Submarines Before Nuclear Power: Early American Submarines

Model of the USS <i>Holland</i> (SS-1)

On 11 April 1900, the U.S. Navy purchased its first submarine, the Holland, for $150,000 from the new Electric Boat Company. After a series of trials in 1900-1901, she spent the rest of her service life (until 1905) as a training boat at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland.

Holland was a 54-foot (16-m) long cylinder with a diameter of 10.5 feet (3.2 m) and a displacement of 74 tons. The standard way of stating a floating ship's size is by the tons of seawater she displaces. In this context, a ton equals the weight of 35 cubic feet (1 cu. m) of seawater, or 2,240 pounds (1,000 kg). A 4-cylinder, 45-horsepower gasoline engine gave Holland a surface speed of 8 knots (15 km/hr); underwater, a battery-powered, 160-horsepower electric motor drove her at 5 knots (9 km/hr). She carried three self-propelled torpedoes.

John Phillip Holland peers from the hatch of the Holland VI, the U.S. Navy's first submarine. Courtesy U.S. Naval Institute

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

The first crew of the Holland, photographed in June 1901, was commanded by Lieutenant Harry H. Caldwell, first row center. Courtesy Naval Historical Center

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