Submarines Before Nuclear Power: Early American Submarines

Simon Lake and the <i>Argonaut</i>

Simon Lake had his Argonaut I built in a Baltimore, Maryland, dry dock. Launched in 1897, her most conspicuous feature was the large retractable wheels intended to enable her to creep along the sea floor, but she proved seaworthy as well. Powered by a 30-horsepower gasoline engine that drew air from the surface through a pair of tubes, the Argonaut I sailed more than 2,000 miles (3,200 km), including an open-sea excursion from Cape May to Sandy Hook during a storm that sank 100 other ships. The feat brought a congratulatory letter from Jules Verne, the world-famous author of 20,000 Leagues under the Sea (1873). Reading that book as a youth had first aroused Lake's interest in submarines. Courtesy Naval Historical Center

Simon Lake, Holland's chief rival, sold none of his submarines to the U.S. Navy until 1911, but successfully marketed them in Europe. Courtesy Naval Historical Center

Model of the USS <i>Holland</i> (SS-1)
Simon Lake and the <i>Argonaut</i>

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