American Ship Building Company

The American Ship Building Company was the dominant shipbuilder on the Great Lakes before the Second World War. It started as Cleveland Shipbuilding in Cleveland, Ohio[1] in 1888 and opened the yard in Lorain, Ohio in 1898. It changed its name to the American Ship Building Company in 1900, when it acquired Superior Shipbuilding, in Superior, Wisconsin; Toledo Shipbuilding, in Toledo, Ohio; and West Bay Shipbuilding, in West Bay City, Michigan. With the coming of World War I, the company also acquired Buffalo Dry Dock, in Buffalo, New York; Chicago Shipbuilding, in Chicago, Illinois; and Detroit Shipbuilding, in Wyandotte, Michigan. American Shipbuilding ranked 81st among United States corporations in the value of World War II military production contracts.[2]

The Lorain YardEdit

The Lorain, Ohio Yard served as the main facility of the company after World War II and to this day five of the 13 separate 1,000 ft (300 m) ore carriers on the Great Lakes were built in Lorain, including the M/V Paul R. Tregurtha which is the largest vessel on the Great Lakes (1,013'06" long). Built in 1898, the Lorain Yard quickly grew in size and importance. The facilities eventually included two dry docks over 1,000 feet (300 m) long built to handle the largest of the Great Lakes ore carriers. The Lorain Yard closed in 1984 after a series of labor disputes. Most of the buildings associated with shipyard were demolished with only the water tower and Ship Building Pattern Warehouse remaining. The pattern warehouse is now The Shipyards dining and events venue. The remaining lands are now being redeveloped as an upscale housing development.

Ships built by the companyEdit

Delta ShipbuildingEdit

During the Second World War, the company managed Delta Shipbuilding Company for the United States Maritime Commission. Delta had a yard at New Orleans and built a total of 188 ships.[3] Delta Shipbuilding Company built 187 Liberty ships, the first completed was SS William C.C. Claiborne, named after the first governor of Louisiana, William C. C. Claiborne. The United States Maritime Commission had Delta and eight other emergency shipyards start building Liberty ships in 1941, 2,710 were produced during the war. Many were built in less than two months. The Delta shipyard was started specifically for the war effort, at a site on the Industrial Canal near the Almonaster Avenue Bridge, immediately south of the present-day I-10 high-rise bridge. The yard was shut down after the end of World War II.[4][5]

Sample of ships built:

Toledo Shipbuilding CompanyEdit

Wauketa, "White Star Line," Launched at Toledo Ship Building Company's Yards, Toledo, Ohio, 1908

The Toledo Shipbuilding Company, which became an operating unit of the American Shipbuilding Company by consolidation in 1945,[6] was itself the builder of several of the most well-known coal-fired steamships of the Great Lakes, such as the SS Chief Wawatam (built in 1911).


In the early 1960s, the American Shipbuilding Company acquired Kinsman Marine Transit Company, which was owned by the Steinbrenner family. As a result of the transaction, the Steinbrenner family acquired a controlling interest in American Shipbuilding. Frustrated after years of fighting with unions over cost-saving work changes, the Steinbrenners closed the Lorain shipyard in December 1983 and moved all operations to Tampa, Florida. The principal member of the Steinbrenner family who was involved in the operation of the transit company at this time was George Steinbrenner, who became better known later as the principal owner of the New York Yankees.

The company began having difficulties in the 1980s, going through a bankruptcy in 1993. The company was sold in 1995.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History". American Ship Building Co. Retrieved March 27, 2008.
  2. ^ Peck, Merton J. & Scherer, Frederic M. The Weapons Acquisition Process: An Economic Analysis (1962) Harvard Business School p.619
  3. ^ "Delta Shipbuilding Company, New Orleans LA". Archived from the original on August 29, 2008. Retrieved December 27, 2008.
  4. ^ Worker Wednesday: Delta Shipbuilding Co.
  5. ^ Delta Shipbuilding photo
  6. ^ Weisman, Matthew J.; Shorf, Paula. "Boats Built at Toledo, Ohio - A Comprehensive Listing of the Vessels Built from Schooners to Steamers from 1810 to the Present - Toledo Shipbuilding Company (1905-1945)" (PDF).

External linksEdit