This lead submarine was first used in the Passaic River. It was able to go under the water, but was too heavy to surface.

“Entire Crew Drowns in First Submarine Accident”

On this day in New Jersey, the Passaic River was the site of the first submarine ride by inventor John P. Holland. Initially working for an engineering firm, he returned to teaching again for a further six years in St. John’s Catholic School in Paterson, New Jersey.

In 1875, his first attempt at submarine designs were submitted for consideration by the U.S. Navy, but turned down as unworkable. This was, in large part, because he had placed the seats for the crew on the outside of the sub and made the sub out of lead. This caused the crew to “drown immediately”, but the information gained by Holland proved to be invaluable.

“The crew must be housed inside the sub, so they will be able to breathe,” he wrote in his engineering notes. “And the submarine should be not be made out of a substance like lead  – water is kept out, but the submarine sinks.”

That first submarine is now preserved at the Paterson Museum in Paterson.