The Tidal Wave. July 4, 1918: 95 Ships Launched


The Emergency Fleet Corporation (EFC) was established under congressional mandate by the United States Shipping Board in April 1917, ten days after the United States declared war on Germany. Its purpose was to acquire, maintain, and operate the merchant ships that were needed to transport American troops and their supplies to France. In 1917, the United States was acutely short of merchant ships, shipyard workers, and yards to build ships, owing to the relative weakness of the merchant marine in the prewar years. This poster, showing a line of ships cresting a wave, was issued for Independence Day, 1918. It celebrates the “tidal wave” of shipping launched at EFC yards over the course of the previous 14 months. Many of the ships were built at Hog Island, Philadelphia, where the American International Shipyard Company was contracted by the U.S. government to build and operate a new shipyard. With its 50 slipways, Hog Island for a time was the largest shipyard in the world, specializing in the construction of standardized cargo vessels. This poster is by Joseph Clement Coll (1881–1921), an American book and newspaper illustrator who produced pen and ink drawings for books by adventure and mystery writers such as Arthur Conan Doyle and for magazines such as Collier’s.

Last updated: February 10, 2014