In spite of the fact that the greater part of our trade with other countries is carried in foreign bottoms, the shipping industry of the United States, thanks to our ever-increasing coastwise and river and lake traf fic, continues to make satisfactory progress. The sta tistics recently published by the Bureau of the Census on shipbuilding, covering the year 1904-5, show that 1,097 establishments, outside of those conducted by the government, were engaged in iron and steel or wooden shipbuilding. These establishments represented a total capitalization of over 121 million dollars; they, employed over 50,000 wage earners, to whom was paid over 29 million dollars in wages; the materials cost over 37 million dollars; while the finished products were valued at 83 million dollars. In any estimate of the progress of shipbuilding in the United States, it is customary to go back to the period immediately preceding the civil war, when this country led the world in the extent and quality of its shipping. In the present case a comparison of the arove figures with those of the census of 1850 shows that the industry, in spite of our relative backwardness in the carrying of over-sea commerce, has made reo markable progress; for the capital invested has increased twenty-onefold, and the product nearly fourfold. In a comparison with the status of shipbnilding in the year 1880, when the 2,188 establishments repre senied an invested capital of 21 million dollars and an output of 37 million dollars, shipbuilding twenty-five years later represented nearly six times the amount of capital, invested in about onehalf the number of establishments, and its output had increased to 83 million dollars. The figures showing the decrease of wooden and increase. of iron and steel construction are interesting; for we find that whereas in 1900, of the entire shipbuilding of the country 77.4 per cent was invested in iron and steel construction, in 1905 the proportion had risen to 83.5 per cent. That the majority of the establishments engaged in iron and steel construction reo quire costly and expensive equipment, while most of those engaged in wooden construction are small yards which perform minor repairs on small vessels, and turn out wooden vessels of comparatively light tonnage, is proved by the .fact that of the total number of 1,097 private establishments reported in 1905, 1,043 were en gaged in wooden construction work, and 83.5 per cent of the total shipbuilding capital was represented by the other 54 establishments. The increasing importance of iron and steel in shipbuilding within the last fifteen years is seen in the fact that, as an item of expense, in 1890 the cost of iron and steel was less important than the cost of lnmber; whereas in 1905 the former constituted 41.2 per cent, and the latter only 17.9 per cent of the amount paid for material. New York and Pennsylvania have always been amongthe leading States in shipbuilding; and of late Virginia has made the most striking progress, having risen since 1880 from twenty-second to third position among the States in the value of its output of ship ping. Nearly three-fourths of the aggregate value of complete.d ships is now produced in the Atlantic and Gulf district. In view of the magnitude of the ship ping interests on the Great Lakes, it is surprising to learn that the value of the output of the Pacific coast shipbuilding establishments is greater than that of the Great Lakes. The work of building up a great navy is reflected in the total value of the output of the govern ment yards, and we find that the value of the product of the government establishments has increased from about 11 millions in 1900 to over 17 millions in 1905, or 56.6 per cent. The increase in size and cost of merchant vessels is shown by the fact that, whereas the average valne of the 2,415 vessels launched in 1880 was $7,961, the average value of the 2,248 vessels launched in 1905 was $32,683. It cannot be disputed that the interests of the merchant marine languish mainly because of the high cost of construction and operation of ocean-going ships, and the consequent impossibility of American built and manned vessels competing successfully against those of foreign nations without the assistance of some form of subsidy; and, indeed, it is chiefly the fact that vessels for the coastwise, lake, and river service are required by law to oe American-built that has made it possible for shipbuilding to maintain as firm a footing as it has in this country. The French airship "Patrie," in a two hours' flight on July 21, carried out a number of evolutions in connection with the use of guide ropes and coming to earth at a given spot in the shortest time possible. The airship once came down to within 3 feet of the earth, and then rose rapidly to 300 feet. It was brought to earth from that height within fifteen minutes.
This article was originally published with the title "Shipbuilding in the United States" in Scientific American 97, 18, 302 (November 1907)