The U.S. Navy purchased its first submarine from John P. Holland on 11 April, 1900, which was commissioned as the USS HOLLAND (SS-1), marking the beginning of the Submarine Service. The USS HOLLAND was 54 feet long, displaced 74 tons, and carried a crew of one officer, five enlisted men. After the purchase of the HOLLAND in 1900, the Navy set out to build its first class of submarines designated the "A" class. Two submarine torpedo boats, A3 (SS-4), originally laid down as GRAMPUS (Submarine Torpedo Boat No. 4), and A-5 (SS-6), originally laid down as PIKE (Submarine Torpedo Boat No. 6), in December 1900, at San Francisco, California, by Union Iron Works, a subcontractor for the John P. Holland Torpedo Boat Company of New York, were launched in 1902 and commissioned at the Mare Island Navy Yard in 1903, with Lt. Arthur MacArthur the older brother of future General of the Army Douglas MacArthurin command.
Over the next three and a half years, GRAMPUS and PIKE operated out of the San Francisco area, principally in training and experimental work and subsequently assigned to the 1st Submarine Division, Pacific Torpedo Flotilla, in 1910, and to the Pacific Fleet in 1911, operating locally off the California coast becoming the first U.S. submarines stationed on the West Coast. By the end of 1910 the U.S. Navy had only 20 submarines. Among the submarines built during this period were the HOLLAND, 7 A-class, 3 B-class, 5 C-class, 3 D-class, and 2 E-class submarines. However, under construction were 4 submarines of the F-class, 4 of the G-class, and 9 submarines of the H-class. Of this number the F and H-class submarines would play a role in the establishment of the Navy's first Submarine Base on the West Coast San Pedro.
Each class of submarine marked a distinct improvement in the quality and performance of the previous class of submarine. The early submarines of the "A", "B", "C", "D", and "G" classes utilized gasoline engines. The first diesel engines were installed in the 2 submarines of the E-class. With the exception of the "G" class submarine, all the submarines which followed were also powered by diesel engines.
Like A-class submarines, GRAMPUS and PIKE, the submarines CARP (SS-20), later renamed F-1, and BARRACUDA (SS-22), later renamed F-2, were built by Union Iron Works, San Francisco, California, for the newly formed Electric Boat Company, as were the submarines SEAWOLF (SS-28), later designated H-1, and NAUTILUS (SS-29), later designated H-2, each being commissioned at the Mare Island Navy Yard. The submarines PICKEREL (SS-22), later renamed F-3, and SKATE (SS-23), designated F-4, were built by the Seattle Construction & Drydock Co., Seattle, Washington, as was the GARFISH (SS-30), later designated H-3. Interestingly enough, six submarines of the H-class, H-4, H-5, H-6, H-7 and H-8, were all built by the Electric Boat Company for the Imperial Russian Government. Their shipment was held up pending the outcome of the Russian Revolution, and the boats were stored in knockdown condition at Vancouver, B.C. All six were purchased by the Navy on 20 May 1918 and assembled at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Washington. Each of these submarines would find their home at the Submarine Base in San Pedro, California.