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John Philip Holland

submarine builder

John Philip Holland aboard his submarine

John Philip Holland was born in County Clare, Ireland, in 1840. He began working on the idea of a submarine while teaching school in Ireland from 1858 to 1872. By 1870, he had completed the first plans for his invention.

In 1873, Holland came to the United States and settled in Paterson, New Jersey, where he taught school for a while. He submitted his submarine plans to the U. S. Navy in 1875, but they were rejected. The Fenian Society, a group of Irish-American patriots who hoped to destroy England's naval power, became interested in Holland's plans, however, and gave him enough money to build two submarines.

Holland's first boat was tested in the Passaic River in 1878, but it failed. His second boat, the Fenian Ram, was launched in 1881. The success of this boat established many of the basic features of submarines.

In 1888, the U. S. Navy asked Holland to submit submarine plans. Seven years later, it awarded him a contract to build a ship, but the vessel failed because the Navy forced him to drop many of his ideas. In order to prove that his ideas were correct, Holland privately built the Holland and launched it successfully in 1898.

In 1900, the Navy bought the Holland and asked the inventor to build several more ships just like it. Holland received many profitable contracts to build submarines, but he died in poverty because of company difficulties.

Holland's company, however, survived and eventually became the Electric Boat Company, which has subsequently built the vast majority of the U.S. Navy's submarines, as well as submarines for many other nations.

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This page was last updated on 06/23/2018.