The Fore River Shipyard started operations in 1884. The small business began with Thomas Augustus Watson in Quincy, Massachusetts. The one man operation would give way to the expansion of the ship yards during both World Wars and continue growing well into the Cold War years. The first ship building contracts were negotiated in 1899, launching the production line. These initial contracts would lead to the construction of more than 500 US Naval vessels at this shipyard.
When early success led to many more contracts, Watson found he was unable to maintain the many responsibilities of running the Fore River Shipyard. He had become an assistant to the famous telephone innovator Alexander Graham Bell. The additional duties became taxing and in 1913 the shipyard was sold to the Bethlehem Steel company.
The next few decades under Bethlehem Steel saw the Fore River shipyards change names and ownership multiple times. As the First World War commenced the business expanded greatly, coming to employ 15,000 people at the facilities. As the Second World War grew, so did the contracts for the ship yards; by 1927 the employee base had doubled in size. Interestingly, the ubiquitous World War II graffiti “Kilroy was here” may have originated from this shipyard, the work of welding inspector John J. Kilroy checking off on finished ships
After the war years came to an end, the Cold War era saw the takeover of the Fore River Shipyard by the General Dynamics Corporation. The corporate giant would continue production of naval vessels for the military until the 1980s. It was during this decade that the maritime industry production contracts dwindled and the shipyard eventually closed for business permanently in 1986. Now at the site is the United States Naval and Shipbuilding Museum, which features the aircraft carrier USS Salem as its central exhibit.
Generations of Americans worked at this and other shipyards. It is now known that this historic site was using asbestos and exposed nearly everyone employed there to the compound. The exposure to asbestos has been linked to mesothelioma. Any former employees of the Fore River Shipyard should be aware of this and seek testing for asbestos exposure effects by a medical professional.