John Gunder North

Shipbuilder of San Francisco

Description:

John Gunder North (b. December 15, 1826) is a Norwegian born, ship builder in San Francisco. During his career, he has built dozens of hulls of all kinds including the first bay and river steamers built in the West.

Bio:

Early LIfe

John G. North was born Johan Gurenius Nordtvedt in Trondheim, Norway. Becoming a shipbuilder for the Norwegian government, he built twenty gunboats for the Royal Norwegian Navy. He was then given a subsidy to study American shipbuilding techniques and came to Philadelphia in July 1848. After visiting and working in shipyards in New York, Boston, Portland and New Orleans, North decided to stay in the United States, and came by sea as a ships officer to San Francisco, California in July 28, 1850. He visited the mines for a short time, then returned to San Francisco to partner with Captain William H. Moore in a small steamboat beginning a firm that later became part of the California Steam Navigation Company. After acquiring enough money from the steamboat business by 1853 North returned to being a shipbuilder.

Shipbuilding in California

In 1854, North opened his first boatyard at Steamboat Point on the shore of the lagoon called Mission Bay on the south side of what is now Townsend Street, between Third and Fourth Streets, in what is now the Mission Bay neighborhood of San Francisco.

In 1855, North built the Colorado, a 120 food long, stern-wheel steamboat, for the George A. Johnson & Company in San Francisco. It was equipped with an 80 horsepower steam engine capable of carrying up to 70 tons of cargo while drawing only 2 feet of water. North subsequently disassembled and shipped in sections by sea to the estuary of the Colorado River. There North unloaded, reassembled and launched in it in December, 1855. It was the first stern-wheel steamboat put on that river.

In 1857, North built the 449 ton, 170 foot long, single end, side-wheel, ferry steamer Contra Costa for Charles Minturn, owner of the Contra Costa Steam Navigation Company, largest ferry company in San Francisco Bay at that time.

Other notable paddlewheelers built at his works include the Chrysopolis, Yosemite and Capital.

John Gunder North

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