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William Afflerbach
Charles Baldrey Austin
William Deal Baker
William Ball
Albert C. Barnes
Samuel Bower
Frederick Page Buck
William W. Burrows
John Bromley
Rev. George Chandler
Conrad Fries Clothier
John Clouds
William Cramp
Hamilton Disston
Henry Disston
Benjamin Eyre
Jehu Eyre
Manuel Eyre
Stella Britton Fisher
Frederick Gaul
Alfred C. Harmer
John Harrison
Frederick W. Haussmann
John Hewson
Jacob Holtz
Howard Atwood Kelly
Chuck Klein
Timothy C. Matlack
Edward Moran
Thomas Moran
Paine (Payne) Newman
Jacob Peters
Gunnar Rambo

Alfred J. Reach

Thomas Say

William J. Seddinger

Benjamin Shibe

John Batterson Stetson

Jacob Tees

George C. Urwiler

John Vaughan

John Welsh

Alpheus Wilt

Hugh J. Worrell

The Founders of Penn Home:

Elizabeth Van Dusen 

Margaret Creamer

Elizabeth Keen

Ann Lee


The Founders of the Kensington Soup Society:


Richard S. Allen

Joseph Bennett

Theodore Birely

John Clouds

Morris G. Condon

George Stiles Cox

Joseph P. Cramer

William Cramp

Matthias Creamer

Jacob Plankinhorn Donaldson

David Duncan

Abraham P. Eyre

Franklin Eyre

Jehu W. Eyre

Eli Garrison, Sr.

Edward W. Gorgas

George James Hamilton

Jacob Jones

Joseph Lippincott

Robert R. Pearce

Thomas Dunn Stites

George Stockham

Jacob Tees

George Washington Vaughan

Jacob Keen Vaughan

John Vaughan

Andrew Zane

 William Cramp Shipyard Minimize

Biography by Rodney P. Carlisle is located in the American National Biography, published by Oxford University Press, 1999.

William Cramp (22 Sept. 1807-6 July 1879), shipbuilder, was born in Kensington, Pennsylvania, a suburb later incorporated into northeastern Philadelphia; his parents' names are unknown. After attending public schools, he studied under the naval architect Samuel Grice. He married Sophia Miller in 1827; they had eleven children. In 1830 Cramp established his own shipbuilding firm on the Delaware River, first in Kensington and then in a larger facility in Richmond. Over the next decades this shipyard grew to become one of the most important in the United States, constructing wood, ironclad, iron, and eventually steel ships. He remained president of the firm for forty-nine years, from its founding until his death in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Cramp constantly modernized his equipment to adapt to changes in ship construction. The ability of the Cramp firm to adapt to the changing technology of shipbuilding and ship propulsion through the mid-nineteenth century brought both Cramp and his company lasting fame. As sail power gave way to steam-powered paddle wheels and then propeller-driven vessels, Cramp developed steam-engine facilities. During the Civil War he provided the Union navy steam-propelled ironclads, which played crucial roles in blockade duty and sea engagements. Following the Civil War iron construction replaced wooden hulls through the 1870s. The firm was ready for the revolution of the 1880s, which brought steel-hulled ships into the naval and merchant fleets of the world. During his lifetime Cramp personally oversaw the construction of more than 200 ships.

In 1862 the Cramp company constructed for the Union navy New Ironsides, the largest ironclad warship of the Civil War and the one that saw more engagements than any other. Other warships constructed by Cramp in this period included gunboats and ironclads, and the first-class cruiser Chattanooga. In the early 1870s the Cramp yard turned to all-iron construction, producing four passenger ships for the Philadelphia-based American Steamship Line. Each of the vessels was about 3,000 tons, and they were launched within a few months of one another.

Cramp brought his sons into the business, admitting Charles H. Cramp as a partner. In 1872 he changed the name of the firm to William Cramp and Sons' Ship and Engine Building Company. The company won contracts to build warships for several foreign navies, including those of Russia and Venezuela. The performance of Cramp ships in the Russian fleet in the war between Turkey and Russia (1876-1878) enhanced the reputation of the Cramp firm as a constructor of warships. As the U.S. Navy pressed for expansion of the fleet in the 1870s and 1880s, the firm of William Cramp and Sons played a role both in advocacy of the new navalism, and in construction of the steel ships of the new navy.

Cramp understood both merchant and naval shipbuilding as matters of national pride and national power, anticipating in his own way the later doctrine of Alfred Thayer Mahan that linked national power to a strong navy. He articulated a doctrine of shipbuilding--in competition with the British in particular--which was intensely nationalistic. He claimed that the long British supremacy in shipbuilding had given them a sense of proprietary right to the sea, and a right to the carrying trade of the United States. The British, he claimed, were so arrogant that they resented any effort to build an American passenger fleet as a usurpation of their prerogatives. With the construction of the iron ships of the 1870s for the American Steamship Line, he laid the groundwork for later expansion in liners by Cramp and Sons in the 1890s. Similarly, the construction of ships for Russia paved the way for the warships needed in naval expansion in the United States at the end of the century.

The William Cramp and Sons Ship and Engine Company was a major contributor to the growth of Delaware River shipbuilding in the late nineteenth century, concentrating manpower, skills, technological capability, facilities, and political power. In addition to Cramp's firm and the Philadelphia Navy Yard, many shipbuilding companies on both the Pennsylvania and New Jersey sides of the river converted this fifteen-mile stretch of the Delaware into one of the major shipbuilding centers of the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.


A small collection of Cramp's papers is at the Special Collections of Temple University Library, Philadelphia, which includes a list of all the engines built between 1867 and 1901, as well as ship plans, memoranda, and ballistic tests on armor plate. Sources include History of Cramp's Shipyard, published by the company in several editions from 1894 through 1910, and Gail E. Farr, Shipbuilding at Cramp & Sons (1991). An obituary is in the Philadelphia Enquirer, 7 July 1879.



There is also a short biography of William Cramp that I wrote on this website for the Stainglass Families of First Presbyterian Church of Kensington. You can view it here.

Below are several links to Hexamer Insurance Surveys of Cramp's Shipyard. By clicking on the links, you'll be taken to the Greater Philadelphia GeoHistory Network, who has put on the web all of the Hexamer Surveys. In the table of contents of my website here, you'll find a link to all the Hexamer's that are of Kensington businesses.


Vol. 9, # 771


William Cramp & Sons Ship and Engine Building Co.

Cramp, William & Sons

Beach St and Norris St (NE corner; Delaware River)

Vol. 9, # 772


William Cramp & Sons Ship and Engine Building Co.

Cramp, William & Sons

Beach St and Norris St (NE corner; Delaware River)

Vol. 18, # 1685-1686


William Cramp & Sons' Ship and Engine Building Co.

Cramp, William & Sons

Beach St and E. Norris St (SE corner; Delaware River)


1887 (resurveyed)

W. Cramp & Sons' Ship and Engine Building Co.

Cramp, Wm., & Sons; Charles H. Cramp, President

Beach St, E. Norris St, Ball St, and Clairborn St (Delaware River) [Between Beach St. and the Delaware River, foot of E. Norris St.]



William Cramp & Sons' Ship and Engine Building Co.

President: Charles Cramp, Secretary: Henry W. Cramp

Beach St and Plum St (NE corner; Delaware River)



Port Richmond Iron Works

I.P Morris CO. / President: Charles Cramp, Tresurer: Henry W. Cramp, Secretary: William P. Thomas

Ball St, York St, Richmond St, and Delaware River

Vol. 28, Pl # 2688-2689


Ship & Engine Building Company

Wm. Cramp & Sons

Clairborn St and E. Norris St

Vol. 28, Pl # 2690


Ship & Engine Building Company

Wm. Cramp & Sons



The following material was taken from a book entitled, "The Hand Book of the Lower Delaware River. Ports, Tides, Pilots, Quarantine Stations, Light-House, Service Life-Saving and Maritime Reporting Stations. Issued Under Direction of Philadelphia Maritime Exchange. Prepared and Illustrated by Frank H. Taylor." [Philadelphia: Geo. S. Harris & Sons, Printers, 1895]

The textile employment in Philadelphia between 1925-1960 looked as follows:


Year            Number of workers

1925.               71,576

1933.              46,814

1945.               38,280

1951.               36,239

1954.               27,166

1957.               24,133

1960.               22,389


Textile workers in Kensington in 1925 were 34,763, or just about half of the entire city of Philadelphia.  In 1934, only nine years later the number of textile workers in Kensington were at 21,429, a loss of 13,334 jobs. Many of these laid off textile workers would eventually be retrained and find work at the “new” Cramp Shipyard that re-opened at the beginning of World War II.


During the first war,  World War I, Cramp Shipyard occupied 53 acres and employed 10,500 workers, however by 1927, they went out of business due to the lack of work and unfavorable conditions in the shipbuilding industry. The double jolt of the loss of Cramp’s Shipyard and the loss of over 13,000 textile jobs during this same time period was devastating for Kensington.


Cramp’s Shipyard reopened in October of 1940, at the outbreak of World War Two

In December of 1940, Cramps in co-operation with the Philadelphia Board of Education, opened the Mastbaum Vocational Annex, the first vocational school in the United States to teach shipbuilding trades. A few months later, “Cramp University” was opened at the shipyard and by 1944, over 10,000 men and women, formerly employed in the hosiery, dyeing and scouring, weaving, tanning, and other industries, underwent orientation for shipbuilding. The training offered no haven for “slackers,” it demanded continuous interest and intensive work.


Trainees were given “on the job” instruction and, upon graduation, became qualified for one of the sixteen shipyard trades.  Some graduates became machinists; others, welders, silver solderers, sheet metal workers, burners, and so forth.  Still others handled intricate problems relating to hull, piping, machinery, and ventilation work in the drafting room.  Many of the graduates of the “University” were able to upgrade themselves to supervisory positions.  The “Cramp University” training program produced results that were a credit to all concerned and had answered the challenge to develop efficient shipbuilders.


600 People were employed in the safety, fire, and sabotage watch.


24 doctors and nurses were employed in the Medical Department.


By 1944 Cramp’s had 15,000 workers, and covered 65 acres, with almost 4,000 Cramp workers serving in the Armed Forces. At the end of the war Cramp’s Shipyard closed for good (1946). The large acreage still sits vacant, with the possibility of this once grand shipyard becoming the home of a casino.






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