Remembering Hog Island, 1917-1921

Built in just 10 months, it was the nation's largest shipyard

Terminal E

Philadelphia's Hog Island was the first shipyard built for the mass production of freighters as a result of the onset of World War I. In 1917, the United States established several government-owned shipyards to fulfill its wartime shipping needs-to get troops and supplies to Europe as quickly as possible. Contracts were signed over the next year and Hog Island Shipyard, the largest of three such facilities, was slated to build 180 ships-vessels that came to be known as Hog Islanders. To meet the hastened schedule, the process of shipbuilding had to be reinvented. Like a modern day assembly line, Hog Island was the first shipyard designed to build 50 ships simultaneously.

With groundbreaking ceremonies on September 22, 1917, Hog Island celebrated its first launch just 10 months later on August 5, 1918. With approximately 100,000 people in attendance, including President and Mrs. Woodrow Wilson, the ship known as Quistconck was ceremoniously christened, although it was not 100% complete. Unfortunately, the Quistconck was not fully seaworthy until after November 11, 1918, when the war officially ended.

Hog Island was said to be the "eighth wonder of the world," but throughout the entire development of the shipyard, it was plagued with enormous cost overruns and government investigations. Not one ship was delivered before the war ended. Over its 4-year lifespan, a total of 122 ships were built, with the last one delivered on January 22, 1921.

In 1930, the United States government transferred ownership of the 911 acres of Hog Island to the City of Philadelphia in order to develop Philadelphia Municipal Airport.