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North Carolina Shipbuilding Company Collection

Identifier: SC-MS-352

Scope and Contents

This collections contains materials related to the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company, a shipyard in Wilmington, North Carolina that was created as part of the U.S. Government's Emergency Shipbuilding Program during World War II. Included in the collection is a typed manuscript documenting the history of the company, a photocopied map of the Maffit Village neighborhood, and 19 photographs and 2 printing plates illustrating the company's grounds, workers and shipbuilding activitives.


  • 1941-1946, undated

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2018 University of North Carolina at Wilmington, all rights reserved (subject to exceptions). Certain items in this collections were conveyed to UNCW without the accompanying copyright. Where the donor did not convey copyright to UNCW, copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Historical Note

To get around the Neutrality Acts of World War II, which prevented the U.S. from getting involved in the war, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made a proposal for a “bridge of ships” that would be used to deliver war relief supplies across the Atlantic Ocean. While that was the initial goal, President Roosevelt anticipated the inevitable, which was the United States’ eventual entry into the war.

To prepare the nation for war at sea, the President called for new shipyards to be built, which would be used to create a vast naval fleet for the U.S.A.. Homer L. Ferguson, who was the president of the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company of Virginia, was touring the Atlantic and Gulf coasts on behalf of the United States Shipping Board. His mission was to search for potential sites where shipyards could be built. It was during this search that he discovered a 59.6 acre location that was about three miles south of downtown Wilmington. This location was nestled on the east bank of the Cape Fear River. Ferguson officially made the decision to build a shipyard in this location.

This Wilmington shipyard would evolve into the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company (NCSC), which came about from a contract that was awarded to Newport News by the United States Maritime Commission. From 1941 to 1946, the company built naval ships that were specifically for the war effort. Along with AKA’s and C-2 ships, the company also built liberty ships, which made up the majority of the over 200 ships that the company built overall. The very first NCSC ship launched on December 6, 1941, which was just a few hours before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. This ship was dubbed the S.S. Zebulon Vance, which was named in honor of North Carolina’s governor during the reconstruction period. It was christened by Mrs. Alice Broughton, who was the wife and North Carolina first lady of Joseph Melville Broughton, who was the governor of North Carolina at the time.

Since the launch of the Vance, the company garnered a lot of respect and achievements, which includes helping Wilmington earn the title of “Defense Capital of the State.” The company also financially assisted other organizations like the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). The company was, however, involved in several controversies, which include Wilmington’s disputes with Morehead City over the location, racial tensions, and complaints from ship captains in regards to the company’s lights at night that made them targets for enemy submarines. Though residents of Wilmington thought the NCSC was going to be around for a while, Newport News and Todd Shipbuilding in Charleston were against the plan to keep the company running after the end of the war.

Even so, the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company proved to be instrumental to both the American naval fleet and to Wilmington, as it was one of the biggest factors in the population increase of the town and New Hanover County as a whole. Along with solving a variety of issues that included training and manpower, the company built ships with a quality that lasted long after World War II ended, as these ships were still being used in the Korean War, Vietnam War, and the first Gulf Wars. Today, the grounds of the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company have become part of the North Carolina State Port in Wilmington.


3 Folder (Contains 2 folders and 1 map case folder)



Acquisition Information

This collection was donated by Scott Nunn on December 7, 2018.

Digital Access

Portions of this collection have been digitized and/or are born-digital. For access to these digital materials, please browse the finding aid via the "Collection Organization" tab and select an individual file or item to see if it contains a linked digital record.

North Carolina Shipbuilding Company Collection
Gavin Nelson
2019 July 10
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Randall Library Special Collections Repository