My ancestral tug

The holidays are a great time to learn about family odds and ends that you had never managed to pick up. I learned the other day that my great-grandfather ran the American Dredging Company for many years. I guess this outfit was a major marine contractor of its day. In 1932 the company purchased some new tugs, and one was named for my great-grandfather: Nathan Hayward.


A cousin recently commissioned the painting above (from artist Scott Cameron) based on some photos and additional research. I was pleased to see that she was a nice-looking tug (she was broken up for scrap in 2002, 10 years after investors did the same to American Dredging). I have no knowledge at this point of her construction, designer, builder, and so on. Regardless, I am happy to have this boat in my lineage.

Incidentally, in Googling the painter to find the link above, the best I could get was his bio from a gallery. But take a look at the unbelievably gorgeous painting pictured there:

Painting of Friendship sloop

3 Comments for “My ancestral tug”

Carl J. Roeder


American Dredging apparently was integral in national security via the dredging industry. Sadly, the final 30 years of the company turned rather dark with one United States Department of Justice investigation in 1987, a State of Florida indictment in 1988, one United States Supreme Court case and a Third Circuit Court of Appeals case initiated by employees. The latter two incidents arose out of apparent defrauding the employees out of their healthcare. According to one company president, American Dredging sent its employees to company/insurance doctors who, in turn, falsified medical reports stating the injured workers either had no injury or an injury substantially less than they actually did.

American Dredging also defrauded the federal government, and apparently a wide range of state governments, via bid rigging in collusion with Great Lakes Dredge and Dock along with a host of other dredging industry companies. American Dredge would agree to not bid on contracts desired by Great Lakes in return for Great Lakes refraining from bidding, or bidding non-competitively, on contracts coveted by American Dredging. While the Departmeng of Justice investigated a sole 1980 incident, a company president confessed to the bid rigging as far back as 1972, indicating that all contracts were handled in such fashion on a routine basis.

The contracts were seven- and eight-figure contracts.

Understandably, the Department of Justice was somewhat unamused.

As an involutary confidant and insider to American Dredging, the company also appears to have been a trailblazer in the pre-Enron era financial gymnastics. In an illegal method known as ‘structuring’, American Dredging senior employees would take the illegal profits from the bid rigging and launder the funds through children’s bank accounts of family members. At least one convenience address in Collingswood, New Jersey, appears to have been kept for money laundering purposes in additional to the creative use of stolen identities and Social Security Numbers.

Wives of company executives, according to a former president, would deposit American Dredging Company proceeds from the bid rigging fraud into bank accounts scattered around southern New Jersey. The defunct Glendale Bank of Voorhees, New Jersey, was specifically identified but at least three other banks popular in the Philadelphia metropolitan region at the time were identified.

The use of a spouse in corporate money laundering operations is a common practice. Apparently, the gambit is seen as a legal barrier insulating the corruption. Under common interpretations of evidence law, a spouse may not be forced to testify against their partner – generally. The ‘spousal immunity’ rule has taken on mystical interpretation in corrupt corporate organization, leading to all sorts of behaviors, much of them illegal

A United States Congress influence peddling operation also broke out in March 1988 just three months after the Department of Justice announcement. At least one American Dredging Company executive began a breathtaking series of campaign donations to U.S. Senators and House Representatives, almost all not his Congressional representatives. Perhaps the logic was ‘when under Department of Justice scrutiny, it pays to have Congressional friends’. The tactic is a common ploy in Congressional corruption, the donations are small and largely not significant other than as a hand-waving gesture, much like a school child seeking teacher recognition. The donation signals a willingness to “play financial ball.” The donors would then be instructed on when, where, and how to donate more money to the member of Congress, but safely away from the Federal Election Commission inspection so that the money is never documented. Charities and banks to which the member of Congress has significant ties, or wholly owns, is a prime vehicle for the off-the-books influence peddling.

American Dreging died quietly in much the same manner as a typical United States Department of Justice out of court settlement: it was given a financial poison pill. In return for turning government informant, senior executives were allow to stay or, in one case, become president of American Dredging…albeit, the company was placed in control of a New York liquidity firm that had, apparently, no interest in the dredging industry. The inevitable outflow: the company was taken out to the curb and put on the Great Wall Street Unwanted List, its parts sold for financial scrap, its employees pensioned off. In short, you get to stay out of jail but your company gets the death penalty – a classic Department of Justice civil settlement not unlike what befell Commerce Bank.

A fasinating connection erupted between American Dredging and Commerce Bank as well, albeit the nexus remains murky other than an incestuous migration of American Dredging company executive assets into Commerce Bank and relatives of former American Dredging Company executives turning up as executives at Commerce Bank. Coincidence is eternal but the same individuals were identified by American Dredging employees as engaging in kickbacks and graft to obtain government employments in Camden County – Camden County has long been associated with an individual named George Norcross, the supposed chairman of the local Democratic Party. After the kickbacks, the American Dredging relative worked on political campaigns and billed the work to his taxpayer financed government job. Shortly thereafter, he was named an executive at Commerce Bank in charge of computer operations.

The relative is the son of an American Dredging president who participated in the bid rigging and money laundering.

No matter how one looks at it, American Dredging was a fascinating company in its latter years, mostly for quite unpleasant reasons.

In its early days, the company was quite active in a historical sense. Much of the contemporary waterfront in Philadelphia and New York was constructed in part by the American Dredging Company. Penns Landing and Philadelphia airport were significant contributions in addition to New York harbor.

American Dredging was a nautical/maritime lynchpin. In its later years, sadly, the maritime activities were largely a necessary means to illegal financial ends whether bid rigging or insurance fraud.

The insurance fraud should not be discounted lightly. Wendell Potter, a Cigna executive, testified to Congress in 2009. Much of what he describes is exactly how American Dredging treated its injured workers – certainly in the eyes of the employees who filed lawsuits. They were indiscriminately ‘purged’ over their injuries, having to resort to lawsuits to get American Dredging to honor its health care insurance policies. At least one employee, Joshua Nelson, appears to have been left to subsist off welfare rather than the company pay for his injury. Another, William Miller, took his complaint over American Dredging executive’s behavior to the United States Supreme Court.

Not surprisingly, Cigna is a Philadelphia-based employer health care plan provider.

From a historical perspective, as an emblem, much has come from a very small sector company – not all of it dredging.

Best Wishes,
Carl J. Roeder

Floyd Bradley


As would my great-grandfather, who was American Dredging’s president in the early 1900s. William James Lee Bradley also was a NJ State Senator (Camden County) and Speaker of the House of Representatives in Trenton.

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