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United States Lines

United States Lines

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United States Lines was a transatlantic shipping company that operated cargo services from 1921 to 1989, and ocean liner
Ocean liner
An ocean liner is a ship designed to transport people from one seaport to another along regular long-distance maritime routes according to a schedule. Liners may also carry cargo or mail, and may sometimes be used for other purposes .Cargo vessels running to a schedule are sometimes referred to as...

s until 1969—most famously the SS United States
SS United States
SS United States is a luxury passenger liner built in 1952 for the United States Lines designed to capture the trans-Atlantic speed record....

.

1920s


The company was formed with three ships from the tonnage of the failed United States Mail Steamship Company
United States Mail Steamship Company
The United States Mail Steamship Company – also called the United States Mail Line, or the U.S. Mail Line – was a passenger steamship line formed in 1920 by the United States Shipping Board to run the USSB's fleet of ex-German ocean liners that had been seized by the United States during World War...

. Two of the ships, America and George Washington
SS George Washington
SS George Washington was an ocean liner built in 1908 for the Bremen-based North German Lloyd and was named after George Washington, the first President of the United States. The ship was also known as USS George Washington and USAT George Washington in service of the United States Navy and United...

, were originally German vessels that had been seized during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 and kept as reparations. America and George Washington made New York–Bremen runs, while Centennial State ran from New York to London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

. One of the founders was Kermit Roosevelt
Kermit Roosevelt
Kermit Roosevelt I MC was a son of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. He was an explorer on two continents with his father, a graduate of Harvard University, a soldier serving in two world wars, with both the British and U.S. Armies, a businessman, and a writer...

, son of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States . He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity...

.

Additional ships were acquired in 1922 and renamed after various US presidents. The 52,000 ton Leviathan
SS Leviathan
SS Leviathan, originally built as SS Vaterland, was an ocean liner which regularly sailed the North Atlantic briefly in 1914 and from 1917 to 1934...

, formerly the Vaterland and one of the largest liners in the world, was acquired in 1923.

Throughout the 1920s the line accumulated debt, and in March 1929 the line was sold to P.W. Chapman Company, and reorganized as "United States Lines Inc." of Delaware. The stock market crash made matters worse, and in 1931 the remaining ships were sold to "United States Lines Company" of Nevada.

1930s


In 1932, the , at a cost of approximately $21 million dollars became the first ship actually built for the line, followed the next year by Washington
SS Washington
SS Washington was a 24,189-ton luxury liner of the United States Lines, named after the US capital city.-Construction:She was ordered by Transatlantic Steamship Company and laid down on 20 January 1931 in Shipway O at New York Shipbuilding in Camden, New Jersey...

. In 1940, a new America
SS America (1940)
SS America was an ocean liner built in 1940 for the United States Lines and designed by the noted naval architect William Francis Gibbs. She carried many names in the 54 years between her construction and her 1994 wrecking, as she served as the SS America , the USS West Point, the SS Australis, the...

 joined them.

In 1932, United States Lines offered to build a passenger liner, called U.S. Express Liner, which would also double as a mail ship, which would dramatically decrease the time of delivery for trans-Atlantic mail by catapulting an aircraft when it was within range. Congress refused to give a guarantee on trans-Atlantic postal rates and it was never built.

1940s


In World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the ships were converted into troopship
Troopship
A troopship is a ship used to carry soldiers, either in peacetime or wartime...

s. The Manhattan became USS Wakefield
USS Wakefield (AP-21)
USS Wakefield was a troop transport that served with the US Navy during World War II. Prior to her war service, she operated as the luxury ocean liner ....

, and the Washington became the USS Mount Vernon
USS Mount Vernon (AP-22)
USS Mount Vernon was a troop transport that served with the United States Navy during World War II. Prior to her military service, she was a luxury ocean liner named SS Washington....

. The flagship America became the USS West Point. After the war, the company began to build smaller and cheaper ships, and operated a number of cargo ship
Cargo ship
A cargo ship or freighter is any sort of ship or vessel that carries cargo, goods, and materials from one port to another. Thousands of cargo carriers ply the world's seas and oceans each year; they handle the bulk of international trade...

s, all named beginning with "American" or "Pioneer".

Duquesne Spy Ring



In 1941, two Nazi spies, Franz Joseph Stigler and Erwin Wilheim Siegler, worked for United States Lines as members of SS Americas crew. While on the SS America, they obtained information about the movement of ships and military defense preparations at the Panama Canal
Panama Canal
The Panama Canal is a ship canal in Panama that joins the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean and is a key conduit for international maritime trade. Built from 1904 to 1914, the canal has seen annual traffic rise from about 1,000 ships early on to 14,702 vessels measuring a total of 309.6...

, observed and reported defense preparations in the Canal Zone, and met with other German Agents to advise them in their espionage pursuits. They operated as couriers transmitting information between the United States and German agents aboard. Stigler worked undercover as chief butcher. Both remained on the SS America until the U.S. Navy converted that ship into the USS West Point.

Stigler and Siegler, along with the 31 other German agents of the Duquesne Spy Ring, were later uncovered by the FBI in the largest espionage conviction in U.S. history. Stigler was sentenced to serve 16 years in prison on espionage charges with 2 concurrent years for registration violations; Siegler was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment on espionage charges and a concurrent 2-year term for violation of the Registration Act.

1950s-1980s



With government subsidy for her construction, the SS United States entered service in 1952. She was (and still is) the largest ocean liner built in the United States and the fastest ocean liner ever built. She immediately set transatlantic speed records, capturing the Blue Riband
Blue Riband
The Blue Riband is an unofficial accolade given to the passenger liner crossing the Atlantic Ocean in regular service with the record highest speed. The term was borrowed from horse racing and was not widely used until after 1910. Under the unwritten rules, the record is based on average speed...

 from the Queen Mary
RMS Queen Mary
RMS Queen Mary is a retired ocean liner that sailed primarily in the North Atlantic Ocean from 1936 to 1967 for the Cunard Line...

. But competition from airliner
Airliner
An airliner is a large fixed-wing aircraft for transporting passengers and cargo. Such aircraft are operated by airlines. Although the definition of an airliner can vary from country to country, an airliner is typically defined as an aircraft intended for carrying multiple passengers in commercial...

s brought the glory days to an end; in 1964 America was sold to Chandris Line
Chandris Group
Chandris Line was a Greece-based shipping company founded in 1960 by Anthony Chandris to operate ocean liners between Greece and Australia. Initially the company also traded under the names Greek Australian Line, National Greek Australian Line and Europe-Australia Line...

, and United States was withdrawn from service in 1969. (She is presently docked along the Delaware River in South Philadelphia.)

After the termination of passenger services, United States Lines survived as a container ship
Container ship
Container ships are cargo ships that carry all of their load in truck-size intermodal containers, in a technique called containerization. They form a common means of commercial intermodal freight transport.-History:...

 line until filing for bankruptcy in 1986, due to financial difficulties brought on by too rapid expansion. Service was gradually phased out between 1986 and 1989, and the company was formally liquidated in 1992.

The name was revived briefly in 2000 and 2001 as a brand name of American Classic Voyages
American Classic Voyages
American Classic Voyages was an American-based cruise ship holding company cruise line, headquartered in Chicago, that operated between 1993 and 2001. The company attempted to take advantage of federal loans and other incentives to build and grow a US-flagged passenger ship industry. The company...

, but in October 2001 the company filed for bankruptcy.
Remaining as artifacts left behind by the company are several piers in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

. Pier 76, United States Lines Terminal, was constructed as a cargo pier on West Side Highway
West Side Highway
The West Side Highway is a mostly surface section of New York State Route 9A that runs from West 72nd Street along the Hudson River to the southern tip of Manhattan. It replaced the West Side Elevated Highway, built between 1929 and 1951, which was shut down in 1973 due to neglect and lack of...

 at what was then the foot of 36th Street, and is now in use by the NYPD. Neon letters spelling United States Lines are located on the west side of the pier, facing New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

. One letter I on the sign was working until 2002. The sign can be seen by the arriving NY Waterway
NY Waterway
NY Waterway, or New York Waterway, is a private transportation company running ferry and bus service in the Port of New York and New Jersey and in the Hudson Valley...

 ferry passengers or those taking the New York Circle Line water tour of Manhattan. As of 2008, the sign is badly deteriorated and in need of repair. The pier head building facing the street is also marked with the Line's name, at each end. Pier 86, United States Lines' passenger pier, still exists, although the pier building has been demolished. The USS Intrepid museum ship is now permanently berthed at the pier.

Ships


  • SS Acadia
  • SS America (1905) - former Amerika
  • SS America (1940)
    SS America (1940)
    SS America was an ocean liner built in 1940 for the United States Lines and designed by the noted naval architect William Francis Gibbs. She carried many names in the 54 years between her construction and her 1994 wrecking, as she served as the SS America , the USS West Point, the SS Australis, the...

  • SS American Banker - former USAT Cantigny, later Arosa Kulm
    Arosa Kulm
    The SS Arosa Kulm was a passenger ship which was launched at Hog Island, Pennsylvania, in 1919 and ended as being sold for scrapping in 1959....

  • SS American Courier
  • SS American Defender
  • SS American Farmer
  • SS American Hunter
  • SS American Importer
  • SS American Lark
  • SS American Merchant
  • SS American Racer
  • SS American Reporter
  • SS American Scout
  • SS American Shipper
  • SS American Trader
  • SS American Traveler
  • SS California
    SS California (1928)
    SS California was an ocean liner which was built in Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co. in 1928. It was operated by Panama Pacific Line between New York & San Francisco until 1938.-Event:...

     (MS Uruguay)
  • SS Pennsylvania (MS Argentina)
    SS Argentina (1929)
    One of a trio of American-built passenger liners on the US-South America route, the Argentina was owned and operated by Moore-McCormack Steamship Lines and sailed this route until she was laid up in 1958.-The Pennsylvania:...

  • SS Virginia (MS Brazil)
    SS Argentina (1929)
    One of a trio of American-built passenger liners on the US-South America route, the Argentina was owned and operated by Moore-McCormack Steamship Lines and sailed this route until she was laid up in 1958.-The Pennsylvania:...

  • SS Centennial State
  • SS Ernie Pyle
  • SS George Washington
    SS George Washington
    SS George Washington was an ocean liner built in 1908 for the Bremen-based North German Lloyd and was named after George Washington, the first President of the United States. The ship was also known as USS George Washington and USAT George Washington in service of the United States Navy and United...

  • SS Granite State
  • SS Hudson
  • SS Iroquois
  • SS John Ericsson
  • SS American Legion (Container ship and flagship of United States Lines after the retirement of the SS United States
    SS United States
    SS United States is a luxury passenger liner built in 1952 for the United States Lines designed to capture the trans-Atlantic speed record....

  • SS Leviathan
    SS Leviathan
    SS Leviathan, originally built as SS Vaterland, was an ocean liner which regularly sailed the North Atlantic briefly in 1914 and from 1917 to 1934...

     - former Vaterland
  • SS Lone Star State
  • SS Marine Falcon
  • SS Marine Flasher
  • SS Marine Jumper
  • SS Marine Marlin
  • SS Marine Perch
  • SS Marine Shark
  • SS Marine Swallow
  • SS Marine Tiger
  • SS Old North State
  • SS Panhandle State
  • SS Peninsular State
  • SS Pioneer Glen
  • SS Pioneer Myth
  • SS Pioneer Ming
  • SS Pioneer Tide
  • SS President Adams
  • SS President Arthur
  • SS President Fillmore
  • SS President Garfield
  • SS President Harding
  • SS President Monroe
  • SS President Polk
  • SS President Roosevelt
    SS President Roosevelt
    SS President Roosevelt may refer to:, a Design 1029 ship launched as Peninsula State; renamed President Pierce in May 1922, then President Roosevelt in August 1922; during World War II served the United States Army as USAT Joseph T. Dickman and the United States Navy as USS Joseph T. Dickman ;...

  • SS President Taft
  • SS President van Buren
  • SS Princess Matoika, originally SS Kiautschou (German Passenger Liner, 1900).
  • SS Republic
    SS Republic
    SS Republic may refer to:*SS Republic , lost in an 1865 hurricane with a cargo of mostly silver coins, reported at the time as $450,000 face value.*SS Republic , a liner of the White Star Line...

  • SS Shawnee
  • SS St John
  • SS Susquehanna
  • SS United States
    SS United States
    SS United States is a luxury passenger liner built in 1952 for the United States Lines designed to capture the trans-Atlantic speed record....

  • SS Washington
    SS Washington
    SS Washington was a 24,189-ton luxury liner of the United States Lines, named after the US capital city.-Construction:She was ordered by Transatlantic Steamship Company and laid down on 20 January 1931 in Shipway O at New York Shipbuilding in Camden, New Jersey...


External links