Thomas Tingey was born in London on 11 September 1750. As a youth, he served in the British Navy commanding a blockhouse at Chateaux Bay on the Labrador coast. He later commanded merchant vessels in the West Indies before coming to the colonies and investing in the East India trade. According to unverified tradition, Tingey served in the Continental Navy during the War for Independence.
In September 1798, Tingey was commissioned a captain in the United States Navy and distinguished himself in the undeclared war with France as commander of the man-of-war Ganges. During that time, Tingey commanded a squadron which cruised the waters of the Windward Passage between Hispaniola and Cuba to protect American shipping from French privateers. Tingey commanded Ganges as she took four prizes and is known for his bloodless encounter with the British frigate Surprise.
In January 1800, Tingey was appointed to supervise construction of the new navy yard at Washington, D.C., and became its first commandant on 23 November 1804. In the summer of 1814, as the British advanced on Washington, the Secretary of the Navy ordered Tingey to set fire to the yard. Tingey returned after the withdrawal of the British forces and commanded the yard until his death on 23 February 1829. Commodore Tingey was buried with military honors in what is now known as Congressional Cemetery, Washington, D.C.
(Torpedo Boat No. 34: dp. 165 (n.); 1. 175'0" (wl.); b. 17'6"; dr. 4'8" (mean); s. 24.94 k. (tl.); cpl. 28; a. 3 1-pdr. rf., 3 18" tt.; cl. Blakely)
The first Tingey (Torpedo Boat No. 34) was laid down on 29 March 1899 at Baltimore, Md., by the Columbian Iron Works; launched on 25 March 1901; sponsored by Miss Anna T. Craven, the great-great-granddaughter of Commodore Thomas Tingey; and commissioned at Norfolk, Va., on 7 January 1904, Lt. John F. Marshall in command.
Tingey then joined the Reserve Torpedo Flotilla at its base at the Norfolk Navy Yard and remained there for the first third of her Navy career. For the most part, she lay tied up at pierside; but, periodically she got underway to insure her material readiness should a need for her services ever arise. By 1908, she was reassigned to the 3d Torpedo Flotilla, but she remained relatively inactive at Norfolk. In 1909, she was listed as a unit of the Atlantic Torpedo Fleet. However, all three organizations to which she was assigned appear simply to have been different names for the same duty —lying at pierside in reserve.
Sometime late in 1909, Tingey moved south from Norfolk to Charleston, S.C., where she was promptly placed in reserve again on 22 December 1909. The torpedo boat remained at Charleston, in various conditions of reserve, but apparently always still in commission. Infrequently, she got underway to test her machinery. In 1917, Tingey moved north to the Philadelphia Navy Yard where she was placed out of commission on 8 March 1917. A month later on 7 April 1917, she was recommissioned and moved further north to patrol the coastal waters of the 1st Naval District during the period the United States participated in World War I. In September 1918, the torpedo boat's name was cancelled so that it could be given to Destroyer No. 272, one of the new Clemson-class destroyers. The older vessel then became Coast Torpedo Boat No. 17. Two months later, Germany sued for the armistice which ended hostilities. Coast Torpedo Boat No. 17 was placed out of commission at Philadelphia on 30 January 1919, and she was struck from the Navy list on 28 October 1919. On 10 March 1920, she was sold to the Independent Pier Co., of Philadelphia, Pa.