John Philip Holland emigrated to the US in 1873. Holland’s first submarine submission was rejected by the Navy Secretary as ‘a fantastic scheme of a civilian landsman’. The navy eventually relented and purchased it’s first submarine from Holland’s company in 1900 for $150,000. Holland also had a strong interest in aviation writing a paper in 1891 titled ‘The Practicality of Manned Flight’. He is buried in Totowa, New Jersey.
Educated at Limerick, Holland taught school until 1872 in Ireland and in 1873 emigrated to the United States. Settling in Paterson, NJ, he taught there until 1879, when, with financial support from the Irish Fenian Society (who hoped to use submarines against England), he built the Fenian Ram. However, the Fenians, alarmed at the escalating costs, stole the Ram.
In 1895 his J.P. Holland Torpedo Boat Company received a contract from the U.S. Navy to build a submarine, and in 1898 a successful Holland, the first truly practical submarine, was launched. The U.S. government ordered six more; similar orders came from England, Japan, and Russia. Holland’s final years were marked by litigation with his financial backers. One of his last inventions was an apparatus designed to enable sailors to escape from damaged submarines.
Featured photo: In 1916, Fenian Ram was exhibited in Madison Square Garden to raise funds for victims of the Easter Rising. Afterwards, she was moved to the New York State Marine School. In 1927, Edward Browne purchased her and moved her to Paterson, New Jersey, where she can still be seen at the Paterson Museum.
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