United States Lines
The company was formed with three ships from the tonnage of the failed United States Mail Steamship Company. Two of the ships, the America and George Washington, were originally German vessels that had been seized during World War I and kept as reparations. Both the America and George Washington made New York–Bremen runs, while the Centennial State ran from New York to London. One of the founders was Kermit Roosevelt, son of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt.
Additional ships were acquired in 1922 and renamed after various U.S. presidents. The 52,000 ton Leviathan, 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 the "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. Later in 1931, United States Lines was acquired by the Roosevelt International Mercantile Marine Company, which had been formed earlier in the year from the merger of the Roosevelt Steamship Company and International Mercantile Marine Co..
In 1932, United States Lines had offered to build a new passenger liner, called the U.S. Express Liner, which would also double as a mail ship, and 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.
During the 1930s, United States Lines' ailing parent company, Roosevelt International Mercantile Marine, began winding down its other operations and merging several of its divisions into United States Lines. United States Lines absorbed the American Line in 1932, the Baltimore Mail Line in 1937, and the American Merchant Line in 1938.
The decade started with United States Lines absorbing the Roosevelt Line in 1940, leaving United States Lines as Roosevelt International Mercantile Marine's sole operating business. Roosevelt International Mercantile Marine Company finally changed its name to "United States Lines Inc." in 1942, reflecting its new focus.
In World War II, the ships were converted into troopships. The Manhattan became the USS Wakefield, and the Washington became the USS Mount Vernon. 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 ships, 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 America's crew. While on the SS America, they obtained information about the movement of ships and military defense preparations at the Panama Canal, 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 the 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 two 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.
With a 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 from the Queen Mary. But competition from airliners brought the glory days to an end; in 1964, America was sold to Chandris 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 continued to operate as a container ship line, being bought by containerization pioneer Malcom McLean in 1978. By the 1980s, the line operated 43 vessels and was a leader in international shipping. It spent over US$1 billion in rapidly expanding its fleet and acquiring two competitors, Moore McCormick Lines and Delta Steamship Lines. In expectation of a worldwide surge in oil prices, United States Lines borrowed heavily to construct a new class of 12 fuel efficient container ships known as the Jumbo Econships that, at over 57,000 gross tons, were the largest cargo ships yet built. Just as the new vessels were delivered, international freight rates fell and oil prices collapsed to near historic lows. The giant and slow Econships left United States Lines overcapacity, deeply in debt, and unable to compete with faster ships that were once again economically viable. Straining under the debt accumulated by the fleet expansion, the company filed for bankruptcy on 24 November 1986 in one of the largest bankruptcies in US history at the time. Most of the vessels were sold to pay creditors and in the reorganization plan filed on 5 July 1988, the company was formally liquidated by 1992.
Pursuant to the revised reorganization plan approved by the bankruptcy court in 1989, United States Lines Inc. was restructured as Janus Industries Inc. in November, 1990, with its shares distributed to United States Lines creditors and the court-managed bankruptcy trust fund. The company's new management spent several years searching for new business opportunities, finally acquiring Pre-Tek Wireline Service Company, a provider of services to the oil, gas, and logging industries in 1996. In 1997, Janus acquired a number of hospitality assets from companies affiliated with the investors Louis S. Beck and Harry Yeaggy, gaining ownership of 6 hotels, an 85% interest in a 7th hotel, a management company operating another 21 hotels, a fee-sharing joint venture with another management company on another property, and control of two mortgaged-backed loans. Beck and Yeaggy gained control of 43% of Janus Industries, and the former United States Lines decided to concentrate exclusively on the hotel business. Pre-Tek Wireline was spun off to its management in 1998 and Janus Industries changed its name again to Janus Hotels & Resorts Inc. in 1999. United States Lines' successor company now controls nearly 50 hotels, resorts, campgrounds, and apartment buildings in 15 states.
The name was revived briefly in 2000 and 2001, as a brand name of American Classic Voyages, operating cruises in Hawaii with a single ship, the MS Patriot, formerly Holland America Line's Nieuw Amsterdam. Construction had begun in 2000 on the future Pride of America, and a 72,000 tons sister ship as part of Project America, but in October 2001, the company filed for bankruptcy and ceased operations. The two unfinished vessels were acquired by Norwegian Cruise Line for their new NCL America division, while Patriot was repossessed by Holland America.
A new container shipping services company called U.S. Lines LLC was established in Santa Ana, California in 2003 and remains in business as a subsidiary of the French shipping company CMA CGM.
Several piers in New York City remain as artifacts left behind by the company. Pier 76, United States Lines Terminal, was constructed as a cargo pier on West Side Highway 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. One letter, "I", on the sign was working until sometime in the 2000s. The sign can be seen by the arriving NY Waterway ferry passengers or those taking the New York Circle Line water tour of Manhattan. 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 Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is now based there, with the USS Intrepid permanently berthed at the pier. In Newport News, Virginia, where many of the United States Lines ships were built, one of the huge propellers from the SS United States is on display at the entrance of the Mariners' Museum.
|Name||Years Active for USL||Notes|
|SS American Importer||1931||Ex troopship Somme (1920) originally Design 1024 built Hog Island, renamed American Importer converted United Dry Docks, Brooklyn. 1940 Ville de Gand torpedoed and lost|
|SS Acadia||1939||Chartered from Eastern SS Lines for one voyage|
|SS America (1905)||1920-1931||former Amerika|
|SS America (1940)||1940-41, 1946-1964||USS West Point (1941-1946)|
|SS American Accord||1970-1986||Type C6-S-1w container ship, IMO 5278901, converted from C4-S-1a cargo ship Pioneer Moor, originally Sunflower Mariner, 1954|
|SS American Ace||1970-1986||Type C6-S-1w container ship, IMO 5278963, converted from C4-S-1a cargo ship Pioneer Mart, originally Mountain Mariner, 1953|
|MV American Alabama||1984-1987||Econship container ship, IMO 8212647|
|SS American Alliance||1970-1987||Type C6-S-1w container ship, IMO 5278913, converted from C4-S-1a cargo ship Pioneer Mill, originally Show Me Mariner, 1954|
|SS American Altair||1982-1987||Partial container ship, IMO 6421347, originally C4-S-60a Mormacaltair, 1964|
|SS American Apollo||1970-1988||Type C7-S-68e container ship, IMO 7025269|
|SS American Aquarius||1971-1988||Type C7-S-68e container ship, IMO 7042485|
|SS American Archer||1970-1986||Type C6-S-1w container ship, IMO 5278949, converted from C4-S-1a cargo ship Pioneer Mist, originally Peninsula Mariner, 1954|
|SS American Argo||1982-1986||Partial container ship, IMO 6407949, originally C4-S-60a Mormacargo, 1964|
|SS American Argosy||1970-1986||Type C6-S-1w container ship, IMO 5278896, converted from C4-S-1a cargo ship Pioneer Main, originally Cotton Mariner, 1953|
|SS American Astronaut||1969-1988||Type C7-S-68e container ship, IMO 6916861|
|SS American Banker||1985-1987||1972 Converted container ship, IMO 5277153, originally C5-S-75a Philippine Mail, 1962|
|SS American Builder||1985-1987||1971 Converted container ship, IMO 5386605, originally C5-S-75a Washington Mail, 1961|
|MV American California||1985-1987||Econship container ship, IMO 8212702|
|SS American Challenger||1962-1988||Type C4-S-57a cargo ship, IMO 5014252|
|SS American Charger||1962-1988||Type C4-S-57a cargo ship, IMO 5014276|
|SS American Champion||1963-1987||Type C4-S-57a cargo ship, IMO 5014264|
|SS American Chieftain||1963-1988||Type C4-S-57a cargo ship, IMO 5400528|
|SS American Commander||1963-1967||Type C4-S-57a cargo ship, IMO 5014305|
|SS American Contender||1964-1967||Type C4-S-57a cargo ship, IMO 5410119|
|SS American Contractor||1964-1967||Type C4-S-57a cargo ship|
|SS American Corsair||1963-1967||Type C4-S-57a cargo ship, IMO 5014317|
|SS American Courier||1963-1986||Type C4-S-57a cargo ship|
|SS American Crusader||1964-1967||Type C4-S-57a cargo ship, INO 6404997|
|SS American Defender||1948-1956||ex-Fordham Victory.|
|SS American Draco||1982-1987||Partial container ship, IMO 6507921, originally C4-S-60a Mormacdraco, 1965|
|SS American Entente||1983-1987||Type C6-S-85a container ship, IMO 7326233, originally Austral Entente, 1972|
|SS American Envoy||1983-1987||Type C6-S-85a container ship, IMO 7116315, originally Austral Envoy, 1972|
|SS American Farmer|
|SS American Flyer||1946-1964||Type C2-S-B1 cargo ship|
|MV American Georgia||1985-1987||Container ship, IMO 8200711|
|MV American Hawaii||1984-1987||Ro-Ro/Container ship, IMO 8320559|
|SS American Hunter|
|MV American Illinois||1985-1987||Econship container ship, IMO 8212697|
|SS American Importer|
|MV American Kentucky||1985-1987||Econship container ship, IMO 8212661|
|SS American Lancer||1969-1987||Type C7-S-68c container ship, IMO 6708379|
|SS American Lark||1969-1987||Type C7-S-68d container ship, IMO 6905252|
|MS American Leader||1941-1942||Type C1-B cargo ship|
|SS American Leader (2)||1946-1970||Type C2-S-B1 cargo ship, ex-Twilight |
|SS American Leader (3)||1970-1986||Type C6-S-1w container ship, IMO 5278937, converted from C4-S-1a cargo ship Pioneer Minx, originally Gopher Mariner, 1953|
|SS American Legacy||1970-1986||Type C6-S-1w container ship, IMO 5278925, converted from C4-S-1a cargo ship Pioneer Ming, originally Silver Mariner, 1954|
|SS American Legend||1970-1986||Type C6-S-1w container ship, IMO 5278975, converted from C4-S-1a cargo ship Pioneer Myth, originally Pelican Mariner, 1954|
|SS American Legion||1968-1987||Type C7-S-68c container ship, IMO 6812211 Flagship after the retirement of the SS United States. Later Horizon Challenger.|
|SS American Liberty||1968-1988||Type C7-S-68d container ship, IMO 6820579 In service 2014 as Horizon Discovery.|
|SS American Lynx||1968-1988||Type C7-S-68d container ship, IMO 6828624|
|MV American Maine||1984-1987||Econship container ship, IMO 8212635|
|SS American Marketer||1983-1987||Type C6-S-85a container ship, IMO 7218462, originally Austral Ensign, 1973|
|SS American Merchant||1983-1987||Type C6-S-85a container ship, IMO 7233278, originally Austral Endurance, 1973|
|MV American Michigan||1985-1987||Ro-Ro/Container ship, IMO 8322789|
|MV American Nebraska||1984-1987||Econship container ship, IMO 8212673|
|MV American New Jersey||1984-1987||Econship container ship, IMO 8212623|
|MV American New York||1984-1987||Econship container ship, IMO 8212611|
|MV American North Carolina||1984-1987||Ro-Ro/Container ship, IMO 8320547|
|MV American Ohio||1985-1987||Container ship, IMO 8200709|
|MV American Oklahoma||1985-1987||Econship container ship, IMO 8212685|
|SS American Pioneer||1983-1987||Type C8-S-85d container ship, IMO 7617890, originally Austral Pioneer, 1979|
|SS American Puritan||1983-1987||Type C8-S-85d container ship, IMO 7617905, originally Austral Pioneer, 1980|
|SS American Racer||1964-1983||Type C4-S-68a cargo ship, IMO 6414069|
|SS American Ranger||1965-1983||Type C4-S-68a cargo ship, IMO 6423943|
|SS American Reliance||1965-1983||Type C4-S-68a cargo ship, IMO 6507751|
|SS American Reservist||1983-1986||Partial container ship, IMO 6415960, originally C4-S-60a Mormaclynx, 1964|
|SS American Resolute||1965-1969||Type C4-S-68a cargo ship, IMO 6515643|
|SS American Resolute (2)||1982-1986||Type C5-S-73b container ship, IMO 7635945, originally Resolute, 1980|
|SS American Reporter|
|SS American Rigel||1982-1986||Partial container ship, IMO 6417425, originally C4-S-60a Mormarigel, 1965|
|SS American Rover||1965-1969||Type C4-S-68a cargo ship, IMO 6418091|
|SS American Scout|
|SS American Shipper|
|SS American Trader||1979-1979||1977 converted container ship, IMO 7117670, originally C8-S-81b LASH barge & container carrier Pacific Bear, 1971|
|SS American Traveler|
|MV American Utah||1985-1987||Econship container ship, IMO 8212714|
|SS American Vega||1982-1986||Partial container ship, IMO 6411251, originally C4-S-60a Mormarigel, 1964|
|MV American Virginia||1985-1987||Econship container ship, IMO 8212659|
|MV American Washington||1985-1987||Econship container ship, IMO 8212726|
|SS California||(MS Uruguay)|
|SS Centennial State|
|SS Ernie Pyle|
|SS George Washington||1921-1931||Later USS Catlin (AP-19)|
|SS Granite State|
|SS John Ericsson|
|SS Leviathan||1923-1933||former Vaterland|
|SS Lone Star State||1922||See SS President Harding|
|SS Manhattan||1932-1941||later USS Wakefield (AP-21)|
|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||1921-1922||See SS President Van Buren|
|SS Orizaba||1939||Chartered for one voyage from Ward Line|
|SS Panhandle State|
|SS Peninsular State|
|SS Pennsylvania||(MS Argentina)|
|SS Pioneer Commander||1967-1981||Type C4-S-57a cargo ship, IMO 5014305, originally American Commander, 1963|
|SS Pioneer Contender||1967-1988||Type C4-S-57a cargo ship, IMO 5410119, originally American Contender, 1964|
|SS Pioneer Contractor||1967-1981||Type C4-S-57a cargo ship, originally American Contractor, 1964|
|SS Pioneer Corsair||1967-1988||Type C4-S-57a cargo ship, IMO 5014317, originally American Corsair, 1963|
|SS Pioneer Crusader||1967-||Type C4-S-57a cargo ship, originally American Crusader, 1964|
|SS Pioneer Glen|
|SS Pioneer Main||1956-1970||Type C4-S-1a cargo ship, IMO 5278896, originally Cotton Mariner, 1953|
|SS Pioneer Mart||1956-1971||Type C4-S-1a cargo ship, IMO 5278901, originally Sunflower Mariner, 1954|
|SS Pioneer Mill||1956-1970||Type C4-S-1a cargo ship, IMO 5278913, originally Show Me Mariner, 1954|
|SS Pioneer Ming||1956-1971||Type C4-S-1a cargo ship, IMO 5278925, originally Silver Mariner, 1954|
|SS Pioneer Mist||1956-1970||Type C4-S-1a cargo ship, IMO 5278949, originally Peninsula Mariner, 1954|
|SS Pioneer Minx||1956-1970||Type C4-S-1a cargo ship, IMO 5278937, originally Gopher Mariner, 1953|
|SS Pioneer Moon||1962-1988||Type C4-S-57a cargo ship|
|SS Pioneer Moor||1956-1970||Type C4-S-1a cargo ship, IMO 5278963, originally Mountain Mariner, 1953|
|SS Pioneer Muse||1956-1961||Type C4-S-1a cargo ship, originally Nutmeg Mariner, 1953|
|SS Pioneer Myth||1956-1970||Type C4-S-1a cargo ship, IMO 5278975, originally Pelican Mariner, 1954|
|SS Pioneer Tide|
|SS President Adams|
|SS President Arthur|
|SS President Fillmore|
|SS President Garfield|
|SS President Harding||1922-1940||Previously Lone Star State and President Taft. Transatlantic liner, sold 1940.|
|SS President Monroe|
|SS President Polk|
|SS President Roosevelt|
|SS President Taft||1922||See SS President Harding|
|SS President Van Buren||1921-1924||Named Old North State 1921-1922|
|SS Princess Matoika||1921-1922||Originally SS Kiautschou (German Passenger Liner, 1900)|
|SS St John||1939||Chartered from Eastern SS Lines for one voyage|
|SS Shawnee||1939||Chartered from Clyde Line for one voyage.|
|SS United States||1952-1969||Laid up in Philadelphia, PA, 2014|
|SS Virginia (MS Brazil)|
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