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Lecture Series: SS John W. Brown

July 17th, 2019 - Timonium

On the third Wednesday of July, Anne Kimble, a Historian at the SS John W. Brown museum located in Baltimore Harbor, presented on the history of one of the last functioning Liberty Ships of World War II.

Designed as cheap and quickly built cargo steamers, the Liberty ships formed the backbone of a massive sealift of troops, arms, materiel and ordnance to every theater of war. Two-thirds of all the cargo that left the United States during the war was shipped in Liberty ships. Two hundred of them were lost, either to enemy action or to a range of maritime mishaps such as collision, grounding, fire or sea, but there were simply so many of them that the enemy could never hope to sink enough Liberty ships to close the sea lanes, and the supplies got through.

S.S. JOHN W. BROWN looks now almost exactly as she did toward the end of World War II. Despite her grey paint and many guns, she is not a warship but rather a merchant ship. The BROWN was built by the government and was under the control of the War Shipping Administration. This ship and her many sisters were operated under what was known as a general agency agreement, by almost 90 different American steamship companies, which were paid by Uncle Sam to manage the ships. The cargo they carried and the ports they visited were entirely controlled by the government.

A Liberty ship can carry almost 9,000 tons of cargo, about the same as 300 railroad boxcars. Liberty ships carried every conceivable cargo during the war - from beans to bullets. Some, like JOHN W. BROWN, were also fitted out to carry troops as well as cargo. Around 500 soldiers at a time could be carried aboard this ship. She saw duty in many Mediterranean ports during invasions and steamed in convoys that were attacked by enemy aircraft and submarines, but she was never seriously damaged by the enemy.

You can see the SS John W. Brown for yourself!

Project Liberty Ship


Pier C, 2220 S Clinton St.

Baltimore, Maryland

The Ship is open for tours on

Wednesdays & Saturdays from

9am to 2pm.

Questions call the ship at 410-558-0646 or

email us at

If you're interested in the SS John W. Brown, and would like more information, or to book a tour, please go to

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