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Bill Thayer

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One Man's Fight
for a Better Navy

Holden A. Evans
Former Naval Constructor, U. S. N.

The Book and the Author

Holden Allen Evans (b. Dec. 6, 1871 at Greenville, AL; † Nov. 27, 1957) was a United States naval officer, best known as a naval constructor who early in his career learned of and studied the then brand-new field of modern management, and introduced its techniques to several navy yards, with varying success. The book is nominally an autobiography, and does include interesting chapters on his childhood, youth, and tenure at the Naval Academy from which he graduated in the Class of 1892; but it is primarily the story of his later career and especially his attempts to reform the management of naval yards. Commander Evans wrote the book a quarter-century after his naval career, largely in an effort to continue his reforms even from retirement; and since, in order to do so, his approach involved exposing what he felt were the Navy's fundamental flaws as he faced them during his career, the book is an instructive one, often cited by historians of the U. S. Navy in the twentieth century: it is in fact from such repeated citations in several other books (elsewhere on my naval history site) that I came to transcribe it, and I'm glad I did; it more than lived up to my expectations.

 p. ix  Contents

Preface vii

Part I — Struggle Upward

A Boy of the Reconstruction


Escape from the Piney Woods


A Plebe in the Academy


Anchors Aweigh — Not à la Hollywood


Front-Door Entrance — to the Line


The Life of Reilly


Farewell to the Line


Education on the Clyde


Part II — Naval Constructor

"Learn How to Handle Men"


The Insides of a Navy Yard


A Constructor Finds his Mission


Navy Yard in a Paradise


When Our Blue-Jackets Mutinied


An American Dreyfus Case


Something New in Shop Methods


The San Francisco Earthquake


More about Scientific Management


Dawn of a New Day


Bureaucracy Shows its Fangs

 p. x  XII

Mr. Winthrop Attends a Banquet


Admiral Osterhaus Clears his Conscience


Stiffening of a Secretarial Spine


Brainwork of a Navy Board


Dead-End Street


Part III — Shipbuilder

How to Deal with Bankers


"Skinner" into "The Drydocks"


Enter Christoffer Hannevig


Sharp Turns in High Finance


The Dizzy Whirl of 1916


A Shipbuilder in the War


And the Aftermath



Memorandum by Holden Evans on navy yard reorganization


Appeal by Holden Evans to the President in regard to the denial of his request for a one‑year leave of absence


Orders and excerpts from letters relating to Naval Constructor Evans' detail to Norfolk Navy Yard, 1911


 p. xi  Illustrations

Rear-Admiral Holden A. Evans, U. S. N.


facing page

Shipbuilder Evans talks to his workmen


Charlie Schwab talks to the Drydocks men


At the launching of the forty-day ship


The author today, Mrs. Evans
— and Teddy and Peter


Technical Details

Edition Used

The edition transcribed here appears to be the first and only one. It was © 1940 Dodd, Mead and Company, Inc. but is now in the public domain because the copyright was not renewed in 1967 or 1968 as then required by law: details here on the copyright law involved.


In the printed edition the 5 illustrations, all black-and‑white photographs, are tipped in on glossy pages at fairly appropriate places. I've moved most of them a bit, to accompany the relevant text even more closely. Their original placement is given in the table above, but the links are of course to the new location. I've colorized them to shades of dark blue, but without any other alteration.

For citation and indexing purposes, the pagination is shown in the right margin of the text at the page turns (like at the end of this line); p57  these are also local anchors. Sticklers for total accuracy will of course find the anchor at its exact place in the sourcecode.

In addition, I've inserted a number of other local anchors: whatever links might be required to accommodate the author's own cross-references, as well as a few others for my own purposes. If in turn you have a website and would like to target a link to some specific passage of the text, please let me know: I'll be glad to insert a local anchor there as well.


As almost always, I retyped the text by hand rather than scanning it — not only to minimize errors prior to proofreading, but as an opportunity for me to become intimately familiar with the work, an exercise which I heartily recommend: Qui scribit, bis legit. (Well-meaning attempts to get me to scan text, if success­ful, would merely turn me into some kind of machine: gambit declined.)

My transcription has been minutely proofread. In the table of contents below, the sections are shown on blue backgrounds, indicating that I believe the text of them to be completely errorfree; a red background would mean that the page had not been proofread. As elsewhere onsite, the header bar at the top of each chapter's webpage will remind you with the same color scheme.

The printed book was remarkably well proofread. The inevitable typographical errors were very few, and all trivial: I marked them with a dotted underscore like this: as elsewhere on my site, glide your cursor over the underscored words to read what was actually printed. Similarly, glide your cursor over bullets before measurements: they provide conversions to metric, e.g., 10 miles.

A number of odd spellings, curious turns of phrase, etc. have been marked <!‑‑ sic  in the sourcecode, just to confirm that they were checked. They are also few.

Any other mistakes, please drop me a line, of course: especially if you have a copy of the printed book in front of you.

[image ALT: A posed and idealized head-and‑shoulders portrait, very closely based on a photograph, of a young-looking man in early middle age, looking straight at the camera. He is clean-shaven and his short wavy hair is parted down the middle; he wears a full-dress naval uniform jacket: six rows of brass buttons are visible, as well as his gold-braid epaulets. He has a pleasant look to him, although at the same time both somewhat stern and with a hint of a smile. He is United States Navy Naval Constructor Holden A. Evans, author of 'One Man\'s Fight for a Better Navy'. The image serves as the icon for the complete transcription of that book on this site.]

The icon I use to indicate this subsite is a cropped and colorized version of the book's frontispiece, above.

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Site updated: 16 Sep 16