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William Francis Gibbs, the SS United States' Dedicated Designer

The SS United States Conservancy's "We Are the United States" campaign is an all-hands-on-deck effort to raise funds to help rescue and revitalize America's Flagship. It is also a celebration of how the SS United States invokes some of the nation's most enduring and inspiring values.

One of these values is Dedication.

The SS United States' designer — my grandfather, William Francis Gibbs — begin sketching the "Big Ship" in 1914. His goal was to create the fastest, safest and most powerful ship the world had ever seen. He continued advancing plans for the ship for almost four decades; the SS United States finally set off on her maiden voyage in 1952.

William Francis (left) with brother Frederic Herbert Gibbs in June, 1923.

My grandparents were on board for this triumphal transatlantic crossing, and my grandmother wrote about her husband's dedication in her journal:

"The trip of trips was now drawing to a close. When I look back on the weeks, months, and years that William Francis spent on the SS United States, I wonder how his enthusiasm remained undiminished. The series of disappointments that he had to face, the political battles he had to face, all those went on for so long. Those aggravations kept repeating themselves with slight variations, over and over again. What I always wondered was why the wellspring of his enthusiasm didn’t dry up. I am reminded of what Edmund Burke wrote: 'The nerve that never relaxes, the eye that never blanches, the though that never wanders, those are the masters of victory.' "


Susan Gibbs is the Executive Director of the SS United States Conservancy. To learn more about the Conservancy and its efforts, visit Want to join the fight to save the Big U? Make your donation today and help us rescue and revitalize America's Flagship!

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