U.S.S. Pictor (AF-54)

Roots of USS Pictor / Great Republic

The following is research information gathered by U.S.S. Pictor AF-54 Association Vice President, John Harbeck:

Moore Dry Dock Company (1905-1961)

The firm was founded as Moore and Scott Ironworks, San Francisco, in 1905 by Robert S. Moore, John Scott and Joseph A. Moore. Their first vessel was constructed in 1910 - the Coalinga for Associated Oil Company. The corporation became Moore Shipbuilding Company in 1918 when Robert Moore purchased John Scott's interest in the firm. In 1919, Moore established a world ship launching record when they put six large vessels afloat in 52 minutes. Moore Shipbuilding ceased existence as an operating company with its absorption into Moore Dry Dock Company in 1924. By that time Moore had a modern shipbuilding site of 53.5 acres located on the San Antonio Estuary.

The facilities became Moore Dry Dock Company in 1924 when Joseph Moore purchased the company. Seeking additional business opportunity, they diversified into structural steel fabrication. One of their first major projects was in 1925 when they fabricated and erected the Dumbarton Bridge including nine 225' L x 24' W x 40' H, 315 ton span assemblies. Other interesting fabrications were some of the caissons for the Oakland Bay Bridge. Several pneumatic or compressed air caissons, half a city block in length, were constructed at Moore's Oakland Yard near the foot of Adeline Street at 1401 Middle Harbor Rd. They had four timber walls, with steel cutting edges at the bottom, and a hemispherical dome at the top. Sunk into the mud bottom, extensions were added, always keeping the top above the bay water level. When the caisson finally reached bedrock, nearly 200 feet below the surface, the dome was removed, and the nearly 100 ft of bay bottom mud removed. Next, sharp spuds were roped on the rock surface to level it in preparation for concrete. Eventually, pier W-4 contained more than 165,000 yards of concrete, a virtual concrete island in the middle of the bay, serving as an anchor point for bridge cables. W-3 pier reached the astonishing depth of 240 ft.

In 1948, Moore also fabricated and erected the framework for the 184" cyclotron at UC, Berkeley. Additional bridge fabrication and erection work for the state of California kept the yard busy with the virtual collapse of new ship construction. When the U.S. Congress authorized a long range ship building program with the Merchant Marine Act of 1936, they created the United States Maritime Commission to oversee it. Plans were for up to 50 ships constructed per year. Initial orders all went to east coast yards. In December 1938 the Maritime Commission placed their first west coast orders with Moore for two C3 ships of 492' and 11,926 ton capacity. Moore's first MC ship was hull #195, the SS Sea Arrow. The keel was laid on 18 Mar 1939, with completion on 15 Sept. 1939. In October 1941 with hull 214, Moore began construction of a block of thirteen C2 type ships for the Maritime Commission. Main details were 459' 2 1/2" length, turbine propulsion; electric auxiliaries, electric pumps and winches. This set the stage for a Moore specialty of 86 C2 ships eventually constructed. Among the C2's which were named from a list of sailing clipper ships were: Sovereign of the Seas, Young America, Golden Eagle, Great Republic, Blue Jacket, Bald Eagle, Flying Scud and Dashing Wave. Great Republic and her five sister ships Bald Eagle, Blue Jacket, Flying Scud, Golden Eagle and Trade Wind were actually a modification to the standard C2 design, and were the only ships Moore ever constructed as type C2-S-B1(r), with the R designating refrigerated. This block of six ships ordered, including Great Republic was priced at $16,500,000 or $2,740,000 each. This block also was rated 6,000 HP, but included additional refrigeration equipment. With the standard C2 design set to become a yard specialty, Moore began to gear up for mass production, fabricating huge subassemblies including a 62 ton upper-amidships house unit. Full size mockups were constructed of the C2 engine room spaces and were used to prefabricate much of the piping on jigs so that only final assembly was required aboard the ships. Moore also became an early proponent of the newest in welding technology; including early wire feed welders of suitable size for their heavy construction work. By the summer of 1943, 37,000 persons were employed in the various Moore operations which included several remotely located machine shops. With this concentration on one design, Moore was able to cut the standard 12 months from launch to delivery down to about two months. Special daily trains and bus lines brought war time workers to the many huge ship building centers that developed around San Francisco Bay.

The last new oceangoing vessel constructed by Moore's yard was the C2 SS Carrier Pigeon on 24 Apr 1945. From that date until the end of operations in 1961, ship repair work, some work vessels and structural steel fabrication and erection projects kept a much smaller work force occupied. In 1949, Moore's West Yard was sold for $1,201,000 to Oakland Dock and Warehouse Company, who planned to continue ship repair and conversion and allied marine business. In 1950, the property, now only 35 acres, was sold for $1,500,000 to Gilmore Steel Company by the General Services Administration, for use in ship repair work, and possibly as a water terminal.