Specifications:
  • LOA: Length over all: 990 feet (LWL: 940 feet; LBP: 905.25 feet)
  • Beam molded, maximum: 101.5 feet
  • Depth - Keel to top of Superstructure: 122 feet
    Keel to top of forward funnel 175 feet
  • Number of decks: 12
  • Number of Staterooms: 693 + 340 Crew Accommodations = 1033
  • Gross tonnage: 53,330
  • Net tonnage: 29,475
  • Total cargo capacity: 148,000 cubic feet
  • Refrigerated cargo capacity 48,000 cubic feet
  • Propulsion: geared steam turbines (Westinghouse)
    quadruple screw
  • Number of boilers 8 - IOWA Class Babcock & Wilcox Design
  • Steam conditions: 950 PSIG/1000 degrees Fahrenheit
    (later reduced to 965 degrees)
  • Propeller diameter: 18 feet
    forward outboard props are 4-bladed; aft inboard props are 5-bladed
    each propellor weighs over 60,000 pounds; manganese-bronze
  • Electric plants There are six 1,500 kilowatt steam turbo generators
    Plus two 250 kilowatt diesel emergency generators
  • Speed - cruising (100,000 S H P clean) 30.5 knots
    (130,000 S H P one year later)
  • Maximum Recorded SHP at Sea Trials: 241,785 SHP
  • Blue Riband Speeds: (obtained at less than 2/3rds power output)
    Eastbound Maiden Voyage: 3 days, 10 hours, 40 minutes. Avg: 35.59 knots
    Westbound Maiden Voyage: 3 days, 12 hours, 12 minutes. Avg: 34.51 knots
    Combined Round Trip Average: 35.05 knots (combined average)
  • Speed - maximum (241,785 SHP @ trials) 38.32 knots (44.1 mph - 71 kph)
  • Range - (at cruise speed 35 knots) 10,000 nautical miles non-stop

Cost: $70 million
Naval Architects: Gibbs and Cox Inc., New York, New York USA
Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., Newport News Virginia
This ship was constructed with the cooperation of the United States maritime administration.

Owner/Operator: United States Lines Company, New York
(Present Owner 2000: Edward Cantor, New Jersey Businessman)

Interior Architects: Eggers & Higgins, New York
Interior Decorators: Smyth, Urquhart & Marckwald, New York

Passenger Capacity:

  • First Class: 894
  • Cabin Class: 524
  • Tourist Class: 554
    Total Passengers: 1972
  • Total Staterooms: 693 (per original G&C plans)

Convertibility of classes - First class to Cabin class: 269; Cabin class to Tourist class: 145

Dining Saloon seating capacities: (single seating)

  • First class 394 normal, 410 maximum
  • Cabin class 292 normal, 304 maximum
  • Tourist class 336 normal, 346 maximum

Galley Production: 9000 meals per day plus morning bouillon, afternoon tea, midnight snacks

Crew Manning

Steward Department

  • First class 279
  • Cabin class 98
  • Tourist class 90
  • Kitchen class 178
  • Concessionaires 45
  • Miscellaneous 73
    Total Stewards: 763

Deck Department: 96

Engine Department: 144

Pursers Department: 41

    Total Crew: 1044

  • 340 Crew Quarter Spaces of which 142 were staterooms with private facilities, and 198 were group quarters (dorm) with shared facilities. In addition to living quarters, crew members had their own lounges, store (in a crew area nicknamed Times Square) dining rooms (mess halls), and department heads had their own offices aboard. These included Chief Engineer's Office, Purser Offices, Master & Executive Officer's offices, and more. The chef even had a private reception room. There are also many "shops" aboard - the carpenter shop, machining shop, etc - to keep the ship and all furnishings aboard in great shape.

Passenger Conveniences: The SS United States was the first passenger liner of her size to be completely air-conditioned. Each passenger stateroom had its own heating and air-conditioning controls in order that each passenger could regulate their own conditions. The air conditioning system aboard the Big U could easily chill three theatres the size of New York's Radio City Music Hall.

Passenger Spaces. There are over 40 public rooms aboard the SS United States including two ultramodern theaters. The First & Cabin Class Theater, seating 352, is located aft aboard the ship on the Promenade deck. The tourist class theater, seating 199, is located forward on Promenade deck. Trivia: As you watched a movie or performance aboard the ship, you were facing backwards aft.

Accommodations: By design the SS UNITED STATES was built with a total of 693 passenger staterooms, plus 340 crew quarter spaces. There were 14 suites aboard ship, six on the Upper Deck and eight on the Main Deck. These 3-room suites have three staterooms, three bathrooms, a dressing room and a trunk room. The trunk room had it's own door so porters could easily place/move luggage without disturbing guests.

The SS United States swimming pool, located on C deck is made of
Monel-clad steel. The pool featured a “beach area” with adjacent spa rooms. The water in the pool was heated ocean saltwater. Adjacent were spas and dressing rooms.

Communications/Telephones: The Big U was the first liner of her size to have a telephone in each stateroom in all three classes. Calls could be made to any telephone aboard the ship as well as any ship-to-shore calls. Throughout the ship loudspeakers were installed in a network that allowed the Bridge, Captain or Damage Control Officer to speak to specific areas or all of the ship to communicate announcements or emergency instructions.

The SS United States was the first luxury passenger liner built to high standards of the U.S. Navy. At the time of her build the power output of the ship’s boilers was more than twice that of the next most powerful American passenger ship.

Largest Liner Ever Built in the USA. To the present day, the SS United States is the largest and fastest passenger ship ever constructed in America. She is as tall as your average 12 story building. She is approximately five city blocks long. If tipped end on end she would tower more than 10 stories above the Rockefeller Center Building in New York City.

Because the SS United States was built in a graving dock (dry dock) she was far more complete than any previous major passenger vessel build by the time of her christening. Approximately 70% complete. Building the Big U in drydock removed weight limitations that are put on traditionally launched vessels.

At 990 feet in length she actually was longer than the drydock she was built in, extending stem and stern beyond her graving dock by 30 feet.

National Defense . The SS United States design included special structural features for extra safety speed and performance. The ship was built for high-speed long-range cruising. At the time of her build the only other vessel of similar power was the battleship Iowa (158,000 S H P). But, unlike the Iowa the SS UNITED STATES could cruise at her high power output/speed continuously - a requirement of passenger service. At speed, (35 knots) her range is 10,000 nautical miles, or the equivalent of steaming without refueling for 12 days. A present day comparison Note: May 2000: Boeing Aircraft announces plans to produced modified Boeing 777 aircrafts to allow a non-stop range of 10,000 miles. This will be the first time ever a passenger aircraft can obtain such a long nonstop range. However, the SS UNITED STATES, soon to be 50 years old, was designed for this range - while she normally transported 2,000 passengers, and 1,100 crew member. That’s about 1600 more people than your average 777. But, more importantly, the Big U was designed to support food/water and housing for about 13,600 more people than the 777 aircraft could carry - if she was needed to. Troop ship capacity: 14,000 soldiers (nearly a full Army division)

Safety. Not only is the SS UNITED STATES the largest liner ever built in the USA, she was also arguably the safest. Exceptional measures were incorporated in both her design and operation to maximize safety of passengers and crew. The ship construction made no use of wood. Fireproofing throughout included marinite, treated fabrics, aluminum furniture and specially formulated fire-retardant paints. Her steel and aluminum construction also made her more fire resistant as well as more stable. (2,000 tons of aluminum, mostly in her superstructure - contributed to stability and performance). Extra compartments bordered by water tight doors protected in case of flooding. Comprehensive and redundant emergency systems (damage control) were in place including, remotely activated water tight doors, a smoke detection system throughout the ship monitored from near the bridge, manual watches, remote control fire doors, hundreds of fire extinguishers, multiple fire pumping stations, multiple emergency backup generators, room to room telecom throughout, PA systems throughout, all aluminum lifeboats, extra flotation, double hull construction, extra thick high tensile steel plating, and fully duplicated engine/boiler rooms all combined to provide the highest degree of safety possible. Her funnels, the largest of any in the world - also served as lookouts and in bright red, white and blue stood high above the horizon (collision avoidance) as they proudly displayed the line colors.

Important dates for the SS United States
Formal design began July 19th 45
Model unveiled April 5, 1948
Bids submitted and December 1, 1948
Authorized April 8, 1949
Keel laid - 104 foot section weighing 55 tons February 8th 1950
Kristin June 23, 1951
Builders Sea Trials May 14th, 16, 1952
Official Sea trials June 9/10 1952
Delivered to U.S. Lines at Newport News June 20th of 1952
Arrived at home port - Pier 86 in New York City cab June 23, 1952
Maiden voyage from New York to Havre to Southampton July 3, 1952
Laid up December 1969

Mrs. Tom Connally, wife of the Senator from Texas, who was her official sponsor, christened the SS United States at precisely 12:43 p.m. on June 23, 1951 in the first christening ceremony ever to be televised.

The Big U was launched by floatation. This means that water was let into the graving dock where she was built until she floated. Water first touched the keel of the SS United States at 4:14 p.m. on June 22, 1951 and she first floated at 5:01 a.m. June 23, 1951.

Looking forward at Frame 153, Unit #4. Three of the four levels of the forward Engine Room of the SS UNITED STATES are visible in this Gibbs & Cox architectural plan. At the 26' level (above ship bottom) the high pressure and low pressure turbine of Unit #4 (Port). Steam exits the turbines down in the main condenser. You're seeing just half of the forward engine room. The mirror image of this machinery exists to the right of the thin blue vertical line(ship's centerline). Units #4 and #1 powered the outboard props. Farther back in the mighty Big U - yet another total duplicate of this engineering - the aft engine room, with units # 3 and #2 driving the two inboard props.
All images © ss-united-states.com 2000