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drawing of Fore River Shipbuilding Corporation in Quincydrawing of Fore River Shipbuilding Corporation in Quincy

Bethlehem Steel Fore River Shipyard Records

Plans, business records, and photographs from a major twentieth century commercial and naval shipyard.

Bethlehem Steel’s Fore River Shipyard was founded in 1884 by Thomas A. Watson, who previously worked with Alexander Graham Bell on telephone technology, as the Fore River Engine Company. The firm started building steel ships in Quincy, Massachusetts, in 1896 and was purchased by Bethlehem Steel in 1913. It went on to become one of the largest commercial and military shipyards on the East Coast, producing destroyers, battleships, aircraft carriers, submarines, and merchant ships. Due to its proximity to MIT, the yard also provided practical field trips to MIT’s Naval Architecture students for decades. It was sold to General Dynamics in 1964, and closed for good in 1986.

Scope and content:

In 1980, Bethlehem Steel Corporation donated a large collection of plans, photographs, and some archival material from the Fore River Shipyard to MIT. Approximately 13,000 plans and drawings detail commercial and military ships built between 1900 and 1937, augmented by an additional 5,000 architectural and engineering plans for the shipyard buildings. Archival material deals with the yard’s business before World War I. The photographs, many of them glass plate negatives, cover the yard’s history from the 1890s to 1963. The yard’s activities after 1964 are documented separately in the General Dynamics Collection.

Title: Bethlehem Steel Fore River Shipyard Records

Creator: Bethlehem Steel Corporation

Dates: circa 1900 - 1963

Extent: 25.5 linear feet archives, 23 drawers and 28 boxes of plans, and 132 boxes photographs and negatives

Language: English

Repository: MIT Museum, Hart Nautical Collections

Access: Open for research by appointment. Some material is available online. Most of the collection is unprocessed and access may be limited.

Copyright: Some items may be subject to copyright.

Credit: Hart Nautical Collection, MIT Museum