VIDEO: Buyer sought for SS United States propeller

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The SS United States Conservancy is looking to sell a massive propeller from the historic ship sitting on its deck in Philadelphia.

The conservancy, which is fighting to save the ship, says it is in a race against time and has taken the unusual step of offering one of its propellers for sale.

The organization needs the financial resources to care for the nearly 1,000-foot ship. It continues to negotiate with potential developers and investors to repurpose the ship as a museum and mixed-use destination.

If no buyer is found by June 3, the conservancy says it will be forced to sell the four-blade propeller to a recycler.

“In so many ways, we’ve never been closer to realizing our vision of saving America’s Flagship,” SS United States Conservancy executive director Susan Gibbs said in a statement. “However, our time grows perilously short. We agonized over this decision, but the proceeds from this sale of the propeller will buy us some crucial time to finalize promising negotiations with investors.”

Four additional propellers are preserved in museums and other institutions in New York and Virginia.

The conservancy is offering the unique piece of American history to the highest offer over and above its scrap value of about $100,000. That price includes the removal of the prop from its current location on the promenade deck of the ship. The purchaser will be responsible for shipping.

Made of a composite of nickel, aluminum and bronze, all of the ship’s massive propellers were removed from the vessel’s shafts more than a decade ago. At 18 feet in diameter and weighing more than 60,000 pounds, the prop’s unique design helped make the United States an engineering marvel. During the ship’s construction the government classified the innovative new design of the propeller top secret as engineering teams worked to build the fastest ocean liner — and troop carrier — in history.

The massive power plant, sleek hull and unique propeller design ensured that the United States broke the trans-Atlantic speed record in both directions on its maiden voyage in 1952. The ship, still thought to be the fastest large passenger vessel ever built, still holds the record.

“This is the last of its kind and the last time an SS United States propeller will be offered for sale,” said Gibbs, whose grandfather designed the ship. “Our objective is to prevent the entire ship from being lost at this time. We are hopeful someone will recognize the importance of this artifact and come forward to save it in the coming days. The alternative would be unfortunate.”

The conservancy said it costs more than $55,000 a month to maintain the SS United States in her current condition. Although it has raised crucial funds from thousands of private donors, the organization has received no government assistance for its curatorial programs or to help advance the economic development potential of the repurposed ship. The conservancy recently signed an agreement with a recycler for another propeller in order to pay the ship’s carrying costs.

“That injection of revenue now is critical for our nation’s flagship,” Gibbs said. Anyone interested in purchasing the propeller from the SS United States should email Media@SSUSC.org.

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