At 10.00am on 8th February 1950 a 75-ton crane on the south side of Slipway No. 10 at Newport News swung into action. The first sections of the keel for what was to become the last liner to win the Blue Riband was laid. This was the start of SS United States. The design, by W.F. Gibbs, incorporated special strengthening around the bow to resist any heavy pounding when driving through the north Atlantic, and the stern incorporated additional strengthening to resist the torque from the massive engines and the propellers.
Extensive use was to be made of aluminium in the construction of SS United States – superstructure, panelling, furniture, even the deck chairs. All the aluminium used had a protective coating of zinc chromate to resist the effects of salt water. Although steel rivets were used in much of the steel hull construction, as well as welding, special aluminium rivets were used elsewhere. Gibbs had a total phobia about fire aboard ships, and he ensured there was virtually no wood aboard.
All his efforts paid off when the liner gained the speed record on her maiden voyage. She made the crossing in 3 days 10 hours 40 minutes, taking over 10 hours off Queen Mary‘s record, held since 1938. She was to be the last trans-Atlantic passenger liner built for the route to gain the record and the Hales Trophy.