John H. Mathis
& Company
Ship Yard

The John H. Mathis & Company Ship Yard - circa 1906
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The John H. Mathis shipyard at Point & Erie Streets in Camden was known far and wide for its yachts and also produced ships for the Navy and Coast Guard. Famed yacht designer John Trumpy began building yachts at the Mathis yard in 1910, and remained there until he opened his own shipyard up in Maryland. During World War II a variety of ships were built, including minesweepers, transports, Coast Guard cutters, and ferries, among others.

The Mathis Shipyard closed in the 1960s. The Mathis Shipyard was later used by a firm called Camden Ship Repair.

One Mathis built ship, the Navy Ferry YFB-83, completed in April of 1949, remains in with the Navy  today. Stationed in Hawaii. She is capable of ferrying 135 tons of cargo, and is used to shuttle personnel and equipment between Ford Island and the Mainland.

Another notable Mathis-built ship is the USS Sequoia AG-23, which served as a Presidential Yacht for Herbert Hoover and remained in naval service until 1977.

Historical and Industrial Review of Camden, N.J. - 1890


PERHAPS none of the firms connected with the various ship-yards and marine railways at Cooper's Point are better or more favorably know to the maritime community than Messrs. Morris & Mathis, whose yards are among the largest and best equipped in this line. The property has a frontage on the river of about 1,500 feet, and the facilities are of the best, comprising all the necessary plant and conveniences for both building and repairing all classes of wooden vessels, as well as a fully equipped marine railway, capable of hauling out any sailing vessel arriving at the port of Philadelphia.

The firm commenced business in 1876, and have conducted a most successful trade down to the present time, especially in the department of repairing, which is a most important branch of the business.

The members of the firm are Messrs. Joseph I. Morris and John S. Mathis, both of whom are practical ship-builders, and stand high in the maritime community. They are no less business men of vim and ability, and are influential Camden citizens..

Philadelphia Inquirer
December 9, 1903

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Carl Scholl

Bulson Street
Ralph Burton
Camden Municipal Hospital
Mathis Shipyard
P.T. Colding
Philip Schmitz
Junius Robinson
John E. Cullingford
Stockton Wheelmen

Philadelphia Inquirer
September 10, 1910

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S.S. General Slocum
Mathis Shipyard
Point Street

Philadelphia Inquirer - September 10, 1910t

O. Glen Stackhouse
Joseph Ford - Nicholas Parson - Alexander Read

Mathis Shipyard
- Erie Street - North 2nd StreetPoint Street

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Motor Boating 

January 1924

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Camden Courier-Post 

July 5, 1926

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USS Sequoia AG-23
(Fifth Presidential Yacht)

The USS Sequoia was classified as an "Auxiliary--Miscellaneous" vessel with 100 tons displacement; length on water line, 99 feet, extreme beam at water line, 18 feet 2 inches. The Mathis Yacht Shipbuilding Company, Camden, New Jersey built her, in 1925. This vessel was taken over by the Navy from the Department of Commerce on March 25, 1933 and placed in commission on that date at Annapolis, Maryland. She was assigned to the Washington Navy Yard where she was fitted out as the Presidential Yacht. President Roosevelt made cruises in her during the period 1933-1935.

President Hoover spent his last Christmas in office aboard the Sequoia.

PYc-21 Alabaster

Built 1932 as the yacht Alamo by the Mathis Yacht Building Co., Camden, NJ; Renamed Rellimpa, Ranley and Ronaele before being acquired by the Navy, 3 January 1942; Converted for Naval service at Philadelphia Navy Yard; Commissioned USS Alabaster (PYc-21), 31 January 1942; Decommissioned, 17 December 1945 at San Pedro, CA; Struck from the Naval Register, 21 January 1946; Transferred to the Maritime Commission for disposal (date unknown); Sold by the Maritime Commission, 9 April 1947 to Lyman A. Whitney, San Diego, CA. Fate unknown.

Specifications: Displacement 385 t.; Length 148' ; Beam 23'; Draft 8' 3";Speed 14.5k; Complement 48; Armament one single 3".50 gun mount, two .50 cal. machine guns, two depth charge tracks; Propulsion two Winton diesel engines, two shafts.

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Alabaster 83k July 1945, USS Alabaster at anchor in San Pedro Bay, Philippine Islands while at Navy Yard for modification. The 3" bow gun and .50 cal. MG were replaced by 5-20 mm guns and 1-40 mm on the stern. Vincent Balderston (ex-ChMoMM USN)
who served aboard Alabaster from January 25, 1942 until August 23, 1945.
via Ralph L. Givens

Ronaele--a yacht built in 1932 at Camden, N.J., by the Mathis Yacht Building Co.--was acquired by the Navy on 3 January 1942; renamed Alabaster on 13 January 1942 and simultaneously classified a coastal patrol yacht and designated PYc--21; converted by the Philadelphia Navy Yard for naval service; and commissioned on 31 January 1942, Lt. Comdr. A. F. Edel, USNR, in command.

Assigned to the Inshore Patrol and based at the section base at Cape May, N.J., Alabaster began patrolling the coast of the United States from Delaware Bay to Chesapeake Bay early in February and continued that assignment through the remainder of 1942 and most of 1943. In September 1943, the Navy decided to convert the vessel to an antisubmarine warfare (ASW) training platform. She spent the next two months in the Philadelphia Navy Yard receiving the modifications needed to prepare her to carry out her new mission, On 30 November, she stood out of Philadelphia, bound for the Naval Air Station, Quonset Point, RI. The following day, the patrol yacht reported for duty with the Commander, Antisubmarine Development, Atlantic Fleet, at Quonset Point and began a month of training to ready her crew for the new assignment.

On 5 January 1944, she completed her training and received orders to report to the Commander, Eastern Sea Frontier for routing to the Canal Zone. Alabaster departed Cape May on 10 January and steamed--via Charleston, Miami, and Guantanamo Bay--to Balboa, Canal Zone, where she arrived on the 25th. The ship reported for duty with the 7th Fleet and got underway on 1 February with an oil tanker bound for Australia. The patrol yacht entered port at Cairns, Australia, on St. Patrick's Day, but put to sea again on 25 March. The little warship arrived in Milne Bay, New Guinea, where she remained for about three months instructing Navy men in the use of various ASW devices. In mid-June, she moved to Seeadler Harbor at Manus in the Admiralty Islands where she resumed ASW training duties. On 19 October, she departed Manus to return to New Guinea and dropped anchor at Hollandia on the 21st. She remained at that base until the end of January 1945, providing ASW training services and making emergency repairs to radar and sonar equipment, On 31 January 1945, she weighed anchor and shaped a course for the Philippines. Alabaster arrived in San Pedro Bay, Leyte, on 6 February and resumed her previous training and repair missions.

The end of the war in mid-August 1945 found her still at Leyte, and she was then declared surplus to the needs of the Navy. The yacht cleared San Pedro Bay to return to the United States. Steaming via Eniwetok and Pearl Harbor, Alabaster entered port at San Pedro, Calif., on 25 October. She remained anchored in the bay at San Pedro until decommissioned on 17 December 1945. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 21 January 1946; and, on 9 April 1947, she was sold to Mr. Lyman A. Whitney, of San Diego.

The Minesweepers

In 1941 the Mathis Shipyard received a contract to build three 221' Auk-class minesweepers, USS SWAY AM-120, USS SWERVE AM-121, and USS SWIFT AM-122

USS SWERVE was mined and sunk off Anzio in 1944, and USS SWIFT was scrapped in 1972. USS SWAY was sold to Mexico and renamed Ignacio Miguel Altamirano, and remains in active service.

In 1931 Sir Hubert Wilkins attempted to reach the North Pole by submarine. His ship, the Nautilus, was a World War I vintage American submarine, leased to Wilkins for the expedition. The Nautilus received her final modifications before the expedition at the Mathis Shipyard.

The Nautilus

Nautilus being towed into Portsmouth, England
Nautilus being towed into Portsmouth, England

Wilkins's Nautilus was not a state of the art submarine, nor was she specially built for the expedition. In the 1930s, most of the world's submarines were dedicated to naval service, and most navies were reluctant to part with the few ships they had. In the wake of the London Naval Treaty, however, the United States was willing to part with a pre-World War I O-class submarine, the O-12 (hull number SS-73). Built in 1916 at the Lake Torpedo Boat Co., in Bridgeport, Connecticut, she was 175 feet long, with a beam of 16 feet 7 inches, and a draft of 13 feet 11 inches. Her top speed was 14 knots surfaced, and 11 knots submerged. Ironically, given the fate of the mission, Wilkins had been offered the O-13, but turned it down, feeling that the ship's designation was a harbinger of bad luck.

The O-12 spent most of her career assigned to Submarine Division 1, based out of Coco Solo in the Panama Canal Zone. Her short naval career came to an end on June 17, 1924, when she was decommissioned and placed in reserve at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Scheduled to be scrapped in accordance with the London Naval Treaty, the Secretary of the Navy turned her over to the U.S. Shipping Board who in turn chartered her to Lake & Danenhower, Inc., of Bridgeport, Connecticut, to be reconditioned for special arctic service. Since Wilkins was not an American citizen, the submarine could not be leased directly to him. The charter specified that a fee of $1 per year for five years was to be paid for her use, that the submarine would only be used for scientific research, and that she would be scrapped at the completion of the expedition.

Crew members inside control room

Crew members inside control room

Initial modifications were begun at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, but when that facility was unable to perform the required work the submarine was moved across the river to the Mathis Shipyard in Camden, New Jersey. Thirty-two new features were added to the boat, designed by the original builder, Simon Lake. These included a cushioned guide arm, a cushioning bowsprit 12 feet long to act as a bumper, an ice drill to provide access to the surface in case the submarine was unable to break through the ice, an emergency air intake system, and a diving chamber. The original superstructure was removed, and the conning tower and periscope were modified to be retractable. Lake also had the deck fittings enclosed within a wooden superstructure four feet wide and six feet high, inside of which he installed extra buoyancy chambers, which he considered necessary to prevent loss of stability during surfacing. On top of the superstructure Lake installed iron-shod "sledge runners" and two cleats at each end. Wilkins did not concur with all of the modifications introduced by Lake, fearing that they were more likely dangers than aids. A verbal agreement between the two men, however, gave Lake the final say.

Nautilus leaving berth at Mathis Shipyard, Camden, NJ

Nautilus leaving berth at Mathis Shipyard, Camden, NJ

Rechristened the Nautilus after Jules Verne's fictional vessel, the boat's record during the expedition was less then stellar. Plagued by mechanical difficulties and engine problems from the start, the crew were less than confident in their vessel's capabilities. When Captain Danenhower noticed that the diving rudders were missing on August 22, he suspected sabotage by the crew, and as a result of the damage, many of the scientific experiments had to be cancelled. After spending some additional time in the arctic, Wilkins headed back to port in Bergen, Norway, having failed in his mission.

Since it was deemed suicidal to sail the Nautilus back to the United States, the submarine was turned over to the Bergen Shipping Company, and with the approval of the U.S. Shipping Board, she was scuttled in international waters off Norway on September 29. Even this ignominious fate did not come easy: the first attempt to sink the Nautilus had to be called off due to bad weather. She was finally sunk on November 20, 1931, in the fjord a short distance from Bergen. A number of ships accompanied the boat as she was towed to the site where a valve was opened in the forward tank. The Nautilus filled with water and sank at 12:00 noon. Fifty years later, a team of Norwegian divers from Sjøteknik A/S located the wreck of the submarine. She remains in very good condition, which has begun talk of raising her to display in the Bergen Maritime Museum.


In 1941, the Mathius yard produced four Aloe-class net laying ships

AN-34 Teaberry ex YN-29

AN-35 Teak ex YN-30
AN-36 Pepperwood ex YN-31

USS Teaberry

AN-37 Yew ex YN-32

USS Teak

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The Washingtonian

    (formerly The Lady)

an impeccably maintained 63’ motor yacht built in 1939 at the historic Mathis Shipyard in Camden, NJ. She is certified by the US Coast Guard to accommodate up to 36 guests and can do so in complete comfort and safety.


She is Classic Elegance from the warmth of her 21" black walnut paneled saloon to her spacious aft deck adorned with wicker furniture. The ambiance created by the craftsmen of her time will most certainly conjure up images of another era.

She is owner operated and boasts her own gourmet chef with the ability to create the perfect menu suited to your special occasion ranging from hor d'oeurves with cocktails to an elaborate buffet table to a formal sit-down dinner (for up to 16 guests), and all in an style that only "The Washingtonian" can create. Musical entertainment and floral arrangements are available upon request

She is available for cruises, morning afternoon or evening, as short as 2 hours or as long as a full day.

She will offer you and your guests that perfect setting to entertain in the graceful and elegant style of years past.

Yachting Services of Mystic,  PO Box 10, West Mystic, CT 06388

World War II Coast Guard-Manned U.S. Army
Freight and Supply Ship Histories

Under a Joint Chiefs of Staff agreement signed 14 March 1944, the Coast Guard was designated to man certain small Army Transportation Corps vessels (with some already operating in the Southwest Pacific and manned at the time by civilians).  The agreement reads: "The Coast Guard, due to decrease in category of defense in the United States, will have some personnel available to man ships and craft for which civilian personnel cannot be obtained."  

Five categories of Army vessels were specified for Coast Guard crews: AMRS (Army Marine Repair Ship), TY (tankers), LT (large tugs), FS (freight and supply vessels), and F (Freight vessels).  The Coast Guard manned a total of 288 of these Army craft.  One, the FS-34, was was of the type "Design 277", FS-140 through FS-234 were "Design 330," and the rest were "Design 381."  The following are the FS Army vessels manned by Coast Guard crews:

The Coast Guard-manned Army supply vessel
USS FS-177
The famous movie Mister Roberts revolved around life on a FS vessel.


The Coast Guard-manned Army vessel FS-311 was commissioned on 13 June 1944 at Mathis Shipyard, Camden, NJ with LTJG Kenneth P. Howard, USCGR, as commanding officer.  On 17 July 1944, she departed New York for the Southwest Pacific where she operated during the war.


The Coast Guard-manned Army vessel FS-314 was commissioned at Mathis Shipyard in Camden, New Jersey on 22 July 1944 with LTJG W. I. Mittendorf, USCGR, as commanding officer.  On 4 September 1944 she departed New York.  She was assigned to and operated in the Southwest Pacific during the war at Leyte end elsewhere.


The Coast Guard-manned Army vessel FS-317 was commissioned 25 September 1944 at Mathis Shipyard, Camden, NJ with LT C.B. Christiansson as her first commanding officer.  He was succeeded by LTJG T.B. Barron, USCGR, who in turn was succeeded on 14 November 1945 by LTJG J.V. Harrison, USCG.  She departed New York on 22 October 1944 for the Southwest Pacific area where she operated during the war.

Cover of The Rudder Magazine from the collection at the Blunt White Library at Mystic Seaport

Rudder magazine was first published in 1891 and soon became one of the most important yachting and boating magazines available. This index, compiled initially by Library staff member and former Naval Commander Norman Clarke (1937-1996), concentrates on boat designs that appeared in the magazine through 1950.

Mathis Yacht Building Co.
cruiser 36'3" Deep Water Geiger, Frederick C. Jul 35:43
cruiser 77' Lady Baltimore Bowes & Mower Mar 15:118
cruiser 82' [no name] Mathis Yacht Co. Dec 10:320
diesel cruiser 126' Waleda II Bowes, Thomas D. Sep 29:51
diesel cruiser 140' Alamo Tams, Inc. Nov 31:57
motor-sailer 85' [no name] Masterson-Schlegel May 38:44
schooner 50' [no name] Mower, Charles D. Apr 33:40
sloop 30' Lodsen Trumpy, John Mar 34:47
sloop 46'6" [no name] Bowes, Thomas D. Jun 35:49

Above are Mathis-built craft mentioned in Rudder

USS Pilgrim II

(Ferry Boat or Launch YFB-30: displacement 118; length 92'5"; beam 18'; draft 4')

Pilgrim II (YFB-30), a motor houseboat, was built for William H. Elkins of Philadelphia, Pa. in 1925 by the John H. Mathis Co., Camden, N.J. and acquired by the Navy from her owner 24 March 1942.

Converted for use as a river patrol boat by the Mathis Co. yard at Camden, Pilgrim II was assigned to the 4th Naval District and placed in service 28 April 1942 at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Manned by a Coast Guard crew, she served as a Delaware River patrol craft through the end of the war.

Pilgrim II was struck from the Navy List and returned to her owner 10 June 1947

John H. Mathis & Company Ship Yard 
Images Courtesy of Dave Boone


John H. Mathis

Images Courtesy
Dave Boone

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In the Mathis Drydock

Photo dates from the
Camden Ship Repair days.

"Red" & Johnny Wunch
(on ladder)

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Photo Couretesy of Floyd L. Miller Jr.

Camden Courier-Post - July 28, 1941

560 Attending Ceremony at John A. Mathis Plant Startled by Blaze

Five hundred persons attending the launching of a net tender at the John H. Mathis Shipbuilding Corporation were startled Saturday when the cry of "fire" was sounded.

The blaze, although slight, was only a few yards from the crowds of employees, their relatives, and yard and Navy officials watching the launching. 

The fire was caused when a large crane dumped hot coals on the railroad tracks, setting fire to the ties and & quantity of oil soaked rags. Employees of the yard watching the ceremonies, rushed to the danger spot and extinguished the flames within a few minutes.

However, due to the proximity of the fire to the ships and its possible danger if it gained headway, the Camden fire department was called.

Battalion Chief Charles Errickson, answertng the call, collapsed from ;he heat a few minutes after re­turning to the fire house. His con­dition was not considered serious and he declined hospital treatment.

The ship sent down the ways was the net tender, U.S.S. Teak. It was launched three months ahead of schedule and Navy officials had attempted to keep the ship's launching a secret until the fire disclosed the story.

Mrs. E. L. Patch, wife of Captain E. L. Patch, supervising naval construction at the New York Shipbuilding Corporation, christened the 160-foot vessel. Later, the hull was towed to Port Richmond where Diesel engines will be installed, before it is commissioned into the Navy. The ship cost $471,000 and is the second tender launched at the yard in recent months.

Two others of similar design are under construction on the ways. The yard also holds contracts for three minesweepers and 10 submarine chasers.

The net tenders are used for laying and repairing nets in harbors as a defense against submarines. The nets also are placed around anchored ships to protect them against torpedoes.

Shipyard employees, as a reward for finishing the ship ahead of schedule, were taken yesterday on a picnic to Seaside Heights, sponsored by the company. Ten chartered buses were provided for transportation.

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Trenton Times - August 2, 1940
John Lennox - Joseph R. Mich - John Plaskett - R.M. Hollingshead Co. Fire - Mathis Shipyard
U.S.S. Curtiss - New York Shipbuilding Corporation - Camden Shipyards

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Camden Courier-Post
March 21, 1961

Mathis Shipyard
C. Lawrence Gregorio