I recently discovered the Library of Congress online photo archive, an amazing archive of photographs depicting many aspects of American life up to the 1950’s. Online are thousands of scanned photographs, many of high quality glass negatives. The resolution on these will blow you away, and the high resolution scans are available to download in very large TIFF files for closer examination.
This sequence shows the launch of the battleship USS Georgia at Bath Ironworks in 1904. Large format cameras aren’t known for their rapid shooting ability, and film speeds in 1904 would have been single digit ISO’s so to manage four frames during the launch was a remarkable achievement.
I passed through Bath on a driving tour of New England in 2001 and found it to be a bit like Barrow in Furness here in the UK – a small town dominated by a massive shipyard. At the time, the yard had just transitioned to building ships on a massive level concrete platform before they are transferred into a giant floating dry dock for completion and launch, rather than the traditional slipways, as shown above (This actually isn’t too different to the method used at Barrow, where subs are assembled in the Devonshire Dock Hall, and then wheeled outside onto an elevator and lowered into the water).
Due to limitations of time, camera and access, I only took three pictures from an area outside the site, but you’ll get an impression of the size of the facilities. Interestingly, the Arleigh Burke class destroyers which the yard has been producing for many years are actually longer than the Georgia (500 vs 440ft) although they aren’t quite as wide (66 vs 76ft) and have a lower displacement (about 10000 tons compared to 15000 tons).