|From Clippers and Sails to Iron and Steam
As early as 1908 an American naval architect named William Francis Gibbs had dreams of 1,000 foot, super fast 30-knot passenger liners. In 1914 Gibbs began to design his premier ship. By 1916 Gibbs had the first model of such a ship water tested in Washington, D.C.
Gibbs' work was the evolution of sound design applications so successfully evident in America's beautiful wooden clippers of the mid and late 1800's. Officially speaking, the SS United States saw her first blue print at naval architects Gibbs & Cox in July 1945, but conceptually the development of her breed began in 1838 with the incredible transatlantic race of two British vessels. The Great Western and Sirius were the first steam hybrids to travel in a race from England to America. The technology and speed race was on. And 114 years later on July 7, 1952 the newest entrant in the field crossed the finish line near Bishop Rock. It was on that day the world crowned the SS United States with the Blue Riband - holder of the Atlantic crossing speed record. Not bad for her maiden voyage. Since then no other equally sized passenger liner has eclipsed her speed, nor is it likely that any ever will.
|Upon her arrival in England this American ship was given a hero's welcome at Southampton even though she had just stolen the record from Britain's much loved Queen Mary. There was a bit of fuss in the press when Commodore Harry Manning, senior captain of the United States Lines, told British journalists that, in fact, he had only been "cruising" the United States during the record breaking run. Somewhat stung, the industry Brits labeled him as a Yankee braggart.
In typical fashion, London editors at Punch Magazine wrote: "After the loud and fantastic claims made in advance for the liner United States, it comes as something of a disappointment to find them all true."
|But Harry Manning wasn't bragging. The United States in fact, made the winning run at her merchant speed, running at only two-thirds of maximum power. At a comfortable "cruise" the Big U bested the 1938 speed record of the Queen Mary by ten hours and two minutes. Further confirmation of her ability was made when she also established a new eastbound record on her return voyage. Average speed over the 5,850 mile round trip Atlantic crossing: 35.05 knots.
John R. Kane, retired vice president of Newport News Shipbuilding wrote in-part of Gibbs success formula: "It is, in simple terms, to combine the maximum driving power you can achieve with the lightest displacement compatible with the work the ship must do, and with the longest, finest and cleanest lines that will serve to make a good wholesome seakeeping ship."
She proved herself against all challenges of the sea. Her seakindliness, ability to maintain speed in adverse weather and safety features combined in perfect harmony. From dream to reality indeed, America had built the world's fastest, safest luxury liner - The SS United States.
|From day one she has turned heads. The sea has known few ladies like her. Mammoth in size, yet sleek and very fast! And best of all, the SS United States was an all American beauty.
Imagine this floating city steaming into the ports of New York, Southampton, Bremerhaven or Le Havre. Her signature red, white and blue funnels - the largest in the world- could be seen for miles. In port the SS United States towered above all else.
On board a transatlantic sailing up to 1,972 passengers could enjoy the many exceptional features of her design while a crew of 1,066 ensured comfort and safety for all.
When built in 1952 she represented the best of American workers and presented the leading edge of modern technology. Ship architect Gibbs and his dedicated team at Gibbs & Cox designed a ship of innovation. Just look at the sharpness of a bow that cut through countless barriers to ride strong and proud. Inside her, the source of unsurpassed power was a redundant system of boilers and steam driven turbines. Engineers will marvel at the 240,000 shaft horse power she delivered on command. But her real power came from those who knew her.
From the hands of her thousands of builders to the souls of those who traveled on board, her magic is that she was, is, and always will be a ship of dreams. You see, the SS United States was much more than a luxury liner. In service she was a symbol of American pride and ambition that extended beyond all boundaries of nations and people. The truth is she crossed oceans, even for those who never sailed on board her.
Continue on to discover the stories of those who experienced the SS United States.
The Crew of The SS United States
As this site is developed, we will continue to add personal commentary from the people that served duty on the SS United States, as well as those who helped build and maintain her.
If you were SSUS Crew and wish to "sign on" please forward us an e-mail. Click on the NOTICE above to do so. It would be a pleasure to hear from you and share your story here.
If you know of a hand that helped build her or maintain her, please encourage them to come forward and share in their accomplishment.
Many passengers sailing the SS United States would be shocked if they knew the number of crew on board. We think of the ship as being a hotel with nearly 700 rooms. But it was also home for over a thousand crew members!
No wonder service, housekeeping and ops was so spectacular!
Where did they all live on board?
Who were they? Deck Stewards, Linen Keepers, Photographers, AB Seamen, Lookouts, Engineers, Station Cooks, Waiters, Firemen, Bartenders, Room Stewards, Wipers, Bakers, Elevator Operators, Chefs, Porters and many more.
All contributed to a service record that is the envy of world fleets.
|The Passengers & Friends of The SS United States