The Electric Boat Company, based in Groton, Connecticut, was founded in 1899. It was the main business operated by the defense contractor General Dynamics. The shipbuilders were also the Navy’s main contractor for building submarines, and the yard held contracts for the production of subs for many other nations as well. There are two main facilities in the Northeast, which are the Quonset Point shipyard in Rhode Island and a larger facility in Groton.
In 1911 the Electric Boat Company purchased what is currently the Groton facility. Since its inception, the EBC’s main focus was the production of underwater vessels. The government poured large amounts of money into the business in the hopes that it would be able to provide superior submarines that would transform the US Navy into a world leader. The company proved to be very successful and is considered to have been a pioneer in early sub production. The EBC even produced the world’s first nuclear submarine, the USS Nautilus, in 1954, and the first ballistic missile submarine five years later.
Today, the company is still running strong, though it has changed ownership. The EBC undertook the preservation of the USS Nautilus in 2002, and she now resides as a museum ship at the nearby U.S. Navy Submarine Force Library and Museum. Unfortunately, the very first submarine built at this facility in 1900, the USS Holland, had been scrapped in 1913 for the petty sum of $100. Nowadays, the EBC facilities largely perform overhauls and repairs on pre-existing ships.
During the earlier days of production at the EBC, employees were subjected to materials that we now consider dangerous. In the early 1900s, asbestos was viewed as an ideal material for shipbuilding. The ability of asbestos to insulate and be used as a construction material led to its wide spread implementation. On submarines in particular, the substance was very commonly used to avert the risk of fire at sea. Unfortunately, many of the employees who built those subs, as well as sailors, have developed asbestos-related disease, the most serious of which is mesothelioma.