The New York Shipbuilding Corporation was organized in 1899. 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 land 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. 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 the most up-to-date labor-saving machinery and advanced methods of structural steel construction could be applied. The planning and opening of the New York Shipbuilding Company yard was due mainly to the foresight and energy of Henry G. Morse, its first president.
There were five basic objectives followed in the designing and laying out of the new shipyard. Mr. Morse’s advanced ideas were the basis of the planned shipbuilding procedure which he contributed to the industry throughout the world. They were largely the result of his extensive structural steel fabrication experience prior to entering the shipbuilding field.
- First, the application of the mold loft template system for the fabrication of hull steel – a pioneer undertaking for shipbuilding at that time but now standard practice in the industry.
- Second, provisions for prefabrication of relatively large structural assemblies and continuous routing of material from receipt through fabrication shops and on out to the shipways, a method widely publicized as a new development during World War II.
- Third, an unusually complete overhead crane system for handling prefabricated structural assemblies up to 100 tons weight.
- Fourth, a coordinated series of shops with five building ways, and an outfitting basin completely roofed over and served with overhead bridge cranes.
- Fifth, installation of propelling machinery and other heavy weights before launching, by providing 100-ton crane capacity over all the building ways.
Of these five objectives, the first — the application of the template system — was perhaps the most revolutionary. In the half century that elapsed since its introduction by New York Ship this system has come to be standard practice, but in 1900 it was looked upon with strange misgivings.
This system permitted the continuous fabrication of steel from mold loft developments of plans which did away with the previous practice of “lifting” templates from work in place before the shop could function. Through accurate mold loft development of templates from plans, the shops were enabled to go ahead with their work for any part of the ship upon receipt of the material with the assurance that when a particular part is wanted by the ship creators, it would fit its appointed place.
It was because of New York Ship’s experience with these advanced practices that the yard was asked to supervise the designers who laid out and planned the Hog Island yard. New York Ship produced the original templates for the vast fleet of ships built at Hog Island during World War I and assisted in the development of templates for other vessels assembled elsewhere.