Here at LSOZI, we are going to take out every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week.- Christopher Eger
Warship Wednesday, October 30 Mr. Holland’s toy
Here we see what started off originally as the Holland VI, a small submersible invented by Mr. John Philip Holland in 1896. The ship was built at Lewis Nixon’s Crescent Shipyard of Elizabeth, New Jersey for Mr. Holland as his sixth personal submarine (as the name implies).
Just 53-feet long, she was the forerunner of every submarine today. Yes, there had been dozens of earlier experimental boats that had been produced in the US and Europe from the 1700s on, but the Holland VI had several unique features that are now standard on underwater boats. These included both an internal combustion engine (in Hollands case a 45hp Otto gas engine) for running on the surface, and a 56kW electric motor for submerged operation. She had a re-loadable torpedo tube and a topside deck gun (a pneumatic dynamite gun!). There was a conning tower from which the boat and her weapons could be directed. Finally, she had all the necessary ballast and trim tanks to make precise changes in-depth and attitude underwater.
What more could you ask for?
After running around the US coast and several interested (and very international ) parties popping in to take a look at it, the US Navy bought the little boat for $150-grand in 1900. This was about $3.5-million today. She was placed in commissioned six months later as USS Holland (SS-1) on 12 OCT 1900. The US promptly ordered six larger boats from Holland’s Electric Boat Company as did the Tsar. It was Holland boats sold to the Russians that saw limited use in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-05, itself a dress-rehearsal for most of the technology used in the First World War.
Made quickly obsolete by very rapid developments in submarine design not only in the US but in Russia, Germany, the UK, and France, she was decommissioned in 1905.
The Navy kept her for eight years in mothballs then sold her as scrap to Henry A. Hitner & Sons, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 18 June 1913 for $100. Within just a few months of her being sold as scrap, British shipping was being sunk at amazing rates by German U-boats in WWI.
The breaker, with that in mind, held onto the ex-Holland through WWI, then passed her onto a local museum who held onto her for 15 years, only cutting her up in 1932 when the Depression dictated it was worth more in scrap iron regardless of sentimental attachment.
A small chunk of her is still in the National Museum of the Navy in Washington.
Today the Electric Boat Company still makes boats as part of GenDyn but Holland is largely forgotten.
Displacement: 64 long tons (65 t) surfaced
74 long tons (75 t) submerged
Length: 53 ft 10 in (16.41 m) LOA
Beam: 10 ft 4 in (3.15 m) extreme
Draft: 8 ft 6 in (2.59 m)
Installed power: 45 bhp (34 kW) (gasoline engine), later upgraded to 160hp
75 bhp (56 kW) (electric motor)
66 Exide batteries
1 × screw
Speed: First 3knots then later 8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph) surfaced
5 knots (9.3 km/h; 5.8 mph) submerged
Armament: 1 × 18 in (460 mm) torpedo tube forward
1 ‘Aerial torpedo tube’ (experimental)
1 × 8.4 in (210 mm) dynamite gun (removed in US Naval service)
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