Shipbuilding

by Travis, age 13; Darren, age 13; & Boy, age 12

Shipbuilding in Medford, Massachusetts was one of the biggest and most important business in its early history. Shipbuilding was one of the business that put Medford on the map. At first shipbuilding was a very small but profitable business. Medford only had a few shipbuilders but that changed as soon as people heard about the profit an investor could receive if a business started there. This is when shipbuilding in Medford became a land mark. The first record of shipbuilding was in 1631 July 4, it was 30 tons and built by John Winthrop called the "Blessing of the Bay" and was sold for 145 pounds. After that there were 3 ships recorded being sold after the "Blessing of the Bay." Shipbuilding in Medford really started to pick up a year after the "Blessing of the Bay" when Matthew Cradock built a ship of one hundred tons on the bank of the Mystic River. For some people shipbuilding became a very profitable business if you were successful. Medford's shipbuilding was a very important business with even the triangle trade as well as making a very large and historic business for Medford.

Shipbuilding was a big business that gave plenty to early Medford. It gave men jobs, brought money to Medford, and brought the opportunity to travel and to trade to our community. Shipbuilders such as Thatcher Magoun and Calvin Turner would order timber to build ships from neighboring cities and towns. This alone could provide Medford with news through the "grape-vine" fashion. But shipbuilding did other things for Medford. In a way, it kept our cities rum industry alive. Without ships to sail to the West Indies, Medford wouldn't be able to get its hands on molasses. Without molasses, rum can not be made. So in a way, shipbuilding held the rum industry on its shoulders, and rum brought large amounts of money to Medford every year. So all together, shipbuilding helped put Medford on the map.

Shipbuilding was one of the reasons that Medford became so famous and rich. Medford's shipbuilding helped Medford get involved in the triangle trade and shipbuilding was such a large and successful industry that people from all over were coming to Medford just to build ships and get involved in the triangle trade. People were also starting to see how much of a strategic advantage it was to go to Medford and be a business man there because the people who went to Medford and got involved in the business weren't just getting involved in the triangle trade or business in Medford but right down the street was Philadelphia, the cultural and trading center.

Historians said some interesting things about early shipbuilding in Medford. The Mystic River was a focal point of discussion among the local citizens. According to Carl Seaburg's Medford on the Mystic, Thatcher Magoun once described the perfection of the Mystic. "Twice a day the tide surged in from the ocean, mingling it's odor of brine with the pungent smell of molasses from the distilleries, and overflowed onto the whispering marshes, making at full tide enough depth of water to float an empty ship of twenty-five hundred tons." Another conversation piece was the large number of ships built in Medford and the total cost of each one. Author Carl Seaburg describes these conditions. "All together, there were 568 ships built in this town, of 272, 194 tonnage; the average was 490 tons - at a value which was estimated to be $12,500,000. No wonder there is on the seal of the city a representation of a ship about to be launched into the Mystic River."

There were many important people in the field of early shipbuilding in Medford those people and the media were crucial to that time because they offered opinion to that topic since it was so big. For instance The Medford Sunday Post of 1976 for a title had "SHIPBUILDING IN MEDFORD OVER 200 YEARS Ships Built Here Carried Name and Fame of Medford World Wide." In this article the colonist, name not shown on article, remarked that there were two schools, Curtis and James, named after famous shipbuilders. Oddly enough they were not chosen just because the built ships but because they believed in the importance of education. Another important thing this person remarked was where it all got started and ended "It began in 1631 at the mouth of the Mystic River at about where the Wellington bridge is now located, and it finally ended during the year of 1873 when sail finally surrender to steam navigation." The reporter also had "In 1802, however, Thatcher Magoun began shipbuilding on a large scale." I also found an old Medford Daily Mercury Anniversary Edition from 1955 which read "Medford's importance in the history of shipbuilding in early times can be appreciated only when the total number of ships launched from local yards and the records made certain individual ships are considered." So it seems like this person was pretty much in favor of Medford's importance. So as you see in articles, of those days, there were many positive thoughts about Medford's importance, origin, and fame from the press.

Picture of Ocean Express | Picture of Launch on the Mystic | Text on Clipper Ships

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