The Philadelphia Navy Yard: From the Birth of the U.S. Navy to the Nuclear Age

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University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001 - History - 271 pages
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The history of the Philadelphia Navy Yard is the history of the American Navy. Originally started in 1762 as a collection of some of the most skilled shipwrights in the colonies, it witnessed the birth of the United States Navy and the Marine Corps and outfitted the first American fleet in 1775. The yard was the site for the organization of a Navy Department, the Navy shore establishment, and the construction of the 44-gun frigate United States, the first American warship to be launched under the naval provisions of the Constitution. As the Navy converted its ships from sail to steam in the mid-nineteenth century, the Philadelphia Navy Yard was a leader in naval innovation, particularly the development of the screw propeller. During the Civil War, it stood as the first line of coastal defense for the Union as all navy yards to the south fell to the Confederacy.

Outgrowing its location in the Southwark district of Philadelphia, the Navy Yard moved to League Island in 1876 and became the center for such technological developments as radio and steam turbine propulsion. By World War II, the Philadelphia Navy Yard had become one of the most modern and productive shipbuilding industrial plants in the world. It was responsible for constructing scores of warships, including the largest U.S. battleships, New Jersey and Wisconsin. Following the war, the yard continued to serve as a vital part of the Navy shore establishment, refurbishing and modernizing vessels as well as maintaining a large reserve fleet. But despite two centuries of dedication to shipbuilding and technological innovation, the venerable Philadelphia Navy Yard was closed in 1996 as part of an effort to reduce federal expenditures.

In this definitive history of one of America's most illustrious military institutions, Jeffery M. Dorwart explains how the Philadelphia Navy Yard struggled throughout its history to survive, while remaining a viable and integral part of the nation's defense. Illustrated with 125 archival photographs and 10 detailed maps, The Philadelphia Navy Yard provides a candid and complete history of the relationship of this important facility to local and national politics and social and economic change, while highlighting the contributions of America's first government-operated naval shipyard.

A Barra Foundation Book

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About the author (2001)

Jeffery M. Dorwart is Professor of History at Rutgers University, Camden and is the author of Fort Mifflin of Philadelphia, also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press. Jean K. Wolf is a research historian and proprietor of Wolf Historic Preservation in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.

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