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John Philip Holland was an Irish engineer who was born on February 24, 1841, and died on August 12, 1914. He designed the first submarine known as the Holland 1. It was the first submarine formally commissioned by the United States Navy and the first Royal Navy submarine.
See the fact file below for more information on John P Holland, or alternatively, you can download our 28-page John P Holland worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Holland is the second among four brothers. He was born in a coastguard cottage in Liscannor, County Clare, Ireland, where his father, John Sr., worked for the Royal Coastguard Service. His first wife was Anne Foley, who died in 1835. After the death of his wife, he then married Mary Scanlan, who was a native Irish speaker from Liscannor.
- The only time that he learned English properly was when he attended the local English-speaking St Macreehy’s National School. From 1858 he also attended the Irish Christian Brothers school in Ennistymon.
- He joined the Irish Christian Brothers in Limerick, and eventually taught in the same place, as well as many other locations all over the country.
- He also taught in the St. Mary’s CBS in Portlaoise and North Monastery CBS in Cork City.
- He left the Christian Brothers in 1873 due to ill health. He immigrated to the United States in 1873 and worked for an engineering firm for six years.
DEVELOPMENT OF SUBMARINE DESIGNS
- Holland had an injury when he broke his leg after slipping and falling on an icy Boston street shortly after arriving in the United States. During his recovery period in a hospital, he refined his submarine designs, which were encouraged by priest Isaac Whelan.
- In 1875, he submitted his submarine designs to the US Navy but they were rejected as unworkable. The Irish revolutionaries known as the Fenians continued to fund Holland’s research and development expenses to the point where he was able to resign from his teaching position.
- He demonstrated the Holland I prototype in 1878.
- Fenian Ram was founded in 1881, but soon after, Holland and the Fenians fell out over the issue of payment within the Fenian organization and between the Fenians and Holland. The submarine is now on display at the Paterson Museum in New Jersey.
- He continued to improve his designs and worked on several experimental boats, including the USS Plunger, but the Us Navy didn’t accept his designs. Later, he successfully built Holland VI, which debuted on May 17, 1897.
- Holland VI was the first submarine with the ability to run submerged for any significant distance. Also, it was the first to combine electric motors for submerged travel and gasoline engines for surface use.
- After rigorous testing, the submarine was purchased by the US Navy on April 11, 1900 and commissioned as USS Holland on October 12, 1900. Seven more of the submarine’s type were ordered: five of which were built at Crescent Shipyard in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and two at Union Iron Works in California.
- As a result of these successful developments, the Electric Boat Company was established on February 7, 1899.
- The company’s first president was Isaac Leopold Rice, with Elihu B. Frost serving as vice president and chief financial officer. This company grew into the major defense contractor General Dynamics.
- Others, including the Royal Navy, used the USS Holland design in developing the Holland-class submarine. The Imperial Japanese Navy’s first five submarines used a modified version of the basic design, though these boats were at least 10 feet longer at around 63 feet.
- Several companies like the Fore River Ship and Engine Company in Quincy, Massachusetts also worked on these submarines. Holland also created the prototypes for Holland II and Holland III. The Royal Navy’s ‘Holland 1’ submarine is on display at Gosports’ Submarine Museum.
HOLLAND CLASS SUBMARINE
- The Holland class submarines were considered as the first built for the Royal Navy. Vickers of Barrow-in-Furness built them. John Philip Holland created the first three of this submarine type. From 1901 – 1903, the Hollands were built under license from the Holland Torpedo Boat Company/Electric Boat Company. Only a few senior officers of the Royal Navy were aware of the existence of this submarine because they hoped to keep the Holland class a secret.
- This incident gave rise to the myth that the Admiralty was uninterested in submarines. The Admiralty, on the other hand, was well aware of the submarine’s destructive potential. As a result, it avoided any submarine development program in order to avoid inciting similar programs in foreign navies. When those navies began serious submarine programs, the Admiralty was forced to start its own.
- The Holland class was mostly used for testing, but after a Russian fleet accidentally sank a number of British fishing vessels in the Dogger Bank incident in October 1905, the Holland boats left the harbor to attack the fleet. Before any engagement could take place, they were summoned.
- Holland 1 was secretly launched on October 2, 1901. The submarine is now displayed at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport.
- Holland 2 was launched in February 1902 and sold on October 7, 1913.
- Holland 3, launched on August 1, 1902, sank during trials in 1911, and was sold in October 1913.
- Holland 4 was launched on May 23, 1902, foundered on September 3, 1912, and was salvaged and sunk as a gunnery target on October 17, 1914.
- Holland 5, launched on June 10, 1902, and lost in 1912 off the coast of Sussex. The wreck site was designated on January 4, 2005, under the Protection of Wrecks Act of 1973.
- John Philip Holland died on August 12, 1914, in Newark, New Jersey, at the age of 73. He worked with submersibles for 56 years. He was laid to rest in Totowa, New Jersey, at the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.
- In honor of his work, a monument stands at the gates of Scholars Townhouse Hotel in Drogheda – the former building of the Christian Brothers school where Holland taught.
- It was unveiled on June 14, 2014, as part of the Irish Maritime Festival. Drogheda Town Council, as well as representatives from the US, UK, and Japan, attended the ceremony. Mr. Holland’s former school, St. Joseph’s Christian Brothers School, has been renamed and is now known as John P. Holland Charter School in Paterson, New Jersey.
- The John P. Holland Centre is a museum dedicated to John P. Holland’s life and work. Its headquarters are in Liscannor, Co. Clare.
John P Holland Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle that includes everything you need to know about John P Holland across 28 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about John P Holland who was an Irish engineer that developed the first submarine.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- John P Holland Facts
- John P Holland
- Below The Sea
- Fact or Bluff
- Create Your Own Submarine
- Looking Back
- Comic Strip
- Sea First
- Submarine Acrostic
- Submarine Throughout The Years
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