All in all, it’s a strange tale, not totally bad, but not totally good either. It’s history however, and therefore it’s important to remember. Take a look at some of the links below for more information. In particular, the National Geographic source story is facinating, filled with facts and information that I just didn’t have time to put in today’s post.
Have a great weekend!