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A Historic Moment: Looking Back at the Conservancy's 2011 Purchase of America's Flagship

On February 1st, 2011, the SS United States Conservancy purchased the SS United States, rescuing the ship from imminent scrapping and marking first time in the history of the vessel that her ownership was by a group concerned primarily with her historic significance and preservation.

Since then, America's Flagship has defied the odds, remaining safely afloat thanks to her generous and ever-expanding network of friends and supporters. Today, we're looking back at that historic moment. Watch a rousing speech below by Judge Thomas Watkins, who played an essential role in the Conservancy's acquisition of the ship from Norwegian Cruise Line.

A pledge of $5.8 million by Philadelphia philanthropist H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest was instrumental in allowing the Conservancy to purchase the ship. Lenfest underscored the importance of the SS United States in a 2011 statement, declaring, “She is worth keeping. This ship is an iconic part of American maritime history and if there’s any chance at all that she can be saved, we should take that chance.”

We've come a long way since 2011. In the last seven years, the Conservancy has built the world's largest collection or art, artifacts and documents from America's Flagship, mounted temporary exhibitions in New York City and Philadelphia, and developed extensive plans for an eventual onboard museum. We've also nurtured an incredible global network committed to saving the ship and celebrating the incredible legacy of the Big U.

America's Flagship in her glamorous heyday. Photograph courtesy of Bob Sturm.

Since her purchase by the Conservancy, extensive feasibility studies have determined that the SS United States remains entirely structurally sound. The Conservancy is committed to ensuring the vessel's long-term survival and adaptive use, and continues to actively pursue a number of potential partnerships for the ship's conversion into an exciting mixed-used waterfront development and museum complex.


The SS United States has always been a soaring symbol of ingenuity, innovation, and the nation's ability to join arm-in-arm to advance common goals. It is inconceivable that she has endured all of these years, only to be lost now.

America's Flagship needs your help: Become a member of the SS United States Conservancy today, and help us save the Big U!

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