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Bethlehem Steel ship building

Origins and corporate structure

Bethlehem Steel Corporation, under various names (Bethlehem Iron Co., Bethlehem Steel), was founded in 1857 as the Saucona Iron Company in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and closed (bakruptcy) in 2003. In 1903, through mutual corporate investments, the United States Shipbuilding Company suggested reorganizing as the Bethlehem Steel and Shipbuilding Company. In 1905 the Bethlehem Steel Corporation "Shipbuilding Division" was created when Bethlehem acquired the San Francisco shipyard Union Iron Works. In 1913, after acquiring the Fore River Shipyard, their main office was moved to Quincy, Massachusetts. In 1917 it was incorporated as the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, Limited.

Subsequent divisions, names and corporate entities

The following represents geographic locations of the shipyards, in roughly chronological order. There is no attempt to define corporate ownership, control, or collaboration, nor to define temporary wartime government and contractual organization or the US ship building industry.

Yards under the "Bethlehem" name:

  • Bethlehem Steel Wilmington (Harlan and Hollingsworth), Wilmington, Delaware (1904–1925, 1941–1945). Based on wartime production.
  • Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, San Franciso (from Union Ironworks, 1905, formally 1917–1981); and Alameda "Union Plant" (from United Engineering Works / United Engineering Company 1916–1956).
  • Fore River Shipyard, Quincy, Massachusetts (1913–1963). Sold to General Dynamics Corporation.
  • Bethlehem Sparrows Point Shipyard, Sparrows Point, Maryland (1914 or 1917 to 1997, sold to Baltimore Marine Industries Inc.) See Note 2? below.
  • Bethlehem Key Highway Shipyard, Baltimore, Maryland. The upper yard was sold to AME/Swirnow in 1983.
  • Bethlehem Fort McHenry Shipyard, Baltimore, Maryland. The lower yard on Locust Point peninsula sold to General Ship Repair in 1983.
  • Bethlehem Elizabethport, Elizabethport, New Jersey (1916–1921)
  • Bethlehem Mariners Harbor, Staten Island, New York (1938–1963). From purchase of United Shipyards on 2 June 1938.
  • Bethlehem Brooklyn 56th Street, Brooklyn, New York (1938-1963). From purchase of United Shipyards on 2 June 1938.
  • Bethlehem Brooklyn 27th Street (1938-1963). From purchase of United Shipyards on 2 June 1938.
  • Hoboken Shipyard, Hoboken, New Jersey (1938–1984). From purchase of United Shipyards on 2 June 1938.
  • Bethlehem Fairfield Shipyard, Baltimore, Maryland (1940–1945).
  • Bethlehem Hingham Shipyard, Hingham, Massachusetts (1940–1945).
  • Bethlehem Beaumont Shipyard (Beaumont Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company), Beaumont, Texas (1948–1989). Offshore drilling rigs,
  • Bethlehem Atlantic Works, East Boston, Massachusetts (1953-1984)
  • Bethlehem Sabine, Port Arthur, Texas, (1985-1995). Sold to Texas Drydock Inc. in 1995

Yards retaining other names, controlled by, or under contract to, Bethelhem:

  • Hunters Point Drydocks, Hunters Point, San Francisco, California (1908–1920). Acquired by the US Navy.
  • Fore River Shipyard, Quincy, Massachusetts (1913–1963). Sold to General Dynamics Corporation.
  • Alameda Works Shipyard, Alameda, California (1916–1956). Variously the Alameda Works of the Union plant of Bethlehem Steel
  • Victory Plant Shipyard, Quincy, Massachusetts (1917–1919). The "Victory Yard" was constructed to build destroyers and free up the Fore River Yard for other vessels including the battlecruiser-turned-aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-2).
  • Union Iron Works, San Francisco, California (1917–1981). Also "Potrero Works" and the "Risdon Works" of the Union plant of Bethlehem Steel
  • Southwestern Shipbuilding (1918). Sold to Bethlehem 1925, possibly as Bethlehem Shipbuilding (San Pedro on Terminal Island). Shipbuilding ended in 1946.

Various notes:

  1. Bayonne Naval Drydock, Bayonne, New Jersey. Bethlehem Steel used this drydock for ship repairs, not ship building. Most workers were from Hoboken Shipyard.
  2. William Skinner & Sons, founded 1815, renamed Skinner Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company in 1899, and Malster & Reanie, founded 1870, renamed Columbian Iron Works & Dry Dock Company in 1880, combined in 1906 but used the Skinner name until 1914 (1916?) when they became Baltimore Dry Dock & Shipbuilding Company (variously referred to as Baltimore Dry Dock Company; Baltimore Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company; Baltimore Marine Industries 1997-2003). In 1922, they were acquired by Bethlehem Steel, which operated the two yards in the repair market, complementing their big construction yard across the harbor at Sparrows Point.
  3. Bethlehem Shipbuilding Co. Baltimore Division or Bethlehem Shipbuilding Co. (Baltimore Division) appears to be a generic corporate name for all yards in the Baltimore region.
  4. Bethlehem Pacific Coast Steel Corporation or Bethlehem (Pacific Coast) Steel Corporation in San Francisco refers to the parent corporation, not a specific yard.


This page is an adjunct to our ships database 8 and our data concerning ship building history.


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