By Tom Rickert

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — One of the largest ships making her home on the Delaware River may just have the most stories to tell as well.

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“Probably everyone’s seen the SS United States from the highway, docked down across from IKEA,” said Craig Bruns, chief curator of the SS United States exhibit at the Independence Seaport Museum. “It’s a big, beautiful ship, and they’re probably wondering what that ship is. And this is the place to find out.”

The SS United States is a passenger liner built in 1952. Unlike the cruise ships of today, passenger liners were built for point A to point B transportation. They were in a large part made defunct by airlines in the later 1900s, but you would find no cramped seats and soggy sandwiches on a passenger liner – booking a ride on the SS United States was truly a splendid way to travel.

Bruns likened the SS United States to another famous passenger liner.

“We all know the Titanic,” he said. “We’ve all seen the movie and the splendors of what it was like to be aboard. If you think about Titanic, it was very fancy, very much of its time, early 20th century. If we think about the United States, built in the 1950s, that fanciness wasn’t popular then. What was popular was modernism, and so the ship was a great example of modernism at the time.”

The SS United States spent the better part of two decades as “America’s Flagship,” breaking speed records across the Atlantic, and serving as the luxurious temporary home to more than a few famous travelers.

“The Mona Lisa was perhaps the most famous passenger aboard the ship,” said Bruns. “She had her very own stateroom, and she was in a waterproof box just in case something happened, she would be protected. She of course had her armed guards.”

You can learn how that happened, and more, at the Independence Seaport Museum until September 14th.

For more information, check out the museum’s website.

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