The S.S. United States book is the first comprehensive work on the vessel in decades. This volume includes many rarely seen photographs from the liner's golden years to her forlorn and lonely twilight years. Follow Frank Braynard, the nation's leading maritime historian, and Robert Hudson Westover as they chronicle the life of the S.S. United States. The United States, which still holds the West-bound speed record on the North Atlantic, is the greatest ocean liner this country has ever built, and this book stands as a fitting tribute and celebration of her maiden voyage.The Big Ship: The Story of the S.S. United States is the fascinating behind-the scenes story of one of the fastest ships in the world and one of the most luxurious passenger liners to cross the Atlantic. With new introductory material by the SS United States Conservancy, this classic volume includes photographs of celebrity passengers and of the majestic liner from her golden years, when she spurred the rebirth of America’s maritime glory, to her twilight years. Follow Frank Braynard, one of the great American maritime historians, as he chronicles the life of the S.S. United States, the incredible feat of engineering that still holds the westbound speed record on the North Atlantic. This book stands as a tribute of her maiden voyage, a celebration of her recent rescue efforts by the Conservancy, and an inspiration for future generations to restore the legacy of the greatest ocean liner this country has ever built.
About the Author
Frank O. Braynard (1916-2007) was a maritime reporter for the New York Herald Tribune, curator of the American Merchant Marine Museum, and director of New York’s South Street Seaport Museum. He organized the first “Operation Sail” in 1964 and OpSail ’76 for America’s 200th birthday celebration. A graduate of Duke University and recipient of several prestigious maritime awards, Braynard also held a post at the American Merchant Marine Institute, served as president of the Steamship Historical Society of America, and was an honorary member of the Council of American Master Mariners.
Read an Excerpt
The Big ShipThe Story of the S.S. United States
By Frank O Braynard
TurnerCopyright © 2011 Frank O Braynard
All right reserved.
The story of the superliner United States is a remarkable epoch. She was a superb wonder ship in many ways; the supreme achievement of American maritime genius. She was a success beyond the most sanguine expectations of her designer and builders.
The opening in 1952 of her brief 17-year career on the route for which she was built was like a brilliant comet’s arrival. She burst on the scene in a blaze of glory acidly described in Britain’s Punch magazine: “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.” In her recapturing of the Atlantic speed supremacy, her great popularity as a trans-Atlantic liner, and her remarkable record of trouble-free operation, many saw a rebirth of America’s maritime glory.
Behind the saga of the United States looms the gaunt figure of one man, a man whose talents and drive put him on the highest plateau among the most gifted of men. William Francis Gibbs, supported throughout his lifetime by his younger brother Frederic Herbert Gibbs, was that man. If ever there was a true perfectionist it was William Francis. And where else in all history has a perfectionist come so close to achieving perfection—not only with the United States, high point in his career, but all along the way in many other maritime milestones that stand to his credit. The mystical chain linking the man and the ship is profound and all-embracing. Although thousands contributed to the creating of this wonder vessel, and Mr. Gibbs emphasized this many times, she was, perhaps as only rarely before, a one-man ship. Some might say this was the case with Moses Rogers and his tiny Savannah, of 1819, the first steam-powered ship to cross any ocean. Others would nominate Isambard Kingdom Brunel and his huge failure, the first Leviathan, better known as the Great Eastern. But there can never be the slightest question in that the superliner United States was William Francis Gibbs—and vice versa. The United States was the embodiment in steel of the spirit that made Gibbs such a superman. Supership-superman and a super merger of the two. This book will be an effort to show how such an amazing union was conceived, matured, evolved, and conquered all, a success story seldom equalled in any field of enterprise. Fortunately Mr. Gibbs did not live to see his masterpiece laid up, a victim of the rush into air travel and the triumph of the jet age.
It is not as if William Francis Gibbs was a superman, God-like man. He had very human qualities and salted into the story they add a strong strain of humor to the saga of the United States. His passion to outdo competitors, particularly British competitors, was one such characteristic. Another was his determination to have his own way. Also his almost paranoic demand for secrecy over whatever he was doing. And his delightful foibles: how he dressed his ancient felt hat on the one hand and his elegant, red-lined opera cape on the other; how he spoke—those who had offices near his often heard him slugging his contemporaries with the strongest kind of language. Swearing was one of his weapons, and he used it liberally to slice up anyone who dared oppose him. How he got his way—skullduggery—was not alien to his makeup, as unwary opponents often discovered. More times than not they never knew what had hit them, he was so deft at deception and fancy stepping. And he managed to combine a temperament that was both self-effacing, on almost a Uriah Heep scale, with an eagerness for recognition and audience appreciation.
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Table of Contents
Saving Our Ship: A Letter from the SS United States Conservancy xi
1. The Beginnings 1
2. Two World Wars 18
3. She Gets Her Name 41
4. From Keel to Launch 62
5. An Attack from the White House 88
6. The Blue Riband 118
Image Section 143
7. Subsidy Feud Continues 152
8. The Honeymoon Period 174
9. Labor Troubles Begin 200
10. More Labor Troubles 221
11. More Passengers Than Any Other Liner 240
12. The End 259
13. Supplemental History 278
Author’s Note 293