Thursday, March 17, 2011

Traveling Thursdays: Mom Goes To Europe, 1955, Pt. 1

As a college graduation gift, my grandmother took my mom on a trip to Europe. The two set sail for Europe on September 2, 1955, aboard the SS United States. Built in 1952, The SS United States was a luxury passenger liner designed to capture the trans-Atlantic speed record. Costing $78 million, the ship was the largest ocean liner constructed entirely in the United States, the fastest ocean liner to cross the Atlantic in either direction, and even in retirement retains the Blue Riband (yes, correct spelling!) given to the passenger liner crossing the Atlantic Ocean in regular service with the record highest speed.

To minimize the risk of fire, the designers of The SS United States used no wood in the ship’s framing, accessories, decorations or interior surfaces. Fittings, including all furniture and fabrics, were custom made in glass, metal and spun glass fiber to ensure compliance with fireproofing guidelines set by the U.S. Navy. Though the galley did feature a butcher block, the clothes hangers in the luxury cabins were aluminum. The ballroom’s grand piano was of a rare, fire-resistant wood species, though originally specified in aluminum — and accepted only after a demonstration in which gasoline was poured upon the wood and ignited. Fortunately for music lovers aboard the ship, the piano didn’t ignite!

The SS United States operated uninterrupted in transatlantic passenger service until 1969; since 1996 she has been docked at Pier 82 on the Delaware River in Philadelphia, just rotting away. Interested in finding out more about the SS United States and its current preservation efforts? Visit the Conservancy website.

Off in the distance is Ellis Island:

The Statue of Liberty:

My grandmother sure liked her Winston cigarettes; the guy next to her...doesn’t look like she cared for him very much.

Mom enjoying the salty sea air.

The height of trans-Atlantic travel fashion.

Follow my Daveland updates on Twitter. See more vintage & current photos at my regular website.


A Snow White Sanctum said...

You gotta dig those trans-Atlantic travel fashions. Three cheers for mom!

The Viewliner Limited said...

Dave, you have out-done yourself here. These are truly incredible pictures.

Having sailed across the Atlantic in 1957 myself... these pics bring back great memories.

The S.S. U.S. a true American ship... although I wish that it was possible... it is unfortunate that she will most likely never sail again.

The hope is that at least, she is preserved for use as a maritime museum or other worthy function.

Major Pepperidge said...

I wonder if the ship was completely gutted, or if it still contains all of the furniture and fittings? It would be amazing to explore it!

TokyoMagic! said...

Fantastic! Thanks for sharing your family photos, Dave. Looking forward to seeing more from this trip!

Davelandweb said...

Major - The sad irony is that I was in Philadelphia last fall but didn't know about the ship! I could have gone and seen it myself. From what I understand, SOME of the fittings remain, but I believe most of the good stuff is long gone.

Katella Gate said...

@Major: The United States was stripped long ago of anything valuable. The china, furniture, and art went first, in a relatively dignified auction, then years of picking-over.

Exploring the liner is very unnerving: it's basically abandoned and dead ships are treacherous playgrounds: no lights (other than your flash light, no phones, unmarked, open hatches that drop 30 feet, trip hazards and debris everywhere, and the echos drive you crazy.

Oh yeah, the signs are all pulled down. Did you remember your bread crumbs? Ships are hard enough to get out of when you think you know the way....

SuzyA said...

OMG Dave! I was very fortunate to come back to the states from Germany to NYC, 1st Class on the SS United States Lines July 26 - Aug.1, 1969! She is docked in Philadelphia, PA and has been saved by SS United States Conservancy and private donations for the next 20 months or so. She has been gutted. There were auctions in the mid 1980's. Many items on ebay. There is a current cruise line that has a fine dining SS United States Restaurant onboard that features furnishings, etc. from the ship. You can just Google and find tons of information about the SS United States, several YouTube videos too. Below is link to album on my fb page showing a few photos of mine taken on the ship. I was 20 years old at that time...shows blk and white photo of me with my Mom dressed and ready to attend Gala Dinner.

Susan in Fresno, CA :-)