Photographic Archive of Dravo Corporation ship launches during World War II.

Wilmington, DE & Pittsburgh, PA: F.R. Dravo Corporation, 1942-45 Stock Code: 136238
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Extensive archive of WWII shipbuilding.

A remarkable archive of 113 silver gelatin photographs chronicling the launches of the complete range of vessels produced by the company during the war years - Destroyer Escorts (DE), Landing Ship Tanks (LST), Landing Ship Medium (LSM), Minelayers, Submarine Chasers, Barges, and even floating dry-docks. Many of the images include group portraits of the launcing party, naval, government and company representatives.

This uncommon archive traces the shipbuilding activities for the Dravo Corporation based in Bethlehem Steel's Wilmington, DE shipyards during World War II. The F.R. Dravo Corp. had specialized for decades in developing equipment necessary for shipbuilding, dam construction, and barges, tugboats, dump scows, and floating concrete mixers. In Dec., 1941 the US Navy realized that the Allies would have to physically invade Nazi-occupied North Africa, and Europe, and the Japanese-held territories in the Pacific, so they approached the Dravo Corp. for producing LST and LSM craft for tanks and soldiers to take the beaches, as well as Destroyer Escorts to fend off German U-Boat and Japanese submarine attacks on shipping. The company quickly moved to set up state-of-the-art assembly lines for high-speed production, with prefabricated sections shipworkers quickly assembled by electric welding, replacing slower traditional riveting methods. The LSTs which sailed out of Dravo shipyards were 328 feet, over 50 feet wide, and could sail across the ocean carrying 700 tons of cargo and equipment, and a battalion of men and tanks right onto the beaches. The photos included here depict the launching and commissioning of the USS Alger, DE-101, which launched July, 1943, served in the Caribbean, and was later sold to Brazil and renamed the NAe Babitonga; USS Scott, DE-214, later scrapped in 1967; USS Cannon, DE-99, named for George H. Cannon, Medal of Honor recipient which was deployed for tanker escort duty, and transferred to Brazil in Dec. 1944 renamed the Baependi; as well as the PC576, Hull No. 1915 launched as a patrol craft submarine chaser in Sept., 1942. The LSM craft depicted here include the USS LSM-206 launched April 22, 1944, comissioned with Lt. Gordon Mackenzie in command and earned one battle star in the Pacific; LSM-226, launched Sept. 1944, laid up 1946, and later sent to France, and finally Vietnam where its was named the Lam Giang (HQ 402); and the LSM-201 launched April 14, 1944, deployed in Europe, and later sold to Capitol Salvage in 1947 for scrapping, with photo showing a tank emerging into the water on a beach landing. Also represented are photos of the BYMS-31 Yard Minesweeper which was one of the 561 produced in 1942; the A11 18,000 ton floating dry dock deployed in Europe; and the YF-324 Covered Lighter Barge, later towed by the US Navy 4th Fleet to Recife. Ship commissioning celebrations were key morale boosters, for both shipyard workers, and the Homefront during World War II, with the presence in these photos of the sponsors, the Maid/matron(s) of honor to serve as representative in events, and the ceremony filled with wedding themes. Frank R. Dravo (1866-1934) and Ralph Dravo (1868-1934) were both engineering graduates of Lehigh University, and quickly established a thriving company based out of Pittsburgh, PA in 1891, went public in 1936, and the Wilmington, DE shipyard with 10,600 employees during World War II produced 20 sub-chasers and minesweepers, 27 DEs, and 65 LSMs for the war effort, as well as a large number of cranes, heaters, barges, and tugboats. Sanborn (1869-1959), and his son Sanborn, Jr. (1911-1964) operated Sanborn Studios in Wilmington, DE from 1904 until 1964, and today over 100,000 of their negatives reside at the Delaware Historical Society.

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Oblong 4to. Recent dark blue cloth post-binder (240 x 295 mm), title gilt to the front board, containing 113 "8 x 10" (204 x 245 mm) silver gelatin photographs, each preserved in individual archival mylar sleeve, many with ship specs the negative along the bottom edge, several with pencil annotations, or typed captions affixed to versos, most with negative numbers, or ship hull numbers in the lower margin. .


A couple of the photographs with minor creasing, a couple with short splits, remains an excellent collection, well presented.


William K. Fitch & Carl B. Jansen, Dravo: An Engineering Enterprise (1954); Dravo Corporation Historical Marker, ExplorePAHistory (2019); Tim Colton, Dravo Corporation, Wilmington, DE (June 11, 2019).


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