On its maiden voyage in July 1952 from New York to Le Havre, France, and Southampton, U.K., the 990 ft
S.S.United States established new speed records for eastbound and westbound crossings of the Atlantic, winning the Hales Trophy and coveted blue riband for the fastest crossing. Eastbound speed was 35.59 knots, or 3.9 knots faster than the previous blue ribbon holder, the liner Queen Mary. Its speed record stood intact until 1990, when its was broken by the Hoverspeed Great Britain.

Designed by naval architect Gibbs & Cox, Inc., and built by Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., Newport News, Va., the United States had four sets of high-speed geared steam turbines that drove four propellers via reduction gearing and shafts. The 990 ft x 101 ft superliner, with a passenger capacity of 2,000, was built at a cost of $70 million by United States Lines.
Because it was expected to operate as a troop transport ship in times of national emergency, the United States was the first luxury liner built to meet the standards of the U.S. Navy. It was designed to carry 14,000 troops and equipment for such operations.
Safety, particularly fire control, was critical in the ship's construction. "The only wood in her construction," reported the July 1952 issue of Marine Engineering and Shipping Review, "is that used in the pianos and on the tops of butchers' chopping blocks."
Out of service since 1969, the United States is currently berthed in Philadelphia. Talk has centered around possibly refurbishing the ship. American Classic Voyages Co. recently acquired the trademark "United States Lines" to be used for its fleet of cruise ships being developed under the Project America initiative.



6. SAVANNAH (1962)
A nuclear-powered passenger-cargo ship? It not only sounds like a tough sell, it was. The keel of the first nuclear-powered passenger-cargo ship, the 595 ft N.S. Savannah, was built at New York Shipbuilding in Camden, N.J. In 1962 it was chartered to States Marine Lines for experimental commercial use.
Hailed as the "pride of an ailing U.S. fleet," the Savannah was built, in part, as a training platform for future nuclear vessels. Outside the military, though, nuclear propulsion flopped. One killer was crew costs. A June 1963 editorial in Marine Engineering/Log called the elegant white ship, "our merchant marine's biggest white elephant." In the end, labor disputes over wages for the highly skilled crew had quickly ended one of the world's most unique and complex merchant ships.