A Man and His Ship
America's Greatest Naval Architect and His Quest to Build the S.S. United States
At the peak of his power, in the 1940s and 1950s, William Francis Gibbs was considered America’s best naval architect.
His quest to build the finest, fastest, most beautiful ocean liner of his time, the S.S. United States, was a topic of national fascination. When completed in 1952, the ship was hailed as a technological masterpiece at a time when “made in America” meant the best.
Gibbs was an American original, on par with John Roebling of the Brooklyn Bridge and Frank Lloyd Wright of Fallingwater. Forced to drop out of Harvard following his family’s sudden financial ruin, he overcame debilitating shyness and lack of formal training to become the visionary creator of some of the finest ships in history. He spent forty years dreaming of the ship that became the S.S. United States.
William Francis Gibbs was driven, relentless, and committed to excellence. He loved his ship, the idea of it, and the realization of it, and he devoted himself to making it the epitome of luxury travel during the triumphant post–World War II era. Biographer Steven Ujifusa brilliantly describes the way Gibbs worked and how his vision transformed an industry. A Man and His Ship is a tale of ingenuity and enterprise, a truly remarkable journey on land and sea.
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A Man and His Ship
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The transatlantic ocean liner possessed a mystique now lost to the world. For the first half of the twentieth century, ships named Mauretania, Bremen, Normandie, and Queen Mary were known and loved by tens of millions of people on both sides of the Atlantic. When a big liner arrived in New York City for the first time, thousands lined the Hudson to watch a man-made object—one that seemed to have life and soul—move serenely upriver. Their eyes were following something simply massive—she could be up to five city blocks long...see more
The first time he saw an ocean liner, little Willy Gibbs knew what he wanted to do with his life.
On a rainy November 13, 1894, twenty-five thousand people waited outside the gates of Philadelphia’s Cramp Shipyard on the banks of the Delaware River. They were there to see a marvel of the age: the steamship St. Louis, one of the largest ocean liners in the world and America’s brand-new entry into the transatlantic passenger trade. When the gates opened, people surged toward the ship. She was 550 feet long and decorated from stem...see more
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