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St. Patricks Day and John Holland

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Rontini599 View Drop Down
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    Posted: 17 Mar 2018 at 4:54pm
When the great submarine contest of 1893 began in the United States, John P. Holland was already a who’s who amongst Washington bureaucracy. The Irish born schoolteacher had already submitted two designs to the US Navy that were  rejected before construction could begin. A month before the competition, a lawyer provided Holland with the capital needed to form his own company, giving him a leg up over the other competitors.  Holland, as we all know, would go on to win the submarine contest and the Holland submarine would become the first official U.S. Navy submarine. However, who was John P. Holland and how he becomes the favorite of those running in the competition.

Holland was born in Ireland in 1840. He would become a schoolteacher and taught in Ireland until his emigration to the United States in 1873. While teaching in Ireland, Holland studied the battle between the Monitor and Merrimac during the American civil war. Holland realized that the best way to take down such ironclads would be from underneath the vessels, and so Holland’s interests in submarines began. Once he moved to New Jersey, Holland began to design his version of a submarine, which was funded by the Irish Fenian Brotherhood.  The Irish Fenian Brotherhood was a group in the United States that brought together Irish immigrants to fight for Ireland’s independence from Britain. They hoped that Holland could design a submarine that would help win that independence for Ireland. His first design was one man-operated vessel and was 14 feet, 8 inches long and three feet wide. It could displace 2.5 tons. While Holland considered his first attempt a failure, the brotherhood found it promising enough to fund the second design. The new submarine, nicknamed the Fenian Ram.

It was 31 feet long, nine feet wide and displaced 19 tons. During its first dive, the vessel reached 14 feet. On the second day, the submarine remained submerged for 2.5 hours. What made Holland’s designs unique was the use of water ballasts to submerge the vessel and horizontal rudders to dive. During further tests, the submarine reached depths of 45 feet. The submarine propelled by a 20-horsepower gasoline engine used an electric motor to recharge the vessel's battery. By 1883, the Fenians, upset over escalating costs stole the design forcing Holland to break ties with the Brotherhood. Once the brotherhood had possession of the vessel, they realized they knew nothing about its operation. Of course, Holland refused to help. The Fenian Ram would never be used in battle and would sit in New Haven Connecticut until its engine was removed to a brass foundry. Eventually, the craft ended up back in Holland’s adopted hometown of Patterson, NJ where it can still be visited today.

While design work and testing of the next boat (Plunger) it seemed to stall, Holland began a private venture at his Torpedo Boat Company (what became Electric Boat). This vessel reverted to his design for the Fenian Ram. This new design was 52 feet long and had a maximum diameter of just over 10 feet. Submerged she displaced 75 tons. Holland returned to internal combustion to power the boat with a 45-horsepower Otto gasoline engine. In February of 1898, Holland took his new vessel to sea. After some trial and error, the submarine had successful test ran off the coast of Staten Island, NY on March 17, 1898. It was fitting that the first successful trial was conducted on St. Patrick’s Day. By 1900, the US Navy was onboard with Holland’s new design and had scrapped the Plunger project. USS Holland was officially commissioned on October 12, 1900.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dr. Stan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Mar 2018 at 10:19am
John P. Holland Submarines - Timeline

Holland's Fenian Ram, Patterson, NJ

Holland's Plunger

Edited by Dr. Stan - 19 Mar 2018 at 10:28am
It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.~Abe Lincoln
SS-393, SSBN-610(B), SSBN-624(G), SSN-591
USSVI Life Member; Holland Club; Plank Owner, Smoky Mtn. Base
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