The shipyard, located in Portland, Oregon, is today best remembered for its significant contribution to America's Emergency Shipbuilding Program during World War II. Commercial Iron Works was founded in 1916 and was active until 1946 when it was acquired by a local firm that eventually turned it into the country's largest shipbreaking operation. Little is known about the company's early years, but apparently, it served diverse markets. For instance, it placed a bid to manufacture 200 fire hydrants for Portland in 1927. Everyone who was employed at this shipyard was heavily exposed to asbestos, as the mineral was crucial for shipbuilding. When the workers would move around or disturb the asbestos products, they would cloud the air they were breathing with toxic dust.