Yorkship Village under construction in 1918 (Courtesy Ralph Jones, scanned at the National Archives)

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One of the most confusingly named companies in the history of South Jersey was also one of the most important. Called the New York Shipbuilding Corporation, it was massive enough to create a whole neighborhood.

How did a company in the Philadelphia region end up with that name?

New York Ship, as it was often called, was born in 1899. Founder Henry Morse intended to locate the company at a site in Staten Island.

But when he couldn’t secure that plot, he relocated to a spot along the Delaware River in Camden, New Jersey.

Morse had already filed the incorporation papers for “New York Shipbuilding Corporation.”

And whether out of thrift or laziness, he just decided to keep the name.

New York Ship’s incongruous title did not deter its growth.

By building vessels for America’s rapidly expanding naval fleet, it became the largest shipyard in the world by 1917, per company history.

America’s entry into WWI only fueled the company’s growth.

To house its booming labor force, New York Ship built its own planned community, inside Camden, called “Yorkship Village.”

The federal War Department bankrolled the effort, which led to the construction of 1,000 homes.

It was the nation’s first federally funded planned community.

The neighborhood has since been renamed Fairview, but there’s an elementary school still called Yorkship.

And you can still walk its distinctive streets — modeled on an English village.

New York Ship continued to churn out vessels, both warships and commercial liners.

And when WWII came around, production skyrocketed. The company built several of the war’s most famous ships, including the USS South Dakota, which played a key role in the Pacific theater.

According to company history, New York Ship once employed 30,000 people during its WWII peak (30k people!).

At the time there were about 118,000 people living in Camden, New Jersey.

So the workforce of this one company was equivalent to about 25% of the city’s total population.

With the end of World War II, New York Ship entered its final chapter.

The company built nuclear submarines and other vessels in the post-war years, but Navy contracts soon slowed to a trickle.

It’s no surprise that bitter labor disputes arose, typical of a company or industry in decline.

1954 was an especially tumultuous year. In November there was a massive work stoppage amid rumors that NY Ship’s owners were trying to liquidate.

The company survived that scare. But the end was still near.

In 1967, New York Ship built its final vessel.

It was named….USS Camden.

Originally tweeted by Avi Wolfman-Arent (@Avi_WA) on April 6, 2023.

Avi Wolfman-Arent is co-host of Studio 2 and a broadcast anchor on 90.9 FM. He was previously an education reporter with WHYY, where he's worked since 2014. Prior to that he covered nonprofits for the...