VIPs in San Francisco


San Francisco Call, July 31, 1898


Brief Sketch of the Career of George W. Dickie of the Union Iron Works.

The following biographical sketch of Mr. Dickie has Just been prepared by John W, Richards, one of the contributors of Cassler's Magazine, and is to be published in the forthcoming number of that periodical.

George W. Dickie was born at Ardroth, Scotland, sixty years ago. He first trained in his father's shipyard at Ardroth, and afterward moved to Dundee. After this he served an apprenticeship with a North British railroad, and was then trained in construction of textile machinery and hydraulic machines and apparatus, and then became qualified for the multifarious duties which he has been called upon to discharge in San Francisco. He is a personal friend and is closely connected In a political sense with Commodore George W. Melville, Chief of the Bureau of Steam Engineering of the United States Navy. They have extended reciprocal aid to each other. His present position as a ship-builder is as well established in other countries as at home.

The use and progress of deep water shipbuilding on the Pacific Coast has been due in a great measure to the personal acts of Mr. Dickie, who holds the position of chief engineer of the Union Iron Works. Shipbuilding may be said to be congenital in the Dickie family, who for more than 200 years have all been shipbuilders. When he came to the coast, more than twenty years ago, he came with the object of establishing shipbuilding here. At that time iron shipbuilding had not been commenced in the United States, but the change from wood to metal was evident and people hesitated to engage in an industry which had apparently so little permanence as wooden ship

Mr Dickie became chief constructing engineer for the Risdon Iron Works after first building the San Francisco Gas Works, and a little later on for the famous Comstock lode at Virginia Cityengineering works of a novel character. Tn the meantime he had induced his brothers to follow him to this coastJames Dickie, now shipbuilder for the Union Iron Works, and John Dickie, who occupies the same position in the Fulton Iron Works. They established the firm of Dickie Bros., which, however, did not include the personal services of George Dickie.

About 1884 he prepared elaborate and complete drawings for what is called composite vessels, with the intention of establishing a line between San Francisco and New York via the Straits of Magellan, which enterprise failed owing to the non-investment of capital.

In 1885 he attempted an organization in San Francisco composed of a number of our most prominent citizens to absorb the business of Dickie Bros., and to found a manufactory for the building of iron steamships. About the same time the Union Iron Works conceived a similar scheme which, under the direction of Irving M. Scott, took form in the acquirement of land at the Potrero, and the removal of the works to that place. As there was not room for the two kindred enterprises, Mr. Dickie was induced to become a member of the Union Iron Works, representing the shipbuilding branch of their industry as chief engineer. The building of Government vessels by the Union Iron Works was commenced after a visit of Irving M. Scott to the Navy Department and other executive branches of the Government at Washington.

The history of subsequent contracts for the Government has culminated in the construction of the battleship Oregon, the first being the Charleston. The Oregon speaks for itself, for Mr. Dickie and for the Union Iron Works, and is perhaps the best vessel of its class in the world. The immense labor of drawing plans and making computations devolved entirely upon Mr. Dixie, who, in one case, was in his office almost all the time for six months.

One thing in connection with Mr. Dickie's recent visit to Japan is not generally known. He went there after Mr. Scott had returned to find that England had sent the war vessel Edgar there for the same purpose, namely, to secure contracts for building Japanese warships. He went on board the Edgar, introduced himself to the captain, and told his purpose. The English officer acted manfully and introduced him to the Japanese naval officials. In company with Lord and Lady Spencer and a number of other distinguished guests he was taken on an excursion in the Edgar around the Sea of Japan. The fair treatment accorded by the Britishers gave this country an equal show in competition, and Mr. Dickie received contracts for two Japanese war vessels. This incident is very pleasing, taken in connection with the friendly relations now existing between England and America.

While a good writer and conversationalist, Mr. Dickie is withal so mod- est of character and reticent of speech that Mr. Richards had to secure the facts of his biography from friends.

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 @

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.