John P. Holland, shown in the hatch of one of his submarines, emigrated to America as a result of the Irish potato famine, resenting that Britain had done nothing to ease the famine.

He joined a militant Irish nationalist group called the Fenians and convinced them that he could build a submarine to get the Royal Navy. They demanded proof, so he built a 30 inch working model; they then raised money. Holland built one 14.5 feet long for one person with a gasoline engine that worked well.

His second larger one was for a crew of three, that a newspaper reporter called the Fenian Ram.

He built another similar to Fenian Ram but 53 ft 8 in long, and demonstrated it in the Patomac River for Adm. Dewey, Congressmen, reporters. It successfully dove, surfaced, and maneuvered on and below the surface. The Navy bought it from Holland in April 1900 — the birth date of the American Submarine Service. See more.

Copyright © 2004 John F. Yeaman