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Fore River Shipyard began as a small, one-man operation. The yard was founded as the Fore River Engine Company in 1884 by Thomas Augustus Watson, who is best known for being Alexander Graham Bell’s assistant. Eventually, the company would play a role in both world wars and the cold war, launching over 600 ships and growing to become one of the nation’s largest shipyards.

Over 500 Navy ships have emerged from the Fore River Shipyard since Quincy received its first contracts in 1899. It was initially asked to build two 400-ton destroyer gunboats, but following those two ships the company built cruisers, aircraft carriers, destroyers, battleships and submarines.

Under new management by 1913, Fore River Shipyard company prospered, and carried the names Bethlehem Fore River, and later Bethlehem Quincy. Bethlehem Steel, the new owners, made expansions on the yard in preparations for the war. Seventy-one destroyers emerged from the yard during the war, and 15,000 people found employment on its docks. The Fore River Yard and the new Squantum yard built 10 submarines, 18 destroyers, and 6 merchant ships in 1918 alone.

In 1927, Quincy built the USS Lexington (CV2), which along with the Saratoga, made up an important portion of the US carrier forces during WWII. With the fame of the Lexington, known as the “Queen of the Flattops,” the shipyard grew to employ 17,000 by 1941 and offered greatly expanded facilities. Another yard, located in nearby Hingham, was added to the company, and the new yard constructed destroyer escorts and landing ships (LST, LCI (L)). Despite a wide variety of shipbuilding assignments after the war, orders had stopped coming in by 1963 and Bethlehem closed its yard down.

General Dynamics Corporation soon purchased and began updating the Quincy shipyard, replacing conventional sliding ways with modern construction basins, using “pre-outfitted” construction techniques, and implementing a vastly automated production process. The new shipyard became the Quincy Shipbuilding Division and sister division to Electric Boat in Groton, CT.

During the mid-’80s, Quincy received its last major contract to construct five Maritime Pre-positioning Ships (MPS) for the US Navy. These huge 42,000-ton ships could hold all the equipment and supplies needed to support 3,000 men for 30 days. Few new contracts followed, and Bethlehem began to fall apart.

Today the United States Naval and Shipbuilding Museum sits at the site of the Quincy shipyard. The museum boasts the cruiser Salem (CA139) as its showpiece.

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Tara Strand Senior Content Writer

Tara Strand specializes in researching and writing about asbestos, raising awareness and advocating for a ban.

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Jennifer Lucarelli Legal Advisor and Contributor

Jennifer Lucarelli is a partner at the law firm of Early, Lucarelli, Sweeney & Meisenkothen, specializing in asbestos litigation.

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