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Special Preview of David Macaulay's SS United States Masterpiece: "Crossing on Time"

The Conservancy is thrilled to share these pages from award-winning author and illustrator David Macaulay's upcoming book, Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Journey to the New World.

The newly released cover for Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Journey to the New World, and the book's talented author-illustrator, David Macaulay, aboard the SS United States. Courtesy of David Macaulay.

Published by Macmillan's Roaring Brook Press, and available everywhere on May 7th, 2019, Crossing on Time is framed around the author's own childhood experience as a passenger aboard America's Flagship and guides readers through the fascinating history of steam power, culminating in the building of the most advanced — and last — of the great steamships: the SS United States. The book artfully explores the design and construction of the vessel and the life of its designer and engineer, William Francis Gibbs.

As emphasized by Macmillan, "Crossing on Time is a tour de force of the art of explanation and a touching and surprising childhood story." Check out a few exciting pages below, courtesy of David Macaulay and Macmillan:

Want to ensure that you can get your hands on a copy of Macaulay's incredible new work as soon as possible? Crossing on Time is available for pre-order now from IndieBound, Barnes and Noble and Amazon — and stay tuned for an exciting release event in the spring!

Macaulay's SS United States work for Crossing on Time will also be the centerpiece of a breathtaking upcoming exhibition at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, featuring over 50 original illustrations, along with archival photographs, documents and SS United States ephemera.

The show will run from November 9, 2019 through March 8, 2020. CLICK HERE to learn more and HERE to watch an exhibition trailer.

"[The SS United States] still stirs wonder at the first glimpse of her iconic streamlined funnels. The lesson she suggests by her very presence, is that anything is possible. We don’t have to have all the answers, we need only look back at the ingenuity of our ancestors for ideas and inspiration as we confront new problems and redefine the old ones. Hard work and imagination will do the rest." — Author-illustrator David Macaulay

An early sketch made by David Macaulay in the lead up to Crossing on Time showing how the propellers, turbines and boilers aboard the SS United States worked together to generate power. Courtesy of David Macaulay.

For Macaulay, sketching is an essential tool for testing his knowledge and thinking through the complex relationships between the mechanical elements he depicts. He notes in a 2014 interview:

"If you learn how to look at something, really look at it — and my chosen way is through drawing it — you begin to ask questions about how it really works."

You can view more of Macaulay's extraordinary early sketches for Crossing on Time on the Conservancy's website, accompanied by the author's commentary, insight and stirring personal reflections upon his work.


David Macaulay is an award-winning author and illustrator whose books, including such well-known works as Cathedral and The Way Things Work, have sold millions of copies in the United States alone.

Macaulay's work has been translated into a dozen languages, and he has garnered numerous awards including the Caldecott Medal and Honor Awards, the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award, the Christopher Award, an American Institute of Architects Medal, and the Washington Post–Children’s Book Guild Nonfiction Award. In 2006, he was the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, given “to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations.”

Macaulay is also a member of the SS United States Conservancy's advisory council, and continues to advise the Conservancy on the development of the SS United States Center for Design and Discovery.

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