Lines came into being after the United States Mail
Steamship Company had failed to successfully operate
Government owned ships on the North Atlantic after
World War I. The U.S. Shipping Board took over U. S.
Mail Steamship Co operation of surplus ships after
it had incurred heavy losses since beginning
operation in 1920.
break in service the all the ships were then run
under United States Lines which was formed in August
1921. The former German liners AMERICA (AMERIKA) and
GEORGE WASHINGTON began sailing New York - Bremen,
with the CENTENNIAL STATE on the New York - London
service. In 1922 two "535" class refitted transports
were added to the fleet. PENNINSULA STATE and LONE
STATE, were renamed PRESIDENT PIERCE and PRESIDENT
TAFT, but within weeks they were renamed PRESIDENT
ROOSEVELT and PRESIDENT HARDING. The "502s" from
U.S. Mail S.S. Co. were renamed PRESIDENT VAN BUREN,
PRESIDENT ADAMS, and joined by still more "502s"
which became PRESIDENT POLK, PRESIDENT GAREFIELD.
The PRINCESS MATOIKA (ex PRINCESS ALICE) and HUDSON
became PRESIDENT ARTHUR and PRESIDENT FILLMORE under
United States Lines.
In 1923, four
of the ships were sold and the huge LEVIATHAN, (ex
VATERLAND of Hamburg America Line) began sailing the
New York - Southampton service after a very
extensive rebuilding. She became the flag ship of
the United States Lines fleet. Late in 1923 the five
remaining "502"s were sold by the US Shipping Board
to Dollar Line. To offset the loss, five vessels
built at Hog Island were refitted to carry
passengers in the New York - London service;
AMERICAN MERCHANT, AMERICAN SHIPPER, AMERICAN
BANKER, AMERICAN FARMER and AMERICAN TRADER all
began service in 1924 under American Merchant Line.
The REPUBLIC, another former German Liner entered
AMERICA suffered a serious fire at Newport Newsand
was out of action for a year. Debts continued to
mount under United States Lines management and bids
were called from private owners.
Co successfully bid in March 21, 1929 $16 million
for eleven ships. Stipulated in the agreement was
the fact that Chapman must continue the service for
not less than 10 years, and build two 45,000 ton
ships as consorts for LEVIATHAN. The USSB would lend
75% of the cost. Chapman traded under the name
United States Lines Inc., of Delaware. Two three
stacked liners were designed by T. Ferris, but the
introduction of NGL's BREMEN made it obvious that
speed was more important. Two newly designed ships
with four screws and two funnels were planned, but
after the stock market crash in October were
abandoned in favor of two smaller ships.
revenue sent AMERICA and GEORGE WASHINGTON to be
laid up, and REPUBLIC was handed over to the War
Department for transport work. In October 1931
Chapman foreclosed on the Shipping Board. LEVIATHAN,
PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT, PRESIDENT HARDING, the two
scaled down ships under construction, and two newly
acquired transports were all sold to the newly
formed United States Lines Company, of Nevada. A
subsidiary of International Mercantile Marine Co
which also bought the American Merchant Line and
added them to the United States Lines list of
In August 1932
MANHATTAN, United States Lines's first purpose built
passenger ship entered service, her sister
WASHINGTON followed in May 1933. They entered
service in economically depressed times and their
appearance precipitated the withdrawl of LEVIATHAN.
The Shipping Board demanded she be put back in
service, but after more losses were incurred, she
was laid up again in 1934.
generation of ship appeared with the 34,000 GRT,
Gibbs & Cox designed AMERICA of 1940. The War in
Europe kept the Atlantic liner in U.S. coastal
waters. Six of the seven former American Merchant
fleet ships were lost to enemy action after they had
been transferred to the Belgian flag, under IMM
control. Four replacements were laid down in
Pascagoula but they all became Army transports.
Remaining ships were put into Navy service;
PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT, MANHATTAN, WASHINGTON and
AMERICA became U.S.S. JOSEPH T. DICKMAN, WAKEFIELD,
MOUNT VERNON and WEST POINT. In 1943 UNited States
Lines of Nevada was merged into IMM and the name
became United States Lines Company, of New Jersey.
laid up in 1946. JOSEPH DICKMAN was laid up and
scrapped. WASHINGTON was returned to one class
service briefly to bring war brides and children to
the United States. She briefly became a consort for
AMERICA before being recalled to Military service
until 1951. AMERICA returned to the Atlantic service
with her first sailing in November 1946.
Post war demand for shipping United States Lines
began operating C-4 type transports as a means of
mass transportation for displaced people. The Line
also began building up a large fleet of cargo ships,
all with the name AMERICAN as a prefix, freighters
in Australia service were given the prefix PIONEER.
In July 1952,
the S.S. UNITED STATES made her maiden voyage New
York - Le Havre - Southampton. At 54,000 GRT she was
the largest and fastest liner ever built in the U.S.
On her maiden voyage, she broke Blue Riband speed
record that had been held by Britain's R.M.S. QUEEN
MARY for the fourteen years. UNITED STATES became
the first American title holder for the Blue Riband
in a century. In 1955, a sister for UNITED STATES
was proposed but nothing came of the plan. AMERICA
and UNITED STATES maintained a transatlantic service
for twelve years until competition from air traffic
and rising costs forced the sale of AMERICA to
Chandris Line in 1964. The UNITED STATES, without a
running mate incurred ever bigger debts thus was
withdrawn from service in 1969 and laid up. This
marked the end of American flagged service on the
In 2000, the
United States Lines name was revived by American
Classic Voyages Co, as a brand name and is preparing
to introduce a new fleet of cruise ships. The first
vessel will carry passengers, year-round, to the
islands of Hawaii departing every Saturday from
Honolulu. December 9, 2000 marked the inaugural
cruise of the 1,212-passenger M.S. PATRIOT. United
States Lines (American Classic Voyages) bought the
NIEUW AMSTERDAM from Holland America Line (Carnival
Cruise Lines) for $114 million dollars in July 2000.
The M.S. PATRIOT will sail year-round cruises
departing every Saturday from Honolulu.