She was the first new ship in the Maritime Commission's rebuilding program when ordered in 1937, and her arrival followed much anticipation. Designed by Gibbs & Cox and furnished by Smyth, Urquhardt, and Marckwald, she was appropriately, an all-American ship. Entering service in 1940, she was wisely pulled from the North Atlantic run for safety's sake. In summer 1941, she was taken over by the US Navy for troopship duties.
After the war, there was a mad scramble to put her back in service. Austin Purves, Jr. was asked by Smyth, Urquhardt, and Marckwald to visit the ship at Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company to check the condition of the artworks that had remained on board during the war. (More on that story to come.)
Constantin Alajalov, Charles Baskerville, Pierre Bourdelle, Griffith Baily Coale, Allyn Cox, Andre Durenceau, Fremont F. Ellis, Barry Faulkner, Howard B. French, Charles B. Gilbert, Paul Manship, C. John Marsman, S. Edwin Megargee, Hildreth Meiere, Austin Purves, Jr., Glenn Moore Shaw, Thomas Skinner, Constance Smith, Allen Townsend Terrell
Length: 723' | Beam: 93' | Passengers: 1,202 | 26,454 gross tons | Speed: 22.5 knots