An Illustrated Survey of Key Events in the History of Submarines
Recommended by Beesker as the world's best website on submarines:

Developed by Captain Brayton Harris USN (Ret)

Submarine History Timeline 1580-1869 / Submarine History Timeline 1870-1914
Submarine History Timeline 1914-1941 /
Submarine History Timeline 1941-2000

Brayton Harris is author, co-author, editor of or contributor to more than 20 books . . . click to visit for information on five that are new or have just been re-issued:

The Age of the Battleship 1890-1922
WAR NEWS: Blue & Gray in Black & White . . . Newspapers in the Civil War
Admiral Nimitz: Commander of the Pacific Ocean Theater
Citizens for Eisenhower: The 1952 Presidential Campaign; Lessons for the Future?
PICTURE.BOOK: The Full Story of the Movie They Didn't Want You to See

submarine history: Bourne's submarine submarine history: Papin's submarine submarine history: CSS Hunley




1654: Correction to
"Rotterdam Boat"

1696: Papin's first submarine

1812: New addition

1833: Villeroi's

Velleroi Waterbug

1852: "Fool Killer" submarine

1861: Confederate
"Pioneer" new pix "Alligator"new pix

1863: Unidentified
Confederate sub

French "Le Plongeur"
plan drawing

1893: Simon Lake



What you think you know about the history of submarines may not be true.

Almost every book which covers the early history of submarines is riddled with errors. It would appear that the authors, in a hurry to get to the two World Wars and beyond, confined their treatment of the first 300 years of submarine development to a few pages, and their research to a cursory review of other recent books. Let one significant error stand for all: this, from a popular history of the World War I British submarine force:

Almost a hundred years earlier, Pitt had watched Robert Fulton's Nautilus nose her way under the waters of Walmer Roads before attacking and sinking the Danish brig "Dorothea."

There are only two things wrong with this: British Prime Minister Pitt was not present at the demonstration, and Fulton never had his "diving boat" Nautilus in England; he built only one (many reports to the contrary notwithstanding), which he demonstrated for the French. In France. And which he scrapped in France. There is no evidence that Nautilus was ever used to sink anything, anywhere. Fulton did indeed sink "Dorothea" off the coast of England but he did so with carefully placed explosive charges that he called "torpedoes." To place the charges used boats. Row boats. A short time later, Fulton gave the Earl of St. Vincent (who likewise had not been present at the demonstration) a briefing. The earl's response has ever since been enshrined as the ultimate pithy saying about submarines: "Pitt was the greatest fool who ever lived to encourage a mode of war which they who commanded the seas did not want, and which, if successful, would deprive them of it."

s pithy sayings go, it would be first rate if these were the earl of St. Vincent's words. However, the statement is Robert Fulton's report of what the earl said. As delivered, the quotation is suspiciously tinged with Fulton's views of his own transcendent importance.

As pithy sayings go, it would have been even better had the earl been talking about submarine boats. He was not. The conversations centered on Fulton's schemes for delivering torpedoes by surface boats or rafts, not by submarine.

submarine history
A guide to the timelines of WORLD SUBMARINE HISTORY
submarine history: Fulton's Nautilus submarine history: Lodner Phillips submarine
submarine history: Halsey's submarine 1812


Interested in Civil War newspapers? Check
Blue & Gray in Black & White

by Brayton Harris

WAR NEWS (published in 1999 as Blue & Gray in Black & White) is an exploration of the individual and collective efforts of newspaper journalists during the Civil War. As eyewitnesses to one of the most memorable conflicts in history, they left a record that is sometimes brilliant but, at other times, marred by shoddy journalism, sensationalism, and self-serving reporting. They were, however, the American public's primary source of information about the battles that were tearing the nation apart. This book focuses on the personalities, politics, and rivalries of editors; the efforts of newspapers to influence military appointments, strategy, and tactics; advances in printing technology; formal and informal censorship, the suppression of dissident newspapers, and, most of all, the war correspondents themselves.


WAR NEWS by Brayton Harris