Simon Lake ~ Submarine Pioneer

Simon Lake (before 1923) United States Public Domain

Simon Lake (before 1923)
United States Public Domain

Simon Lake, a naval architect with more than 200 patents to his name. Lake competed with John P. Holland to build the first submarines for the United States Navy. Holland and Lake both built submarines for many navies and they are the father’s of the modern submarine. From childhood he had a strong interest in undersea travel.

Lake, born 4 September 1866 in Pleasantville, New Jersey, built his first submarine the Argonaut Junior in 1894 in response to a United States Navy request for a submarine torpedo boat. Argonaut Junior was a prototype 14 feet long, 4 feet wide, 5 feet in height, it had a lockout chamber in enter and exit the submarine while submerged and it had three wheels on the bottom to keep it from getting stuck on the sea bottom. The two man crew propelled the submarine by hand cranking the two drive wheels.

In 1898 he built the 36 foot Argonaut 1 and sailed it 1,000 miles from Norfolk, Virginia to Sandy Hook, New Jersey. Taking what he learned from the trip he rebuilt the Argonaut 1 renaming it Argonaut 2 and extending its length to 60 feet.

His next submarine was the Protector, but the navy did not except any of the three submarines. Lake sold the Protector to the Imperial Russian Navy in 1904 and it was renamed Osetr. He did not have the financial resources of Holland so he spent the next seven years in Europe building submarines for Russia, Germany, and Austro-Hungary.

Ripe with success in Europe, Lake founded the Lake Torpedo Boat Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1912. Lake built 26 submarines for the United States Navy during and after World War I. His first submarine for the Navy was USS G-1 SS -19½. USS G-1(named Seal renamed G-1 by the navy) set a depth record of 256 feet in November 1912. The submarine was built on a subcontract at the Newport News Ship Building Company in Newport News, Virginia. The submarine met and exceeded all of the navy’s requirements.

In the 1920s, because of the naval reduction treaties, Lake was forced to close his ship building company. But, he remained an advisor to the United States Navy on maritime salvage and submarine technology until his death on 25 June 1945.


USS G-1, date 1912 United States Public Domain

USS G-1, date 1912
United States Public Domain

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