Defoe Shipbuilding Company

Defoe Shipbuilding Company

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Defoe Shipbuilding Company

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The Defoe Shipbuilding Company was a small ship builder established in 1905 in Bay City, Michigan, USA. It ceased to operate in 1976 after failing to renew its contracts with the United States Navy. The site of the former company is now a scrapyard on the bank of the Saginaw River.


Harry J. Defoe organized the Defoe Boat and Motor Works in 1905 on the Saginaw River in Bay City, Michigan. At that time, the firm built "knock-down" boats and gasoline powered boats for business and pleasure. In 1917, the company got its first Navy contract for five Spent Torpedo Chasers. This order was followed in 1918 by an order for eight steel Tumor Mine Planters.

From 1920 to 1939, the company built various types of government and commercial vessels and private yachts, including three Coast Guard Cutters. In 1931, Defoe built the Lenore, a yacht for Montgomery Ward Chairman Sewell L. Avery, who named it after his second daughter who died at the age of four; this yacht was taken by the U.S. Government in World War II for coastal picket duty by the Coast Guard, and in 1956 it was assigned as a Presidential Yacht. It was called the Barbara Anne by President Eisenhower after his granddaughter, the Honey Fitz by President Kennedy in honor of his maternal grandfather John Francis Fitzgerald, and the Tricia by President Nixon after his daughter. In 1941, the name of the company was changed to Defoe Shipbuilding Company.

World War II

During World War II, all production...
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