John P. Holland, an Irish born American, designed and built the first submarine commissioned in the United States Navy (The Alligator was never commissioned). The USS Holland SS-1 was officially commissioned on 12 October 1900. This was the sixth submarine built by Holland. His submarine was also the first submarine in the Royal Navy, HMS Holland 1.
Holland immigrated to the United States in 1873 at the age of 32. While a teacher in Ireland during the American Civil War, Holland realized the easiest way to attack blockading ships was from below. By 1875, he had drawn up designs for a submarine and submitted them to the United States Navy. The designs were turned down as unworkable. The Fenians, a pro Irish independence group in the United States, funded Holland allowing him to work full time on his submarine designs. In 1881, Holland built his Fenian Ram. This submarine is now in the Paterson Museum, Patterson, New Jersey.
He continued to work on his submarine designs. In May of 1897, he built his first submarine which used gasoline engine for surface propulsion and battery powered electric motors for submerged operation. This submarine was known as Holland VI and it was this submarine the United States Navy purchased on 11 April 1900 and commissioned it as the USS Holland SS-1 on 12 October 1900.
Though he was in competition with Lake (from our previous article) to build submarines for the United States Navy, his designs were the ones which were responsible for the majority of the submarines purchased by the navy. Holland found the Electric Boat Company 7 February 1899, and this company eventually became the major defense contractor General Dynamics. The submarine division of General Dynamics is still called Electric Boat and continues to build submarines for the United States Navy in Groton, Connecticut. Though Lake was forced to close his shipyard in the 1920s, he continued to be a consultant to the navy for the rest of his life.
In addition to the British, The Japanese also adopted Holland’s design for their navy. The Royal Navy submarine HMS Holland 1 is on display at the Submarine Museum, Grosport, England. USS Holland was decommissioned in July 1905. In 1910, Henry A. Hitner & Sons purchased the Holland for scrap. It was sold to Peter J. Gibbons in 1915 and displayed at the Bronx International Exposition of Science, Arts, and Industries in New York. From there the Holland was moved to Patterson, New Jersey where it was displayed until 1932. In 1932, this historic submarine was again sold as scrap and destroyed.