Group taking survey of items from SS United States

The SS United States docked in Philadelphia. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

The SS United States docked in Philadelphia. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – The SS United States Conservancy is planning to compile an inventory of the furnishings, equipment, ephemera and other artifacts of the legendary ocean liner that still exist.

The conservancy made the announcement Monday on its website, which has a survey for owners of items such as light fixtures, dishes, advertisements and souvenirs, ship models, log books, lifejackets and menus.

The nonprofit group owns the historic ship and is working to redevelop it. The conservancy stressed that the survey doesn’t mean it’s looking for collectors to donate their treasures. It said the goal is to eventually make the information available for researchers and historians, connect fans of the ship and identify potential sources of future loans for exhibitions and displays.

“At this stage, we are simply trying to create a comprehensive record of how the SS United States’ legacy endures in material culture and memory,” the conservancy said in a statement.

After decades of false starts and shifting owners, the SS United States Conservancy last year bought the five-block-long ship, known to fans as “Big U,” from Norwegian Cruise Lines and its parent for $3 million.

The estimated $200 million cost to renovate the ship will come from for-profit entities. The conservancy is exploring possible partnerships with as yet unnamed investors in New York and Miami to redevelop the liner as a stationary entertainment complex with a hotel, restaurants, retail, educational and museum components.

Also Monday, the conservancy announced a new partnership with real estate advisory firm New Canaan Advisors LLC to assist in advancing its development plans.

Decommissioned in 1969, towed from port to port for decades, the largest passenger vessel ever constructed in the U.S. has been moored since 1996 at a Delaware River pier in South Philadelphia.

On its 1952 maiden voyage from New York to Le Havre, France, the liner’s 268,000 shaft horsepower engines set a trans-Atlantic speed record: 3 days, 10 hours, 42 minutes. That beat the previous pace by about four hours, setting a record that still stands for a conventional passenger ocean liner.

Built as a joint venture between the Navy and ship designer Gibbs & Cox, the $78 million liner was never called to battle, but could have been converted in a single day to transport 14,000 soldiers.

Instead, it carried heads of state, royalty and celebrities in its 400 round trips. Passengers included Presidents John F. Kennedy, actress Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier of Monaco, and England’s King Edward VIII. Then-Rhodes scholar Bill Clinton traveled tourist class—one step above the crew—on his way to Oxford University in 1968.



SS United States Conservancy:

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The SS United States docked in Philadelphia. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

The SS United States docked in Philadelphia. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.