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SS United States

The SS United States was launched at the twilight of transatlantic travel by ship. Although with her impressive speed and first rate accommodations, the United States was eventually replaced with commercial jet travel.

A joint venture between the United States Government and the United States Lines, the vessel was developed as the fastest and most powerful ocean liner ever that could quickly transform into a troopship or a hospital ship to help during a wartime effort. After a successful civilian career, the ship was retired and has since passed through several owners and ports until landing in the hands of the SS United States Conservancy and is docked in the US.

Located in Philadelphia, PA, the ship currently sits awaiting restoration. Through philanthropic donations and grassroots fundraising, the ship currently sits docked at Pier 82 on the Delaware River, visible from the Walt Whitman Bridge. 

SS United States steam ship ocean liner Blue Riband at sea
SS United States Ocean Liner Steam Ship Art

Speed and Power of the SS United States

Although the design of the United States was shrouded in tactical secrecy, the most obvious aspect of the design was her immense power and speed. Crushing the competition in terms of time to cross the Atlantic, the United States could whisk the elite and powerful across the ocean in under four days, a time savings of over 12 hours. A ship this large traveling at interstate highway speeds must have been quite a sight.

Powered by four 18' diameter propellors, the United States was the most powerful merchant marine vessel to be built. Not only powerful, but capable of long range missions, the ship could sail 10,000 nautical miles at 35 knots (40 mph) before refueling. 

Clever naval architecture helped the SS United States become the greyhound of its era. Extensive use of aluminum on the superstructure helps with the decreased weight, in turn reducing draft. Fortunately, the aluminum has held up to the elements than steel would have. Although a sight for sore eyes, the SS United States remains in relatively good condition, the visible decay only skin deep.

SS United States and Navy Origins

Designed by famed naval architect Francis Gibbs, the design of the ship utilized technology developed by the US Navy. Developed as a potential troop transport to help with war efforts had they arisen, the ship was developed with speed in mind. The ship also was designed to resist fire. Unlike the traditional ocean liner luxurious wooden interiors, the United States sported a futuristic design palette. The only wood on board was the butcher blocks in the kitchens. Francis Gibbs also requested Steinway to supply an aluminum grand piano for the ship.


Although built after WWII, the United States Department of Defense deemed it prudent to develop a world class troop transport. Shrouded in secrecy, the SS United States had the ability to transform from ocean liner to warship in short notice. Fortunately the conflicts of the later 20th century never escalated, the SS United States never saw wartime service.   

SS Uited Staes lifeboats promenade funnel gangway
Future of the SS United States 
SS United States conservancy Philadelphia pier 84

Currently berthed in Philadelphia, PA, the United States can be seen when visiting an IKEA along Columbus Boulevard, or when crossing the Walt Whitman Bridge.

Plans have been in the works to save the ship, potentially transforming the vessel into a hotel similar to the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA. Currently, the ship can only wait to be saved from being scrapped and losing a piece of history and the prized flagship of the United States. The United States Conservancy currently has been promoting activism and preservation efforts. Check out their site and learn more about this beautiful ocean liner:

SS United States Ship Facts

SS United States Ship Facts
53,330 GT
101' - 6"
31' - 3"
Number of Decks:
Cruising Speed:
32 Knots (37 mph or 59 km/hr)
Max Speed:
38.38 Knots (44.1mph or 70.97km/h)
Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock in Newport News
Port of Registry:
New York City
Maiden Voyage:
July 3, 1952
Years in Service:
Current Status:
Docked in Philadelphia, PA
SS United States Elevation Drawing
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