In 1905, Harry J. Defoe organized the Defoe Shipbuilding Company. This shipyard specialized in motor works in Bay City, Michigan. After the company's initial endeavors in building fishing boats as the Defoe Boat and Motor Works, it shifted paths in 1918 and utilized gasoline engines for pleasure crafts. The name was changed to Defoe Shipbuilding Company. Defoe Shipbuilding quickly became a recognized name and began to acquire governmental contracts for Navy vessels and steam chasers during World War I.
The company's abilities began to grow and the company was able to create ice cutters for the Coast Guard. They also expanded to create presidential yachts and other specialty crafts for different uses. At the end of World War I, there was an extensive demand for yacht building that occurred between the boom years and the great depression. Although they had to compete with big name competitors for the demand of these ships, Defoe was able to use its unique design and hand craftsmanship to outweigh the competition. On top of yacht building, the US Coast Guard used Defoe's Shipyard to create different steam turbine cutters that were able to chop through twelve inches of ice.
By World War II, all of Defoe's shipbuilding skills went to into war efforts. Defoe Shipbuilding was responsible for building over 150 ships which included minesweepers, fast transports, patrol crafts, and landing crafts. With its highly reputable work, Defoe Shipbuilding was able to stand as one of the leading shipyards in the entire country. As war efforts diminished, so did Defoe's governmental and military contracts. Besides having to cut many of the workers who built the steam ships in the shallow waters of the Saginaw River, Defoe was not able to keep any working contracts with the government or local industries. The company shut down production in 1976 after producing no more contractual agreements.
Like many other shipyard industries, Defoe Shipbuilding used asbestos material in the creation of its vessels. Below deck in the boilers, around mechanical fixtures, and in other areas is where asbestos was most likely used. Workers were prone to inhaling the toxic substance if particles were released into the air. Many individuals that worked on these vessels more than forty years ago are now developing lung related ailments such as asbestosis and mesothelioma. Those who believe that they have been exposed to asbestos from this shipyard should seek medical attention and testing immediately. Determining whether mesothelioma is present at earlier stages will allow the patient to be more responsive to treatment and medication.
Last modified: December 28, 2010.