Frank Taylor Cable

Photo of Frank Taylor Cable

The Birth and Development of the American Submarine
by Frank T. Cable

Frank Cable, son of Abijah and Olive L. Cable, was born in Milford, Connecticut. He grew up on his father's farm and attended Claverick College in Hudson, New York and the Franklin and Drexel Institutes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He married Nettie A. Hungerford in 1892.1

Frank Cable described his association with John Holland in an article published in the February 1943 issue of United States Naval Institute Proceedings. He wrote:

"My association with the inventor Holland dated from early 1897. I was living in Philadelphia at the time as a technician connected with the Electro-Dynamic Company of that city. My first acquaintance with the submarine Holland was made through reading a graphic newspaper account of her remarkable features, as they were then regarded. It reminded me of Jules Verneís Nautilus; one seemed as real as the other. I was asked if I would care to take an undersea trip in the Holland, and my answer was that not for anything would I be tempted to do so. Yet it fell out that in less than six months (sic., two years) I found myself in command of this boat, and for twelve years afterward I spent more time under water than on top."
"I became the skipper of the Holland through being the accidental means of reconditioning her electrical equipment after she had sunk, when near completion, at the Crescent Shipyard, Elizabethport, New jersey, then owned by Lewis Nixon. One night, [October 13, 1897] when the boat was lying alongside dock undergoing minor changes, a careless workman left a small valve open. In the night the boat filled and sank. She remained submerged for about eighteen hours, during which her electrical equipment and machinery were at the mercy of salt water. At that time motors and generators were not protected form the injurious effect of contact with salt water as they are today. The insulation was ruined and some means had to be found to restore it. To remove the electrical equipment and rebuild the boat meant a large outlay, as the entire upper part of the hull would have to be raised in order to take out the machinery. The Holland Company vainly tried every known method of drying out the motors and generators by applying heat externally. As a last resort the Electro-Dynamic Company was notified, and sent me to investigate. After an examination I decided that there was only one way to remedy the trouble, and if this course was adopted there was a chance of restoring the boat. The Holland Company assumed all responsibility, the work was started, and in four days completed and the job pronounced satisfactory."1

Frank Cable joined the Holland Torpedo Boat Company on March 26, 1898 and became the Hollandís new electrician. By June 29, 1899, he had replaced John Holland as the trial captain. Frank Cable continued to command the Holland VI until the boat was turned over to the Navy crew in the fall of 1900.

After delivering the Holland VI, Frank Cable traveled to England to train the crews of the five Holland class boats built by Vickers, Sons and Maxim. He later travelled to Japan to train the crews for the five type 7-P boats that had been built in Massachusetts and assembled in Japan by Arthur L. Busch and to Russia to train the crew of the Som (ex. Fulton).

In 1910, Frank Cable and Lawrence Spear organized the New London Ship and Engine Company (NELSECO) to build the diesel engines for the D and E class submarines. The NELSECO facility was built on the eastern bank of the Thames River in Groton, Connecticut where the Electric Boat shipyard stands today. Cable served as the vice-president and general manager of NELSECO until it was merged with the Electric Boat Company in 1930. Cable was promoted to general manager of Electric Boat following the merger.

Note: Electric Boat began building submarines at the NELSECO site in 1931.

  1. Obituary dated May 22 provided by Victor du Busc.
  2. Cable, Frank T., "The Submarine Torpedo Boat Holland." U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, February 1943, pp173-180.

1999,2000,2001,2002 Gary McCue