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A Man and His Ship: America's Greatest Naval Architect and His Quest to Build the S.S. United States Hardcover – July 10, 2012
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“A terrific book! By entertaining, informing and ultimately inspiring, A Man and His Ship transforms its readers into passengers traveling across an ocean and through time. A skilled verbal navigator, Steven Ujifusa has charted an efficient and yet immensely satisfying course through a sea of facts, images and stories.” (David Macaulay, best-selling author of Cathedral, Castle, and The Way Things Work)
Steven Ujifusa has done something remarkable in his book, A Man and His Ship: he has brought back an era of American dominance in shipbuilding through the life of one of its giants: William Francis Gibbs. In some ways, Gibbs was the Steve Jobs of his era – a perfectionist with few people skills who nevertheless was single-handedly able to change his industry by the power of his vision and overwhelming professional competence. We need more public historians like Ujifusa working in business history. Using the highest research standards, he has written a great book that tells great story. (G. Richard Shell, Thomas Gerrity Professor, The Wharton School of Business and author of Bargaining for Advantage)
“Few of man's creations possess even half the romance of the passenger ships that once steamed across the world's oceans, especially the North Atlantic. That is why Steven Ujifusa's A Man and His Ship is such a compelling work.” (John Steele Gordon The Wall Street Journal (best nonfiction of 2012))
Much of Ujifusa’s book is a portrait in determination, as Gibbs’s plans for his big ship are continually tossed about in political, economic and personal squalls. A less single-minded man may have given up at numerous times. (Stephen Heyman The New York Times Style Magazine)
"In his debut, Ujifusa harks back to a time when men were men, and transatlantic ships were serious business...Written with passion and thoroughness, this is a love letter to a bygone time and the ships that once ruled the seas." (Publishers Weekly starred review)
"Ujifusa describes the construction of the ship in engrossing detail and provides informative digressions on the golden age of ocean travel, when liners carried millionaires, celebrities, and desperate refugees." (Booklist)
“The sea inspires obsessions in determined men, from Captain Ahab to Admiral Rickover. Steven Ujifusa introduces us to another – the naval architect William Francis Gibbs. His ingenious design of mass-producible Liberty ships helped win World War II, but Gibbs’ obsession was to build the world’s fastest, safest and most elegant Atlantic liner. He ultimately succeeded, but in a decade his masterpiece was obsolete and unprofitable. Ujifusa narrates this tragedy well, in all its technical, political and human dimensions.” (Admiral Dennis C. Blair, U.S. Navy (Ret.), Former Director of National Intelligence)
“Few of man's creations possess even half the romance of the passenger ships that once steamed across the world's oceans, especially the North Atlantic. That is why Steven Ujifusa's ‘A Man and His Ship’ is such a compelling work.” (The Wall Street Journal)
“A fascinating historical account…A snapshot of the American Dream culminating with this country's mid-century greatness.” (The Wall Street Journal)
“A marvelous narrative of America’s premier naval architect.”
—Barrett Tillman, author of Enterprise
About the Author
Steven Ujifusa serves on the Advisory Council of the S.S. United States Conservancy. He received his master’s degree in historic preservation and real estate from the University of Pennsylvania and his B.A. in history from Harvard University.
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The Author does a superb job with his writing and telling of history. He has a gift for writing and was enjoyable to read.
The cruise ship industry will never be the same. Yes there are a few boutique cruises which attempt to change current trends, most are these bloated top heavy ugly ships catering to shopping and all you can eat and hitting these ports catering to 100% tourism for the 1 hour stop over.
The SS United States represents the end of an era and the pride a country can have.
Thank you Steven Ujifusa for writing this great book and preserving the legacy of Willie Gibbs and the SS United States. I hope in my lifetime I get to tour the ship before she is scrapped.
If you are not an admirer of ocean liners or of Mr. Gibbs, you may find it interesting- but you may be a bit nonplussed that people can be so wildly enthusiastic about such matters. This, however, is what makes horse races.
I loved this book and plan to re-read it within the year. I will not put it on my holiday list to be given to everyone, though. They will have to ask for it.
Winning the "Blue Riband," the prize for the fastest Atlantic crossing, was not the only goal, though United States did that with a crossing in three and one-half days. For, as Ujifusa writes, United States was "designed for wartime use first and foremost" - as a troop transport that could outrun and outmaneuver enemy submarines. That meant that it was built with military-level technology: high-pressure turbines, and top-secret propellers (designed by a woman on Gibbs's staff), designs not declassified until after the Vietnam War. And it was built with money from the taxpayers - financial subsidies from the U.S. Government for its construction, which cost nearly $80 million, and for its annual operating costs as well.
Of course, all that - Blue Riband, troop transport duties, government subsidies, the luxury of transatlantic crossing - vanished into thin air, literally, when airplanes replaced ocean liners in the 1960s. It's all told, in rich detail evocative of an era not all that long past, in this wonderful book, which has pictures that will bring all that back for those who remember it, or bring it to life for those too young to remember. A great read.