THIS WEEK IN HISTORY: SS United States arrives in New York for maiden voyage
This week means so very much to the story of America's Flagship.
Photo courtesy of Henry Brunjes
June 20th, 1952: The SS United States is officially handed over to United States Lines. Twenty years later, after she was taken out of service, the U.S. Congress authorized the Department of Commerce to purchase the ship for $12.9 million as part of the National Defense Reserve Fleet, a special group of merchant and passenger vessels that stood to be called into public service in times of crisis.
June 23rd, 1951: The SS United States is christened by Lucille Connally, wife of Texas Senator Tom Connally.
The United States was actually floated at 4:30 a.m. on christening day. The late John Lochhead, former librarian at The Mariners' Museum, recalled that there was an "unofficial christening" as the great ship was floated for the first time. Shipyard workers, filled with pride for their creation, baptized her with a bottle of North Carolina corn whiskey from a rowboat. It was indeed a proud moment.
Speakers were J.B. Woodward Jr., president of the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co.; John M. Franklin, president of United States Lines; E.L. Cochrane, U.S. maritime administrator, and Sen. Connally. Because of the heat, the speakers were mercifully brief, and Mrs. Connally christened the ship with a single swing of the champagne bottle at 12:45 p.m.
Inexplicably, there was not enough room on the christening stand for the ship's creators, William Francis Gibbs and his brother, Frederick Herbert Gibbs. During the speeches they stood on the ground immediately in front of the stand, then they moved around its right end to view the christening.
June 23rd, 1952: United States arrives in New York to prepare for her maiden voyage.
She would depart from New York on July 3rd, carrying 1,660 passengers. On July 7th, she broke the Queen Mary's transatlantic speed record.