Celebrating National Submarine Day with a Dive into Drawings of the USS Holland (SS-1)

Residing in Record Group 19 in the holdings of the Cartographic Branch are three drawings of a very early submarine owned by United States Navy. Though the USS Holland was not the first submarine owned by the Navy, she was the first to be commissioned and is the reason that we observe National Submarine Day.

National Submarine Day, celebrated every year on April 11th, commemorates the day the the United States Navy acquired its first commissioned submarine in 1900. Hailed as the first true submarine to be accepted by the Navy ,1 the Holland was the first submarine to have the capability to run submerged for an extended period of time. Though submarine technology was still in its infancy at that time, the Holland sported some features that would be echoed in many submarines that would follow including a conning tower and ballast and tank systems that would allow for precision when it came to depth control.2

Below is a single drawing of the USS Holland, in two pieces. Normally, I wouldn’t necessarily mention anything regarding the physical scanning of a document, but I must admit taking a moment to stop and admire the simplicity of the design as I digitized these items. I was also in awe of the fact that these were the original drawings for the Navy’s first commissioned submarine, and to use use a technical term, they were “awesome.” In case you have ever wondered if we get excited over the documents we work with, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

Used primarily as a training and experimental vessel, the USS Holland (SS-1) was the first of the Plunger class of submarines. The other vessels in this class are the Plunger (SS-2), the Adder (SS-3), the Grampus (SS-4), the Moccasin (SS-5), the Pike (SS-6), the Porpoise (SS-7), and the Shark (SS-8). SS-2 through SS-8 were eventually renamed A-1 through A-7. Though not yet digitized, the Cartographic Branch holds drawings for each of these vessels.

Finally, we have a different type of drawing! Though not specifically of the USS Holland, below is the patent drawing for J.P. Holland’s Submarine Boat, issued on September 9th, 1902.

Be sure to take a look at the National Archives Catalog and do your own deep dive into submarine history!

  1. Naval History and Heritage Command. USS Holland (SS-1). ↩︎
  2. Friedman, Norman (1995). U.S. Submarines Through 1945: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. pp. 285–304. ↩︎

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