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A Man and His Ship

America's Greatest Naval Architect and His Quest to Build the S.S. United States

Steven Ujifusa

Hardcover

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Other Editions of This Title:
Digital Audiobook (9/16/2012)
MP3 CD (9/17/2012)
Paperback (6/4/2013)
MP3 CD (9/17/2012)
Compact Disc (9/17/2012)
Compact Disc (9/17/2012)
Compact Disc (9/17/2012)

Description

In the tradition of David McCullough’s grand histories, the sweeping story of one man’s quest to build the fastest, finest ocean liner in history—set against the politics, culture, and enterprise of twentieth century America.

The story of a great American builder.

At the peak of his power, in the 1940s and 1950s, William Francis Gibbs was considered America’s best naval architect.

His quest to build the finest, fastest, most beautiful ocean liner of his time, the S.S. United States, was a topic of national fascination. When completed in 1952, the ship was hailed as a technological masterpiece at a time when “made in America” meant the best.

Gibbs was an American original, on par with John Roebling of the Brooklyn Bridge and Frank Lloyd Wright of Fallingwater. Forced to drop out of Harvard following his family’s sudden financial ruin, he overcame debilitating shyness and lack of formal training to become the visionary creator of some of the finest ships in history. He spent forty years dreaming of the ship that became the S.S. United States.

William Francis Gibbs was driven, relentless, and committed to excellence. He loved his ship, the idea of it, and the realization of it, and he devoted himself to making it the epitome of luxury travel during the triumphant post–World War II era. Biographer Steven Ujifusa brilliantly describes the way Gibbs worked and how his vision transformed an industry. A Man and His Ship is a tale of ingenuity and enterprise, a truly remarkable journey on land and sea.


Praise For A Man and His Ship: America's Greatest Naval Architect and His Quest to Build the S.S. United States

“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

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

"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.”

“A fascinating historical account…A snapshot of the American Dream culminating with this country's mid-century greatness.”

“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.”

“A marvelous narrative of America’s premier naval architect.”

Barrett Tillman, author of Enterprise

A Man and His Ship, a hugely entertaining re-creation of the age of the ocean liner, will leave older readers nostalgic, younger readers envious, and all of them engrossed in the drama of William Francis Gibbs as he fights to build the greatest ship of them all, the S.S. United States. The Cunard Line once boasted that ‘getting there is half the fun.’ Now Steven Ujifusa has given us the other half.”
— A. J. Langguth, author of Driven West

"A delightful account of the era of grand ocean liners and the brilliant, single-minded designer who yearned to build the greatest ocean liner of all."—Kirkus

"A fitting memorial to our greatest naval architect."—The National Review

“[An] absorbing, transporting new history…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.”

Simon & Schuster, 9781451645071, 448pp.

Publication Date: July 10, 2012



About the Author

Steven Ujifusa received his AB in history from Harvard University and a master’s degree in historic preservation from the University of Pennsylvania. His first book, A Man and His Ship, tells the story of William Francis Gibbs, the naval architect who created the ocean liner SS United States; The Wall Street Journal named it one of the best nonfiction titles of 2012. His new book, Barons of the Sea, brings to life the dynasties that built and owned the magnificent clipper ships of America’s nineteenth-century-era of maritime glory. Steven has given presentations across the country and on the high seas, and has appeared as guest on CBS Sunday Morning and NPR. A recipient of a MacDowell Colony fellowship and the Athenaeum of Philadelphia’s Literary Award, he lives with his wife, a pediatric emergency room physician, in Philadelphia. Read more about him at StevenUjifusa.com.