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Saving the SS United States!

James Andrew with the SS United States

James Andrew with the SS United States

With transatlantic crossings in less than three and a half days, the incomparable SS United States was the Concorde of its time. It was also the largest passenger liner built in the United States; it had central air, state-of-the-art fireproofing, a battleship’s horsepower, and the handsome mid-century lines that made spectators gasp as it entered port—it was in a word…spectacular — a true symbol of made-in-America when that really meant something.

As you know, we here at WIJW aren’t into small fantasies—in fact we think the bigger the dream the better, so we were particularly impressed that the ship’s architect, William Francis Gibbs, as a child of eight, already had wild fantasies of building such a ship! Turns out those fantasies were not so wild!

From the 1950’s right into the 1960’s the SS United States was the way to cross the Atlantic in style. Take for instance, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s preferred “Duck Suite.” Named for its lovely gilt Constance Smith murals (of ducks, as one might surmise), it was one of fourteen luxury suits onboard, and consisted of a large living room, two bedrooms, three bathrooms, and a trunk room (to accommodate the 80 odd pieces of luggage they were known to bring).

The Duck Suite

The Duck Suite

Needless to say the first class dining was made to match, serving great torrents of champagne, mountains of Beluga, Lobster Newburg, Dover Sole and perhaps Baked Alaska for dessert. Oh, and there was even a more exclusive dining (VIP) area reserved for the most important passengers like our Duke and Duchess, or, say, Cary Grant.

Would that the glamour and elegance of this fabulous era could have continued, but sadly, due to the advent of air travel and increased operating costs, the SS United States made her last voyage in November 1969. Much befell the grand old ship between now and then, but to make a long story short, the SS United States, once the pride of America, now rests as a faded relic at a Philadelphia pier awaiting her fate. It is quite hard to accept that this spectacular icon of American style has been stripped to its shell. But all is not lost. Remarkably the SS United States has heretofore escaped the fate of so many of the grand dames of the ocean liner era, and now her stay from the breakers yard can be credited to the noble SS United States Conservancy. Their multi-part mission on behalf of this historic vessel, is to establish a public/private partnership in order to refurbish and repurpose the ship as a waterfront attraction and to conduct educational and advocacy programs.

First class ballroom and lounge

First class ballroom and lounge

Scott McBee and I recently had the great pleasure of touring this legendary liner. It was fascinating to see the space where the Duke and Duchess of Windsor once stayed, as well as the first class dining room, private dining room, ballroom, theatre, and Navajo Room bar. Although she has utterly been stripped of her former glory one gets the sense that so much of this could be restored, and there are indeed handfuls of collectors ready to come forward and donate items they have acquired from the SS United States. How amazing would it be to see the SS United States docked at her old home, New York City, looking as she once did!

The "Navajo" bar.

The Navajo Room

McBee and I are so fired up to see this happen, that we are reaching out to our global audience for your help to save the SS United States! The Conservancy has made it quite easy for everyone to help. A digital model of the ship has been created, and donors can purchase sections to restore for only one dollar per square inch—a very grass roots movement, saving the SS United States inch by inch!

SS United States - Painting by Scott McBee (click to enlarge)

SS United States - Painting by Scott McBee (click to enlarge)

McBee will be donating two of his large-scale paintings, the SS United States and her sister ship, SS America, to be auctioned at an upcoming event to help raise funds for the SS United States Conservancy. As for me, I think I may have to buy a piece of the Duke and Duchess’ “Duck Suite!” Why not write to tell us that you’ve bought a piece as well – at a minimum donation of only a single dollar, there is little excuse not to be a part of this truly wonderful undertaking!

For our tour, I’m sporting a Tom Ford era Gucci navy velvet jacket, Dolce & Gabbana cerulean blue cashmere turtleneck sweater, J Brand – Kane jean, Charvet Paris navy and royal blue silk pocket square, Lanvin cerulean blue suede sneakers, vintage Rolex watch, Tom Ford “Marco” sunglasses and for my fragrance, celebrating the Duke of Windsor: Creed Windsor.


  1. Alexx says:

    love the combination

  2. Leo says:

    Stunning! 🙂

  3. James Andrew says:

    Thank You Leo and Alexx,

    I am hoping that we can raise awareness and get the right people involved to save this spectacular ship!



  4. wendy woo says:

    What a interesting story!I recall McBee’s painting. How very generous that he is donating it. I’m in!

  5. James Andrew says:

    Dear Wendy,

    The saving of the SS United States can seem like such an outrageous fantasy.

    Yet I am actually quite inspired by the ships architect William Francis Gibbs , who was a boy with a dream and a passion to build ships. His colossal goal at the age of eight was to design the largest, fastest, American flagged ship ever to cross the Atlantic.

    Amazingly – he manifested that reality in the SS United States.

    So I always say- Dream Big!



  6. Edith Lord-Wolff says:

    Hi James& Scott,
    Hope you both survived SANDY… It was such fun seeing your project to save the SS United States. I met you both in Bermuda some years ago. Lindsay Anderson and I departed New York on that ship on the “Clara Lauglin girls tour of Europe” in 1969. I really do remember that round 1st class lounge. Good luck with saving her…
    Sunshine and Love, Edith

  7. Liam Fjellstedt says:

    I love this Liner! she is one of the last of her kind we need to save the one and only SS United States!

  8. James Andrew says:

    Darling Edith,

    Yes we were basically untouched compared with so many who lost so much!

    We would love to hear all about you and Lindsay’s tales of your journey on board the SS United States.



  9. James Andrew says:

    Dear Liam,

    We also share your love for this legendary liner and are trying to do all we can to see her saved.

    Please share any ideas you may have- we are quite open to think-tanking- and welcome a very collective effort to manifest this wild dream of seeing the SS United States restored.

    Cheers and Thank You!


  10. Carl Wesch says:


    The ship is still mind boggling to be aboard, as you well know, even now. Thanks for your support edgy and POW! support. You rock. We can always use the hands on deck that we have to help.

    Sorry if I’m not fond of the sneaks…BUT I’M SUDDENLY FOND OF YOU!

    You rock with support for our ship, and I thank you grandly.


  11. James Andrew says:

    My Dear Carl,

    It is my great honor and pleasure to help save this legendary liner!

    I am thrilled to have seen her in person and get a sense of what she once was and a glimpse of what she could be once again.

    Please feel free to let me know how I might continue to be of service in getting the word out.



  12. Bruce Scottow says:

    Just a minor point in an otherwise terrific and well-written article…the statement “…due to the advent of air travel and increased operating costs, the SS United States made her last voyage in November 1969…” is a little off.

    In fact, the first commercial transatlantic flights began in 1939, a full thirteen years before the S. S. United States entered service. The flights, suspended at the outbreak of WWII in Europe, resumed by 1946. By the time the S.S. United States entered service, transatlantic air travel was already well-established and by 1956 more passengers were flying the pond than crossing by sea.

    Of course, the final nail in the coffin was the introduction of non-stop jet travel in late 1958. (Hmmm…6 or 7 hours versus 4 or 5 days? Not a difficult choice for most to make.) Frankly, I think it was amazing the ocean liners were able to hold on as long as they did!

  13. James Andrew says:

    Dear Bruce Scottow,

    Thank You!

    This is what I was told by the SS United States Conservancy.

    I am just beyond thrilled that there is now a chance that the SS United States may actually sail again!

    More than ever – we all need to slow things down a bit – it is really quite often more about the journey than the destination.

    Fingers Crossed!

    All Best


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