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Interpreting the Evidence

Statistics of Ship Production in New York State

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    World War I

  • Primary Source Types:

    Written Document

  • Regions:

    New York State
    United States

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Statistics of Ship Production in New York State, Wood Cargo, c. 1917 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Particulars covering ship production in New York State including contract ships and wood cargo, World War I, c. 1917.
Historical Context
Critical to the mobilization of the United States for war was the development and organization of industry. Prior to 1917, private companies were responsible for fulfilling obligations to produce supplies that were exported to the Allies in Europe. After 1917, and with the escalation of German unrestricted submarine warfare, a crisis occurred in shipping. To meet the need for ships, the United States government created a more centralized system of boards and committees that cooperated with private businesses to increase production of ships and to provide the necessary raw materials and resources.

Under the auspices of war time economics, President Wilson expanded the power and scope of committees such as the Shipping Board and the War Industries Board. These organizations used a centralized approach to increase shipping contracts, to funnel appropriate materials to ship building facilities, to increase production standards and quotas, and to create a climate of unprecedented government-industry collaboration.
The result was nothing less than taking a function that was largely non-existent and turning the shipping industry into a viable enterprise that not only produced but transported enormous quantities of goods and troops thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean to support the war effort. Without such a turnaround, the situation in Europe and on the American home front would have been vastly different.
Essential Question
How does war impact domestic industry?
Check for Understanding
Summarize the information contained in the chart and discuss the impact of the war on New York State industry and production.
Historical Challenges
Research and discuss how today’s modern army gets supplied in war zones.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Science/Technology: Research and write a report on different propulsion systems that might make shipping more efficient and economical.
Math: Calculate the ratio of the various types of ships to the total tonnage produced in New York.