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1918 Bethlehem Shipbuilding, Charles Schwab USS "Liberty"

Bethlehem Shipbuilding, Charles Schwab USS "Liberty" Launch 1918

On April 16, 1918, Charles Michael Schwab became Director General of the Emergency Fleet Corporation and Edward N. Hurley, Chairman of the US Shipping Board. A few months later, June 19, 1918, they launch the freighter USS "Liberty" at the shipyard in Newark, New Jersey. Large crowd gather at Federal Shipbuilding Company holding American flags and (straw boater) hats to cheer. Freighter is launched and leaves dock. (Footage of this launch, available on youtube.) Photo images scarce.

Pershing Cables- A portrait of General John J. Pershing below where Schwab stands encouraging shipbuilders. All the hard work contributions from the production front workers are important to America's success fighting for the Allied cause.  (Produced for the U.S. Shipping Board Emergency Fleet Corp in 1917.)  

American and British Flag- On April 6, 1917, the U.S. joined its allies--Britain, France, and Russia--to fight in World War I. Under the command of Major General John J. Pershing, more than 2 million U.S. soldiers fought on battlefields in France. Bethlehem Steel was an engine for the Allied cause, building warships for Great Britain at Bethlehem Shipyards. Bethlehem also filled orders for guns and munitions, armor, and ordnance placed by the British, French, and Russian governments.

Bethlehem Steel’s Shipbuilding History

The creation of Bethlehem Steel’s shipbuilding division was catalyzed by the company’s receipt of government contracts aiming to refurbish and modernize the long-neglected naval fleet, in 1887. With the resulting addition of the first heavy forging plant in the U.S., Bethlehem Steelwas able to completely revitalize the U.S. fleet by the late 1890s, empowering America’s defeat of the Spanish in the Spanish-American War. This laid the groundwork for what came to be one of the most profitable arms of the company in the early 20th century. Between 1900 and 1914, it came to be known as a lead producer of arms, armor plating and ships, sought after by nations the world-over to modernize their fleets. The shipbuilding division was formally formed in 1905 and incorporated in 1917 as the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, Ltd., following the gradual acquisition of shipyards across the country and the outbreak of WWI. Integral to the American and Allied war effort during both world wars, Bethlehem’s shipbuilding operations proved particularly pivotal to the Allied victory in WWII. By 1940, it had grown to be the largest shipbuilding company in the world, reaching the height of its accomplishment with the production of 1,127 steel ships and one-fifth of America’s two-ocean naval fleet in service to the war effort. The success of Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, Ltd. continued throughout the post-war era and well into the 1960s. Following a very gradual decline, operations eventually ceased in 1997.  

  • Title: Launching of  USS "Liberty"Bethlehem Steel Ship Yard
  • Artist: Credit: Bancroft Library
  • Location:at Newark Harbor
  • Date:June 19, 1918.
  • Provenance: American Heritage Publishing (printed in the second half of the 20th century as part of their archive)
  • Medium: Black & White silver print fiber glossy photograph
  • Dimensions:8X10
  • Classification:Work & Industry: Steel- Shipbuilding
  • CommonalityRare, Authenticated