Home Port ° 2017 ~ 2018 Ongoing Updates


San Francisco

March 4, 1859, California Farmer and Journal of Useful Sciences


This is the age of progress, and there is no State in our glorious Union that is making more progress than our own State. Ship-building is rapidly advancing, and the specimens of the builders' skill reflect honor upon them. Already, small vessels have been sent upon the wave, in numbers; several fine steamers now grace the waters, equal to any afloat, and yesterday the first national steamer built in California, the Toucey, named in honor of the Hon. Secretary of the Navy, was launched from our Navy Yard at Mare Island.

It will be found that we can build as fine vessels here as in any other State, for we have the main thing to do it withsplendid mechanics; for good workmen can make a good ship out of poor material, better than poor workmen can make a ship out of the best. We hope this steamer, built in California, will always bear in mind that she is bound to sea (Toucey) on a voyage for the protection of our own State, and her interests, and we hope she will always be ready to see (Toucey) that justice is done our State . . . Press on, while yet ye may!

January 1, 1891, Daily Alta California, San Francsico, California, U.S.A.

Amazing Growth of the Business in Forty Years.
Our Great Facilities for Building Wooden Ships.
Gratifying Increase in Tonnage Built in 1890 Over the Previous Year Government Vessels.

Ship builders.
U.S. Navy Yard, Mare Island
Vallejo, California

The year 1890, just closed, completes the fortieth year of the history of shipbuilding in the port of San Francisco and on the Pacific Coast. The progress made in those four decades is simply wonderful, and forms a record that any city might well be proud of. What a contrast between the tiny steamer Lady Washington, launched on the Sacramento in 1850, and the great 8500-ton coast line-of-battle ship, No. 3, on the keel of which work was commenced two weeks ago, at the Union Iron Works. Between the two extremes every known variety of craft has been turned out at the various shipyards scattered along the shores of San Francisco bay, equaling in speed and design similar vessels built at shipyards on the Atlantic Coast, which enjoy superior advantages over our local shipyards, in the low prices of labor and materials. A port where vessels, varying in size from a dingy to a majestic armor-plated man-of-war, can be built, may well take a front place in the list of shipbuilding ports.

The Assessor of San Francisco reports five shipyards within his jurisdiction for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1890, giving employment to 250 men. The number of vessels built for the year ending June 30, 1890, was twenty-nine, with a tonnage of 8500, and valued at $1,750,000. The war vessels built for the Government are not, of course, included in the above figures, but quite a respectable showing is made, considering the disadvantages the shipbuilders of San Francisco labor under in being hundreds of miles away from any considerable source of iron and coal deposits.

Some authorities think that the revival of wooden ship-building is hardly probable. They are not prepared to say, however, that the day of the wooden ship has passed. The experiment of superseding them with iron or steel has been in progress for over twenty years, but wooden ships in considerable numbers are still built, and the probabilities are that wooden ships will continue to be built for many years to come. American-built wooden ships are still in the lead for speed, and far ahead of their greatest rival, the British-built steel ship. No better place can be found in earth's wide domain for building wooden vessels than right here on this coast, and no good reason can be offered as to why the industry has not been taken up and prosecuted with more vigor. The climate is eminently favorable, both for the ship in course of construction and for the labor engaged in putting the timbers together.

Shipbuilding is essentially an out-of door vocation, and in no place else can men put in more time at out-door labor than in California, where work can be prosecuted the entire year through, in contradistinction to the shipyards of New England, Nova Scotia and Norway, where ice causes a cessation of work for nearly six months in the year.

As to the materials, we have the best of all kinds in abundance. Our forests teem with firs, pines, cedars, spruce, mesquite and laurels; we have woods adapted to every part of a ship, from keel to truck, and are within easy reach of the teaks of India and the cedars of Central America and Mexico. The shipyards of New England have been getting their timber for spars from Puget Sound for many years past. With respect to iron shipbuilding, California has made a good record for herself in the Government vessels Charleston, San Francisco, Monterey and Cruisers Nos. 3 and 6, not to speak of the merchant steamers Arago, Collis, Pomona and Premier.

Shipbuilding in California as applied to square-rigged vessels is a misnomer, as there has never been a full-rigged ship built in the State, if the rebuilt Kenilworth can be excepted. The nearest approach in that direction is a bark, of which class many have been built. Our northern neighbors have built several fine ships, which have proved fast sailers. A prominent reason why no ships have been built in California is found in the fact that we have been able to supply our wants for coasters more economically in the purchase of Eastern-built ships, which, after they arrived here, have been put on the market rather than accept outward business at unremunerative rates. The majority of the ships and barks employed on the coast in the coal and lumber trade have been acquired in this way. The characteristics of shipbuilding in California are barkentine and steam schooners. We have not built many of the former, but probably put the first one in the water, and have built a larger number in proportion to the capital invested in the business than at any other port. The steam schooner is not exactly a California invention, but the industry has been developed here in the past three years on an unparalleled scale.

The steam schooner has evidently come to stay. It has many advantages over sailing vessels, but it takes greater risks; it makes a round trip in less than one half the time of those propelled by sails, thus doubling the service and greatly increasing the facilities of distribution. It is not at the mercy of wind and wave, very seldom getting bar-bound, either in going out or coming in. The steam schooner reaches points on the coast not reached by sail, and reduces the cost of transportation whenever it comes into competition with the railroads. A formidable competitor of San Francisco shipyards will be the immense shipyard and dry-dock projected to be established at Tacoma by a stock company, at the head of which are General Alger and other Eastern capitalists. It is proposed to employ several hundred men, and operations are to be begun in February of this year.

During the last year our shipyards turned out some large jobs, the steam ferry-boat Ukiah of the San Francisco and North Pacific Railroad, and the steamer Al-Ki, being the most notable. The Ukiahis a splendid vessel of over 2000 tons burden, and reflects great credit upon the builders.

San Francisco has always been a favorite port with shipping men to have their vessels repaired and overhauled, and considerable work of this kind was performed here last year. At the Union Iron Works the Pacific Mail steamer City of Panama was entirely rebuilt. The boilers and engines were thoroughly overhauled, new decks and housings put in, and the hull overhauled, so that she is virtually a new steamer. At these works also the San Francisco was finished and delivered during the year, the Monterey nearly finished, only one more cylinder casting being needed for the engines, the cylinder castings of which are the largest ever cast on the Pacific Coast. Work has also been commenced on cruiser No. 6 and on the coast line-of-battle ship No. 3. A contract was taken to re-engine and reboiler the Pacific Mail steamer City of Rio de Janeiro, besides which considerable has been done in overhauling the steamers Newbern, Eastern Oregon, City of Topeka and Queen of the Pacific, and entirely rebuilding the British ship Kenilworth, destroyed at the Port Costa fire in 1889.

The Risdon Iron Works, though it has built no new ships, has had its full share of repairs and overhauling. The marine department, under the superintendency of H. C. Tabrett, repaired and reboilered the steamers Manzanita, Newport and City of Sydney, the latter being the largest job on the coast in the line of a general overhaul and repairs. The ship, after an overhaul of three months, appeared with all the latest improvements known in marine engineering. The steamship Australia, which over two years ago was entirely reboilered and re-engined with triple expansion engines at these works, is now running at an average coal capacity of one and one-half pounds of coal per 1 H. P. per hour, a performance equal to the best engineering practice either here or on the Atlantic.

Hall's shipyard at Port Blakeley turned out five new vessels during 1890, as follows: Tug Wanderer, 175 tons; bark Albert, 675 tons; four-masted schooner King Cyrus, 680 tons; four-masted schoonerCarrier Dove, 680 tons; four-masted schooner Spokane 600 tons. Total, 2810 tons.

By the courtesy of Surveyor of the Port Paris Kilburn, we give below a list of the vessels built at San Francisco and granted registry during the year 1890. By this it appears that 42 vessels have been built, of which 17 were schooners, 15 propellers, 6 sloops, 3 steamers, 1 barkentine and 1 ship. The total tonnage was 14,389.21 gross and 11,671.47 net, which is largely in excess of the previous year. Tonnage acquired by purchase does not appear in this list:

San Francisco Bay Area Ship Building Companies 1800s

Schooner Olga M. Turner Benicia 46.12 43.82
Propeller Farallon Boole & Beaton San Francisco 442.23 356.65
Sloop Ah Fook     6.81 6.47
Schooner Robert Lewis     732.88 696.25
Sloop Ah Tuck     6.24 5.93
Schooner Herman M. Turner Benicia 105.75 100.48
Sloop Alert   Vallejo 8.08 7.68
Steamer Grace Barton Geo. Damon San Francisco 194.84 160.65
Ship Kenilworth Union Iron Works San Francisco 2,293.28 2,178.66
Propeller Pacific M. Turner Benicia 66.32 31.66
Schooner Brothers A. Hay San Francisco 54.89 52.16
Schooner St. Paul M. Turner Benicia 48.55 46.14
Propeller Al-Ki   San Francisco 1.259.46 888.33
Sloop Henrietta S. Thornton San Francisco 6.85 6.51
Schooner Adeo W. Munder San Francisco 27.48 26.11
Propeller Mary D. Hume     164.78 108.01
Schooner San Rafael John Garcia San Francisco 44.94 42.70
Propeller Arctic C. G. White Alameda 42.19 21.10
Propeller Truckee A. Hay San Francisco 370.14 295.82
Propeller Olga J. H. Burns San Francisco 15.42 7.71
Schooner Archie and Fontie M. Turner Benicia 64.48 61.26
Sloop Ah Loy   San Bruno 12.38 11.77
Propeller Elizabeth A. Hay San Francisco 25.81 12.91
Sloop Goaskher G. W. Kneass San Francisco 10.34 9.83
Schooner Emma M. Turner Benicia 25.33 24.07
Propeller Australia Risdon Iron Works San Francisco 2.755.25 1,937.89
Schooner Moonlight O. Hunsen Oregon 71.81 68.22
Propeller Tia Juana J. H. Burns San Francisco 26.00 15.12
Schooner Rio Rey C. G. White Alameda 84.17 79.97
Schooner Pitcairn M. Turner Benicia 121.52 115.45
Schooner Robert W. Logan M. Turner Benicia 30.12 28.62
Propeller Farragut Stone San Francisco 47.06 23.53
Steamer Sunol A. Hay Alameda 217.39 206.53
Schooner Samson A. Hay Alameda 217.39 206.53
Steamer Ukiah Dickie Bros Tiburon 2,564.42 2,018.77
Barkentine Charles F. Crocker C. G. White Alameda 855.23 812.59
Schooner Staghound A. Hay Alameda 152.79 145.16
Propeller Protection C. G. White Alameda 281.27 216.36
Propeller Del Norte Dickie Bros. Tiburon 450.11 279.66
Propeller Katie O'Neil   Coos Bay 56.10 33.98
Schooner Ramona M. Turner Benicia 34.74 31.50

Bethlehem Steel Company, San Francisco (formerly Union Iron Works)

Ship builders.

At the beginning of the year 1857, the project of building an iron works at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was inaugurated by residents of that vicinity, and a charter was taken out for "The Saucona Iron Company" on April 8th, 1857, the name being changed by Act of Legislature, March 31st, 1859, to "The Bethlehem Rolling Mills and Iron Company", and again, May 1st, 1861, to "The Bethlehem Iron Company". The Bethlehem Steel Corporation (1857-2003), base in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, once was the second largest steel producer in the United States (after Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based US Steel). But following its 2001 bankruptcy, the company was dissolved and the remaining assets sold to International Steel Group in 2003. In 2005, ISG merged with Mittal Steel, ending U.S. ownership of the assets of Bethlehem Steel. During its life, Bethlehem Steel was also one of the largest shipbuilding companies in the world and was one of the most powerful symbols of American manufacturing leadership. Among its shipyards was the Alameda Shipyard.

Boole & Beaton, San Francisco

February 14, 1888, Coronado Mercury, Coronado, California, U.S.A.

Boole, a shipbuilder of San Francisco, is building ten steam schooners -- one for Captain Samuel Blair, 130 feet long, 32 feet beam and 10 feet hold. She will carry $25,000 feet of lumber; also one for Pollard and Dodge, 125 feet long, 31 feet beam and 9-1/2 feet hold, and will carry 3000,000 feet of lumber.

Sea Queen, Propeller, San Francisco, 111.15 gross tonnage/404.18 net.

J. H. Burns, San Francisco

J. D. Damon, San Francisco

Zinfandel, Paddle Steamer, built in San Francisco, 1890s

Dickie Bros.: Portrero, Tiburon, Alameda Point (and Tiburon)

April 10, 1883, Daily Alta California, San Francisco
The new Mexican gunboat built by the Dickie Bros. was successfully launched at one o'clock this morning. She is a fine-looking vessel. The new steam whaler now nearly completed at Dickie's yard will be launched on the 20th instant.

November 25, 1880, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California
A well-proportioned screw steamer of about 300 tons burden is being constructed at the Potrero by Dickie Bros. She is 144 feet long on the water line, and 156 feet over all. Her breadth of beam is 27 feet, and depth of hold 12 feet. The material used in her construction is Oregon pine, fastened by galvanized iron bolts. She is strongly built and is expected to attain a speed of ten knots an hour. A compound engine, with cylinders 18 and 34 inches in diameter, will drive her propeller, which is 9 feet 4 inches pitch. Indiana addition to her steam power she is rigged as a schooner. She is destined to ply as a freight and passenger boat in the Hawaiian waters, and will be launched some time next January.

June 1, 1883, Daily Alta California, San Francisco
Auction/Trustee Sale of Dickie Bros. Shipyard on Illinois Street between Santa Clara and Centre Streets: Steam engine, boiler, plainers, lumber, planking, brass, Copper Bars, 500 Composition Black Clinch Rings. . . Real Estate: Dickie Bros. real estate at Pennsylvania avenue and Butte street. . .

August 10, 1890, San Francisco Call, San Francisco


A third ship-yard will soon be established on the banks of the estuary, at Alameda Point. Dickie Bros, who have their extensive yards at Tiburon, will move to their newly selected site as soon as the present ships building by them are launched. They will locate in the vicinity of White's shipyard, near which Alexander Hay has recently begun operations at his new shipyards on the estuary. Mr. Hay has begun on his first contract, consisting of a large sailing vessel, and Mr. White has several ships on the stocks, having already launched two this season. The shipValley Forge, which arrived on Friday from Departure Bay with 2000 tons of coal from the new Wellington mines, consigned to John Kosenfeld & Sons, commenced discharging yesterday. At an early hour yesterday morning coal-teams began to assemble at Howard-street Wharf 1, and soon the wharf was blocked and a. string of vehicles extended from Howard street along East to Mission. The first of the three new steamers for the Canadian Pacific will be launched in England on the 30th, and will sail fur the Pacific about the first of November. She will be named Empress of India. The others will follow at intervals of two months. The cost of the three steamers will exceed $3,000,000.

Gordon & Fraser, San Francisco

1880s: Francis Cutting, Propeller; Hermosa, Propeller;

Hay and Wright's Shipyard (Alameda Point)

August 10, 1890, San Francisco, San Francisco, California

ANOTHER SHIP-YARD. Alexander Hay has recently begun operations at his new shipyards on the estuary. Mr. Hay has begun on his first contract, consisting of a large sailing vessel.

October 16, 1898, San Francisco Call, San Francisco

Increasing Ferry Business.

OAKLAND, Oct. 15 The Davie Ferry Company is about to put an additional steamer on the route between Oakland and San Francisco, owing to the Increased amount of freight being received daily at the Franklin-street wharf. In all probability, the steamer Mount Eden, now undergoing repairs at Hay & Wright's shipyards, will be put in commission on the run.

August 13, 1904, San Francisco Call

Shipbuilding Business Has Changed Hands
Firm of Hay & Wright Is Taken Over by Captain B. H. Madison.

The old shipbuilding firm of Hay & Wright, 35 Steuart street, San Francisco, and Alameda Point, was sold yesterday to Captain B. H. Madison, who has taken over the yard, and will, in conjunction with the Pacific Marina Railway and Ways Company, continue to carry on the business.

Speaking of the purchase, Joseph Hutchlnson, the attorney, said: "The proceeds of the sale were distributed pro rata among the creditors immediately after, the completion of the transaction and all the other assets will be realized on as soon as possible and dividends declared from time to time until the creditors are paid in full.

The corporation of Hay & Wright grew out of the partnership of the same name, consisting of E. V. Wright and Alexander Hay. Wright died two years ago and Hay died a year later.

Matthew Turner, Benicia

1880s-1890s: Benecia, Propeller; Jennie, Propeller; Aleut, Propeller; Lydia; Schooner; Pinole, Schooner; Arthur, Schooner; Reliance, Propeller

May 6, 1878, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

The "Matthew Turner" Outsails All Her Rivals.

Yesterday being a fine day, with a good breeze, the schooner Matthew Turner, with her owner on board, and a party of Invited guests, "Along the Wharves" among them, got under way, from her anchorage in Mission Bay, and proceeded down the harbor. She was followed soon after by Turner's latest, the schooner Rosario, sailed by Captain Turner himself, and had over a hundred people on board. Both vessels presented a fine appearance, as they passed along the front, and on reaching North Point Dock, they picked up the little Consuelo, and one and all went after Boisse's new schooner, which, at the time, was about a mile ahead of the Turner, and, with a good breeze, was evidently doing her level best. Nothlng daunted, however, the Matthew Turner trimmed her sheets well aft, Gutte "piped all hands" to grog, and the effects were soon visible. On reaching Black Point, the Turner was up with her rival, and to windward withal, and continuing down. When tbe Turner was a half mlle outside the Fort, Boisse's schooner was barely abreast of the Presidio, with theRosario and Consuelo a mile below and to windward of her. We think this is a fair test of what Turner's models are, and all must agree that they can't be beat.

January 6, 1880, Daily Alta California

TONNAGE ENGAGED: Schooner Matthew Turner, 786 tons, merchandise to Tahiti.

December 28, 1887, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California

It is understood that the Alaska Commercial Company has contracted with Matthew Turner, the well-known shipbuilder, for an 1800-ton steamer to put in the salmon trade.

October 6, 1892, San Francisco Call

The Largest Vessel Ever Launched in the Shipyards at Benicia

Benicia, October 5. -- The largest vessel ever built at Turner's shipyards was successfullly launched today at 1 o'clock. Her deck line is 165 feet, beam 50 feet 6 inces and 16 feet depth of hold. She has a tonnage of 500 tons. She was built for Matthew Turner and others of San Francisco, and her rig will be that of a brigantine.

March 18, 1901, San Francisco Call

Will Bear Builder's Name.

Matthew Turner is building for himself a four-masted schooner, at Benlcia which is to bear his own name. Turner has built many vessels and on occasion has-been hard pressed for suitable names for the product of his yard. He declared some years ago that he wanted to turn out a vessel bearing his name, but would not so christen a craft unless he could personally select every stick of timber that went into her and supervise the construction from the laying of the keel to the stepping of the masts. He has been able at last to fulfill these conditions. The M. Turner is now in the frame and when she Is finished will be the best four-masted schooner Matthew Turner knows how to build.

August 3, 1902, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California

The Matthew Turner

The new schoonr Matthew Turner came down from Benicia yesterday and will leave for Eureka shortly to load lumber for Australia. The new vessel is 700 tons register, 210 feet long, 42 feet wide, and 16 feet deep.

February 1909: Noted Shipbuilder Called by Death

Pacific Coast Steamship Line

Pacific Coast Company. Gerald M. Best.

The Pacific Coast Company was a fascinating rail-marine operation which served the West Coast from San Diego to Alaska. Its rail components were both narrow gauge and, later, standard gauge railroads, and from its inception in the 19th century, it was an important factor in the growth of California and the West. In addition to railroads in San Luis Obispo and San Diego, a third line was at Seattle.

November 25, 1886, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California

Pacific Coast Company's Steamers

The Ancon has been thoroughly refitted and repaired and has been put in service in the Pacific Coast Steamship Company's southern line between this port and San Diego, taking the place of the George W. Elder. The Elder, after being overhauled, will run on the Oregon route.

June 9, 1887, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California

The Pacific Coast Steamship Company

Pacific Coast Steamship Line.

A certificate of the number of Directors of the Pacific Coast Steamship Company was filed yesterday. The new Directors are Charles Goodall of San Francisco, John L. Howard of Oakland, Elijah Smith of New; York, J. J. Higginaon of New York, J. N. Dennison of Boston, William Norris of San Francisco, S. G. Murphy of San Francisco, S. V. Smith of San Rafael and John Rosenfeld of San Francisco.

February 14, 1890, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California

More Sailors on Strike.

Last night about six - o'clock- the sailors on board the Pacific Coast Steamship Companys steamship Coos Bay walked off the vessel and joined the crews of the Corona and State ofCalifornia, who went on a strike yesterdaj morning because the company compelled them to keep the ships clean in addition to handlin┬░ freight at terminal and way ports.

Risdon Iron Works, San Francisco, Alameda Point

April 22, 1890, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California

Good Prospects of Building More Cruisers on the Coast

James Guiler, representing the Risdon Iron Works of San Francisco, formerly of the Union Iron Works, has been in the East for some time in the interest of his company. he has been in Washington for several days past, and has put in a good deal of his time at the Navy Department interviewing Secretary Tracy, Commodore Melville, Chief of Ordnance and Naval Constructor Hichborn, in regard to the feasibility of his firm entering bids for the proposed new cruisers Nos. 2 and 6, advertisements for which will soon be issued. Mr. Guiler, as a result of his interview, has notified Secretary Tracy that the Risdon Iron Works will submit bids on both cruisers . . . possibly both of the vessels will be built on the Pacific coast.

May 30, 1900, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California

New Schooner Launched

Oakland, May 20. -- The schooner William Olsen was launched today from Hay & Wright's shipyards.

August 3, 1901, San Francsico Call, San Francisco, California

Many Vessels at the Risdon.

The Risdon Iron Works' shipyard and the bay in its vicinity presents a very pretty appearance since the strike began. A number of sugar boats are anchored near by, while the steamships Alameda and Mariposa are at the wharves, the Henry B. Hyde is discharging coal and the Willie Rickmers is awaiting a chance to be remasted. The latter vessel put in here in distress several months ago and new yards and spars for her are on their way here from Europe. Work on the boilers and machinery of the Alameda is now nearing completion and the steamship will be ready to go out in the Mariposa's place on August 31.

Stone & Swann, Tiburon (1853-1899)

William I. Stone, from Dartmouth, England, established a boatyard in the Hunter's Point area of San Francisco in 1853, where he specialized in building commercial schooners and tugboats as well as racing and recreational yachts. He was in business until 1892, when his son, Frank, took over, moving the business to Beach Street in Tiburon, to a site that is now occupied by Sam's Anchor Cafe. Then, in 1899, Frank moved the operation again, to Harbor View, in San Francisco. In 1911, he was evicted from this location and moved to a site at the foot of Diesel Way, in Oakland, adjacent to the Union Diesel Engine Company.

Turner's Shipyards, Benicia

October 6, 1892, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California

The largest vessel ever built at Turner's Shipyards was successfully launched today at 1 o'clock. her deckline is 165 feet, beam 30 feet 6 inches and 16 feet depth of hold. She has a tonnage of 500 tons. She was built for Matthew Turner and others of San Francisco, and her rig will be that of a brigantine.

August 1, 1998, San Francisco Call: Queen of the Isles, a new boat just turned out of Captain Turner's shipyards at Benicia, anchored at Howard-street wharf late yesterday afternoon and attracted a great deal of attention. Her bright appearance and graceful lines were favorably commented on. Captain Weir, her owner, states that she will shortly leave for the Caroline Islands on a general trading venture.

Union Iron Works

The Donahue Brothers, Peter and James, Scots-Irish immigrants, founded Union Iron Works in the south of Market area of San Francisco in 1849.

Risdon Iron Works.

After years as the premiere producer of mining, railroad, agricultural and locomotive machinery in California, Union Iron Works, led by I. M. Scott, entered the ship building business and relocated to an area known as Scotch Hill (now Portrero Hill) in the 1800s due to the Scottish boat builders and iron workers who lived above the Union Iron Works. The first U.S.S. San Francisco was a cruiser built at the Union Iron Works. She was commissioned in 1890 and later converted to a mine layer called the Yosemite.

In 1885, the Union Iron Works launched the first steel hulled ship on the west coast, the Arago, built with steel from the Pacific Rolling Mills. In 1886, UIW was awarded a one million dollar contract to build a Naval cruiser, the Charleston, which they completed in eighteen months. From the completion of the Arago in 1884 to 1902, Union Iron Works built seventy-five marine vessels, including two of the most famous vessels of the Spanish American war, the Olympia and theOregon.

February 2, 1886, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

For the Oceanic Company May Perhaps be Built at this Port.

In regard to the proposed construction of a 4000-ton steamship by the Oceanic Company, it is not settled that Cramp of Philadelphia, who built the Alameda and Mariposa, will get the contract, but he will obtain it only on condition that he underbids other American builders. The Union Iron Works of this city may get the contract. In speaking of the probability of the work being done on this coast, Claus Spreckels expressed a decided preference for spending the sum (roughly estimated at $600,000) at the shipyards of San Francisco. The managers of the Union Iron Works will have a field of equal competition for the contract, with several points in their favor, and if it is found that the work can be done successfully here, Eastern builders will not get the work. In making estimates the officers of the company figure that they could save $60,000 by having the ship built in the yards of Scotland, but they hold fast to the conviction that ship-building enterprises in the United States should be promoted to every degree possible by our own citizens, and also fostered by Congress. In naming ships of the Oceanic fleet it was decided when the first vessel was built to name all the steamers in the line in honor of counties of California ending with the letter "a," and it is understood that this rule will be adhered to. New iron ships will be constructed from time to time, as the growth of commerce demands.

September 23, 1887, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

Work of Constructing the Hull Being Rapidly Pushed Forward

Ship builders.

Large crowds are daily visiting the shipyards of the Union Iron Works at the Potrero, mainly to observe the work of constructing the iron hull of the Government cruiser Charleston, a miniature model of which is on exhibition at the Mechanics' Fair. The aft and midship keel is laid, and the port ribs all up. Yesterday the rudder-post was placed in position and a few of the interior plates were riveted out. Superintendent Gregg, who has charge of the work of construction, has 125 men in his employ, and will, as soon as possible, increase his force from day to day. An idea of the thoroughness of the construction of the vessel can be gained from the huge steel ribs which are placed four feet apart and to which the plates will be riveted. The apparent strength of the rudder-post was also commented on by the visitors. Every piece of steel and iron necessary for the construction of the Charleston can be shaped in the shops of the Union Iron Works with the exception of the plates, the company having, as yet, no facility for rolling them. These will be imported from Pennsylvania.

November 21, 1888, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California

EAST VS. WEST: California In the Lead in Steel Ship Construction.

Washington, November 20th. Out of the recent efforts of the Government to build a navy has grown a rivalry between the East and West that occasionally bursts forth in a somewhat spirited manner. Perhaps the best exponent of this contest is to be found in the construction of the two new cruisers, the Baltimore and Charleston. The former was begun by the Cramps of Philadelphia several months before the Union Iron Works of San Francisco started on the latter, but the two ships have been kept in about the same stage of construction, so that comparisons and criticisms have been sent back and forth, to the edification of the department and the public. At first the Eastern firms laughed at the idea of a Western concern undertaking to build a battleship, but from the present outlook it would seem that the Department did not make a mistake in giving the San Francisco builders a part of the work. Although the Charleston was begun some time after theBaltimore, she was launched in July last, while the Baltimore did not touch the water till September. The former is also in a much more advanced stage, the ninth payment on her being recommended to the Department last week, while there has been but seven or eight made on the Baltimore. This means that the Charleston will be ready for her trial sometime before the Eastern-built ship.

October 13, 1900, Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, California


The trial trip of the battleship Wisconsin, built In the Union Iron works shipyards, was another splendid triumph for the Pacific Coast. As the special dispatch to The Heraldphrased it, it was the West pitted against the East, and the West won. The contract for theWisconsin called for sixteen knots speed. In fact, a maximum speed of 18.54 knots was attained, the average for the trial of sixty-four knots being 17.25 knots an hour. And there was not a single hitch. It was the most successful trial trip ever made by a battleship; and if the East or any foreign country should do better, the Messrs. Scott, who built the Wisconsin, and also the Oregon, "the pride of the Navy," will try again.

United Engineering Works, Alameda

November 27, 1908, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California

"Inspector" Will Be Placed in Commission for Immigration Service Early Next Year

Government, state and city officials witnessed the launching of the new immigration steamerInspector at the yards of the United engineering works in Alameda at 12:30 yesterday. The new boat, which has been ready to take the water for several weeks, plunged into the waters of the bay in a most graceful manner. As the craft left, the ways, Miss Elinore Knowland, daughter of Congressman Joseph R. Knowland, broke a bottle of California wine over the bow, christening the vessel Inspector.

The vessel, which is somewhat larger than the ordinary tug and which has accommodations for passengers, is to be used for harbor service exclusively. It was built by the United engineering works, under the supervision of Immigration Inspector Hart North, Inspector of Steam Vessels Bermingham and Superintendent Coyle of the revenue cutter service. The vessel is 70 feet in length and has a beam of 12 feet 6 inches. It will draw about 12 feet of water and will have a speed of 10 knots. The builders of the vessel have been waiting for several weeks for the order to proceed with the launching. No date had been set, and they were taken by surprise when they received orders to launch the boat on Thanksgiving day. The Inspector will go into commission shortly after the first of the new year.

J. A. Whelan Brothers

J. A. Whelan Brothers, of San Francisco, have built a stern wheel steam boat, eighty feet keel, ten feet beam, and three and a half feet hold, for parties in Siberia. She will when built be taken apart, and packed and shipping on vessel to ther destination, where she will be used to explore the waters of the Amoor River, exploring for gold.

C. G. White, Alameda

December 10, 1895, Oakland Tribune, Oakland, California

Ship builders.
Puck Magazine
Ship-Building for Repairs
Bernhard Gilliam

The Washington correspondent of the New York Sun admits that the contract for one of the battleships for which bids were recently opened will go to the Union Iron Works in San Francisco: "But the provision provision of Congress is that one of the battle ships shall be built on the Pacific coast, provided this can be done at a fair cost. Paying $300,000 would indeed be unreasonable for the privilege of building a vessel on the Pacific. But in the case of theIndiana and her mates, with a similar provision in the act of Congress, when the Union Iron Works in San Francisco bid $10,000 more for one vessel than the Cramps, the department proposed that this excess should be reduced one-half, and the Union Iron Works on assenting thereto, received the contract. Secretary Tracy explained In his report that the additional sum of $60.000 paid to the Union Iron Works for the Oregon over theIndiana "was considered reasonable in view of the increased cost, estimated by actual calculation of the transportation of material necessarily obtained at the East."

Vessels Built on the Pacific Coast

February 12, 1877, Daily Alta California, San Francisco


Shipbuilding on the Pacific Coast 1876.


The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



Kindly Kindly support our work.


DALevy @ MaritimeHeritage.org
164 Robles Way
Suite 237
Vallejo, California
94591 ~ U.S.A.


Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

Please inform us if you link from your site. Please do NOT link from your site unless your site specifically relates to immigration in the 1800s, family history, maritime history, international seaports, and/or California history.