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The SS United States: First Lady of the Sea

Did you know the Big U has her own theme song? It’s true!

Though there have been several pieces of music associated with her over the years — including Kenneth Fuchs’ moving 2012 composition, “Atlantic Riband” — “The SS United States: First Lady of the Sea” boasts a unique connection to the history of America’s Flagship.

“First Lady of the Sea” was conceived in 1952 by Meyer Davis, a prominent bandleader who also proudly served as the ship’s Musical Director. In a riveting composition that spans four pages of printed sheet music, Davis perfectly captures the triumphant, patriotic essence of our nation’s greatest ocean liner.

From left to right: Meyer Davis, actor Jackie Gleason, and longtime SS United States captain, Commodore John Anderson. Photograph courtesy of Charles Anderson.

The song’s lyrics — written by Davis’ son, Emery — pay homage to the ship’s unforgettable beauty, graceful lines, and distinctly American spirit. Here they are, reprinted in full:

Since Washington was headman of the Nation And Martha was first lady of the land. Americans with justified elation Have found First Ladies to be grand. There have always been first ladies of the Nation. But never a first lady of the sea. It's as tho' the people waited for a ship to really rate it. And now they're found the key.

Salute the UNITED STATES, First Lady of the SEA Power in every line. She has beauty and dignity. The FIRST LADY of the SEA. Endowed with her country's traits. Proud of her destiny. The SS United States. She's got New York's style, California's grace, the Midwest's strength and Texas space. The Southland's charm, and the Nation's pace. She's got Freedom's form and Liberty's face.

The gallery below showcases the song’s sheet music, autographed by Meyer Davis and the Big U’s first captain, Commodore Harry Manning. It was generously donated to the Conservancy by supporter Gail Sims.


Decades after the Davises penned this moving ode to America’s Flagship, she continues to inspire young and old alike. Please consider making a donation to the SS United States Conservancy, so that, together, we can preserve this mighty vessel for generations to come.

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