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The Original and Finest Statement of Purpose
In 1881 the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad was completed when it reached the eastcoast's largest natural ice-free harbour on Hampton Roads.  The line had been built by Collis P. Huntington to transfer coal from the Ohio River valley to the town of Newport News, Virginia. In 1886, he built the Chesapeake Dry Dock and Construction Co., a yard to build and repair ships servicing what was America’s most important Atlantic coast transportation hub of the late 19th century.  


In due course, when Collis lost control of his railway interests he turned his attention to his newly growing shipbuilding and repair company which he renamed as the 'Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company'. It rapidly became, and remains to this day, one of the leading shipyards in the US. Collis determined from the outset that everyone who worked in his new shipyard should clearly understand its purpose. To spread this understanding he had erected over the main entrance a huge sign with letters some three feet high spelling out the common purpose that bound everyone working in the shipyard:





It is not difficult to imagine the daily effect that the words would have on every worker who clanced at them on their way to work each morning. A simple message to read, to understand and to be guided by. From new starter to long established manager, no one would be in any doubt what their job was.

The sign survived until well past the middle of the 1960s until the shipyard was taken out of private ownership in 1968 by the Houston based Tenneco conglomerate. One of the first actions of the new management was to remove the sign. In due course, by 1996, the yard regained its independent as Newport News Shipbuilding but the sign was never re-erected. However a brass plaques (see above) was placed on the main administration building in memory of what approximates closely to the ultimate purpose statement devised by Huntington. The current owners, led by Grumman corporation, continue to remember the sign by mentioning the slogan ‘Always Good Ships’ in their publicity material.