The Royal Mail Ship Titanic is famous because it sunk and took hundreds of passengers and crew to the bottom with her on her first attempt to cross the Atlantic.
If, by some miracle, the Titanic would have drifted slowly to the bottom in one piece and there would be a way through modern technology to raise her and restore her to her original glory, it wouldn't be terribly difficult to raise the money to do it. The attraction of visiting the vessel of the world's most famous sea disaster would draw millions of visitors and millions of dollars each year.
On Philadelphia's waterfront, at Pier 82 to be exact, is a passenger ship that bears the name of its birthplace: the S.S. United States.
It is not nearly as famous as the Titanic. It never sank.
However, the United States is the largest cruise ship ever built entirely in the United States. It holds the record as the fastest commercial liner to cross the Atlantic in either direction as well as the record for a passenger liner with the highest speed.
Cruising has changed, of course. Passengers now want floating amusement parks that chug from this place to that, and they don't care when they get there.
When the SS U.S. was built, passenger liners were luxury transportation, emphasis on transportation. They were also called upon in times of war to be quickly converted to troop carriers.
This symbol of American pride and engineering has been neglected and allowed to rust since it left service in 1969.
Now, a group has formed to try to save the all-but-forgotten vessel from the ship breaker's torch. It was purchased with a gift from a local philanthropist but is still in danger. The SS United States Conservancy wants to raise $25 million to restore the ship, which set off on her maiden voyage on the Fourth of July 60 years ago and promptly broke the transatlantic record held by Queen Mary.
The Titanic was a romanticized failure; The United States is a neglected champion.
We wish them well and hope there are enough people willing to contribute to save her for what she represents.