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Salvaged United States Lines China Crosses the Atlantic to Join Conservancy Collections

As the SS United States Conservancy works to secure the future of the nation's greatest and sole remaining ocean liner, we're also busy building the world's largest permanent collections of art, documents and artifacts from the SS United States.

Recently, supporter Steph May from Hampshire, England, generously donated an extraordinary collection of original "Grey Star" china from the SS United States. What sets Steph's donation apart is that her collection is composed of water-worn individual ceramic fragments, carefully collected from the local beaches opposite Southampton's busy docks. The SS United States' primary transatlantic route was between New York and Southampton, with additional stops in Le Havre, France and Bremerhaven, Germany.

We are excited to add these pieces to the Conservancy's permanent collections. As they rejoin other original artifacts from the Big U, Steph's donation serves as a moving testimony to how America's Flagship continues to endure and inspire, even as time and tides have taken their toll.

Collection of United States Lines "Grey Star" china fragments from SS United States.

Photographs courtesy of Steph May.

Over the years, Steph has combed the coastline on the Hampshire side of Southampton Water, gathering ceramic fragments from a variety of vessels. She writes that she "became fascinated by the origins of all these plate pieces, and bought the shipping dinner service catalogues by Peter Laister in order to identify the ships they came from." Steph continues, "It would be quite poetic if items that had been in the sea for a long time eventually made it back to their original ship."

"My parents moved to Southampton when I was a child, and watching the big ships was very exciting," she recalls. "I clearly remember thinking the SS United States and the Queen Mary were particularly beautiful...The modern cruise ships simply do not have the style and looks of the old liners."

The SS United States berthed in Southampton, England, in the 1960s.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Harvey.

A beachcomber's paradise: Looking from Hampshire, England, across Southampton Water towards Southampton Docks. Photograph courtesy of Steph May.

Steph also generously shared photographs of additional items in her exciting personal collection, including a ceramic White Star Line fragment that may have been aboard the Titanic when the ill-fated vessel departed from Southampton in April, 1912. Click through below:

Additional ceramic fragments salvaged from Southampton Water beaches by Steph May.

Photographs courtesy of Steph May.


The Conservancy's curatorial collections continue to expand, thanks to our generous supporters and donors. These collections will eventually find a home in our planned museum, the SS United States Center for Design and Discovery, ensuring that the unique history of the SS United States, and the stories of those that traveled and worked aboard her, will never be forgotten.

Do you own artwork, objects or photographs from America's Flagship? Click HERE to find out how you can make a donation, or reach out at Not ready to part with your SS United States memorabilia? We're cataloguing the location and ownership of items from the vessel in advance of future exhibitions. Fill out our object loan survey HERE.

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