First of Her Breed
As technological change transformed submarines from novelty to weapon of war, it naturally followed that more sophisticated "mother ships" would be required to service them. In lieu of ships built for the purpose, the Navy often used conversions until the former could join the Fleet. Recognizing this need, Congress authorized "Submarine Tender No.1," on 4 March 1911.
Bidding opened for the construction of the vessel, originally named the Niagara, on 30 April 1912, and the contract was awarded on 19 June to the only business that bid, the New England Ship and Engine Company. While the Groton, Connecticut, firm would design the ship and build her engines, the Fore River Shipbuilding Corporation in Quincy, Massachusetts, would construct the vessel, for less than $500,000.