Newport, R.I. - The U.S. Naval War College’s (NWC) Archives office launched the Naval Torpedo Station (NTS) records project in September 2021. The project organized NTS records, stabilized the records for research access and archived the documents. They will complete the project in 2024.
Stacie Parillo, head archivist, U.S. Naval War College, provided insight about the Naval Torpedo Station records.
“These records provide a holistic and multifaceted look into the everyday business of a naval research facility,” said Parillo. “It traces the Navy’s development of underwater ordnance, submarine, anti-submarine warfare, professional military education and administrative details that these activities entail.”
“Because the collection is so large, it really is a thorough analysis into the inner-working of this singular command - everything from disciplinary personnel issues to the testing of explosives to vendor catalogs,” she continued. “We can piece together a full history of the Naval Torpedo Station with these records.”
U.S. Naval War College Archives office, also known as the Naval Historical Collection, maintained the records of the Naval Torpedo Station (NTS) previously headquartered on Goat Island in Newport, Rhode Island. The records date from 1883 to approximately 1957, chronicling the administration and scientific studies of the NTS naval research facility. The records provided a history of the development and evolution of underwater ordnance and their place in naval warfare.
In addition, the records revealed the development of technical curriculum, including diving and gunnery, and its early cooperation with NWC during the college’s establishment. They also highlighted major naval figures such as William Sampson, Alfred Thayer Mahan, Stephen Bleeker Luce, Chester Minkler, David Dixon Porter, and chemistry visionaries such as Charles E. Munroe and Walter W. Farnum. The records provided the history of the development, testing and manufacturing of torpedoes from the Spanish-American War to World War II, including the Howell, Patrick, Admiralty, Schwartzkopff, Cunningham, Whitehead and Bliss-Levitt torpedoes.
John Hattendorf, Ernest J. King Professor Emeritus of Maritime History, U.S. Naval War College, explained the significance of the NTS records.
“The Naval Torpedo Station records are a rare and completely untapped resource for naval history. This project will make them fully accessible to researchers for the very first time,” he said. “We do not yet know what new insights researchers will find in this collection, but the archivists have already unearthed new and intriguing letters from a range of key figures in naval history, including the first two naval war college presidents, Admiral Luce and Admiral Mahan, as well as others, such as Thomas Edison and Theodore Roosevelt.”
Archivists will arrange over 500 boxes of NTS records, which are currently in no discernible order, and most documents folded in thirds. So most letters, reports, publications and plans must be unfolded and stabilized for researcher use. After unfolding each item and performing light conservation work, such as removing rusted fasteners and deteriorated rubber bands, the archivists place items in chronological order and re-box the records.
The archivists will create a professional finding aid which will facilitate access to this extensive resource, and the collection’s content will be available on the NWC Archives’ collections website, NWC Archives.
You can view some NTS documents archivists have uncovered in the digital exhibit, NTS Digital Exhibit.