Book Review – ‘SS United States’ by Andrew Britton

By Michael Harrison, published October 2020


This slim volume, part of the paperback ‘Classic Liners’ series offered by the History Press, presents a brief illustrated history of the 1952 American passenger liner United States. It begins with the author’s personal story of family connections to British passenger shipping and a childhood spent in Southampton. A perfunctory introduction then sketches the history of the United States from its sailing days (1952–69) to the current efforts of the SS United States Conservancy to convert the ship into a self-sustaining shoreside attraction on the US East Coast. A catalogue of the ship’s voyages follows, based on an extensive collection of original engineering, deck, and telegraph logbooks in the author’s collection. This catalogue constitutes about half of the book and provides a window into the ferry-like service career of a liner, with regular sailings in all seasons to and from New York, Le Havre, Southampton and Bremerhaven. The list is peppered with trivia as well as references to well-known passengers, stowaways, drydock visits, minor maintenance problems, and industrial actions. Anyone wishing to know the ship’s whereabouts during its seventeen years on the Atlantic could hardly do better than to start with Britten’s voyage list, which also traces the ship’s increasingly frequent cruise sailings in the 1960s, a harbinger of the end of transatlantic liner service that this ship’s history well represents….

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Filed under: Twentieth Century
Subjects include: Ocean Liners & Passenger Craft

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