Liberty Ships and Bethlehem Steel

Maryland State Archives
350 Rowe Boulevard
Annapolis, MD 21401

Phone: (410) 260-6400


In January, 1941, President Roosevelt announced a $350,000,000 shipbuilding program to help win World War II.  By September an emergency shipbuilding program had been launched.  Shipyards located in thirteen states were involved in a class of cargo ships called "liberty ships."  They were called liberty ships because the first one launched was the SS Patrick Henry.  The ship was launched in 1941.  During the dedication President Roosevelt referred to Patrick Henry's phrase "Give me liberty...or give me death."  Roosevelt told America that these ships would bring liberty to Europe.  That is why they were known as liberty ships.  The SS Patrick Henry was built by the Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard in Maryland. 

National History Standards

Materials compiled in this document can be used by educators to fulfill the following National History Standards for Grades 5-12:

Era 8: The Great Depression and World War II (1929-1945)

STANDARD 3: The causes and course of World War II, the character of the war at home and abroad, and its reshaping of the U.S. role in world affairs.

Standard 3C: The student understands the effects of World War II at home.

5-12: Explain how the United States mobilized its economic and military resources during World War II. [Utilize visual and quantitative data] 

Primary Resources

  1. DESCRIPTION:  Photograph, Launching SS Patrick Henry
    SOURCE: Maryland's Firsts-First Liberty ship built; MC2179
    REPOSITORY:  Maryland Historical Society

  2. DESCRIPTION: Photograph, World War II, Liberty Ship
    SOURCE:  Special Collections, Topic File, MSA SC 1456-2002, 0/70/9/32
    REPOSITORY:  Maryland State Archives

  3. DESCRIPTION: Photograph, Clifford R. Jenkins, Jr... After a course at the Cooks and Bakers School at the U.S. Maritime Training Base, Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn [NY], now baking for merchant seamen aboard the [SS] Patrick Henry, first Liberty Ship launched."
    SOURCE: Pictures of African Americans During World War II
    REPOSITORY: National Archives, Washington, DC

  4. DESCRIPTION:  Bethlehem Steel
    SOURCE: Special Collections, Topic File, MSA SC 1456-2162, 0/70/9/7
    :  Maryland State Archives

  5. DESCRIPTION:  Photograph, Bethlehem Steel Plant (Sparrows Point)
    ACCESSION NO.:  Z24.252
    REPOSITORY:  Maryland Historical Society Library

Additional Media Resources

The SS Lane Victory

National Liberty Ship Memorial: The SS Jeremiah O'Brien, the only operational Liberty Ship in the world.

Liberty Ships built by the United States Maritime Commission in World War II. Site maintained by the U.S. Maritime Service Veterans

Project Liberty Ship

Additional Instructional Resources

Resources on Incorporating Primary Sources and Historic Sites in Classroom Instruction

War Letters: Economy

Secondary Resources

Andrade, Matthew J. S.S. Johns Hopkins : Liberty Ship

Bunker, John.  Liberty Ships, the Ugly Ducklings of World War II.  Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1972.

Cooper, Sherod.  Liberty Ship: the Voyages of the John W. Brown, 1042-1946.  Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1997.

__________, S.S. John W. Brown, Baltimore’s Living Liberty.  Baltimore, Maryland:  Project Liberty Ship, 1991.

Deschamps, Capt. Robert.  The Liberty Ships: the People Behind the Names.  Baltimore, Maryland:  Project Liberty Ship, 1997.

Elphick, Peter.  Liberty: The Ships That Won the War. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 2001.

Hoehling, Adolph A.  The Fighting Liberty Ships: a Memoir.  Kent, Ohio:  Kent State University Press, 1990.

Sawyer, Leonard Arthur.  The Liberty Ships:  the History of the Emergency Type Cargo Ships Constructed in the United States during the Second World War. 2nd edition.  Colchester:  Lloyd’s of London Press, 1985.

Shaw, Alexander.  Liberty Ships: Twenty Years Later.  Addendum No. 1.  1962.

Associated Heritage and Preservation Organizations

Project Liberty Ship/SS John W. Brown
Pier One, Clinton Street Baltimore, MD


Teaching American History in Maryland is a collaborative partnership of the Maryland State Archives and the Center for History Education (CHE), University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), and the following sponsoring school systems: Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Baltimore City Public School System, Baltimore County Public Schools, and Howard County Public Schools.

Other program partners include the Martha Ross Center for Oral History, Maryland Historical Society, State Library Resource Center/Enoch Pratt Free Library, with assistance from the National Archives and Records Administration and the Library of Congress. The program is funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

This document packet was research and developed by Rose King.

An Archives of Maryland Online Publication
© Copyright, Maryland State Archives, June 23, 2004