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In Our Waters - The Professor's Peacemaker - Part II

May 26, 2019

Over the course of the following year and a half, the work on t

he Peacemaker was largely unheralded by the press and little is known of what Professor Tuck was specifically engaged with as he worked toward his goal of the development of a functional submarine. Finally, in August of 1886, Professor Tuck once again rose to the public “surface” along Riverside Drive and Eighty-Sixth Street. Many passersby’s were convinced at first that they were watching a sea serpent diving below the surface and then returning moments later. Once again gathering a swell of interest by the citizens of New York, Professor Tuck was on the precipice of unveiling his newly improved Peacemaker design.
Unlike the submarine torpedo boat launched in 1884, the 1886 version of the submarine had significant differences in its design. No longer was the submarine outfitted with a well for the surface supplied diver and pilot. The pilot station was now enclosed and part of the submarine’s internal compartments thus ensuring that no “tethering” to the surface was required. Still utilizing a three man crew, the submarine was thirty feet in length, had a beam of eight and a half feet and was six feet deep at her center. Alongside the keel on either side of the craft were lead bars to assist in sending the submarine into the depths. Compartments within the submarine could be flooded or emptied to permit the submarine to descend and rise. For steering and diving, the submarine was outfitted with a common rudder and a horizontal rudder. To pilot the craft, the pilot or captain, would utilize a small dome, twelve inches high and fourteen inches in diameter, which was provided with glass ports. Utilizing a caustic soda mixture, the small engine aboard could power the vessel as she maneuvered beneath the waves. As before, the submarine craft’s main design was to maneuver beneath an enemy vessel where a strong insulated wire with two explosive cartridges or marine torpedoes – one at each end could be released. Buoyed by magnetic corks, the wire and two cartridges would then float upward to the curve of the hull of the enemy vessel with the magnetic corks attaching to the hull plates. As the Peacemaker  maneuvered clear of the enemy, an electric charge would be sent through the wire and the cartridges would explode, causing mortal damage to the enemy vessel.  The August 24, 1886 dives were impressive, with no accidents or incidents and with one dive to a depth of forty feet in the North River were successfully completed. After an underwater voyage toward Yonkers, for a length of seven minutes, the Peacemaker returned to the wharf and awaited a more pompous affair to celebrate her capabilities.
On August 26, 1886, the Peacemaker once again set out to demonstrate her abilities as an effective coastal defense craft. On the west bank of the Hudson River, a gathering of nearly three hundred onlookers watched a jumbled creation of wood, iron and steel sail into position. Its name was the Chance Shot and it held precariously, forty souls who were on hand for the demonstration of the cigar-shaped submarine tethered alongside. Professor Tuck and his two companions boarded the odd craft and after sealing the aft hatch of the craft, the tiny submarine set off into the North River. Submerging beneath the surface, the onlookers ashore and aboard the Chance Shot wondered whether or not the craft would ever return to the surface or if she was relegated to becoming a permanent underwater fixture at the bottom of the waterway. A full thirty minutes later, the Peacemaker emerged from the depths and rang three short whistles. The downriver steamer Sylvan Grove let out three loud retorts of her own whistle signifying its awareness of the submarine’s presence. The Peacemaker turned about smartly and returned to the Chance Shot where Professor Tuck and his two crewmen emerged from the craft to the cheers and questions of those aboard. The experiments had once again been successful.
On November 23, 1886, three days after General Sherman had descended in the craft for his private tour and after the less than spectacular exhibition of the craft’s abilities, Professor Tuck and his steadfast crew tried yet again. For success, the submarine would have to descend below the surface, make an approach to an “enemy” vessel, and return to its original destination without detection.  
On November 23, 1886, crowds on both the tugboat Luther C. Ward and the John E. Moore fought to gain a glimpse of the Peacemaker amidst the foggy conditions on the waters of the North River. Despite a raging tide that concerned the onlookers, Professor Tuck was not going to delay his display of submarine engineering. After providing a tour to Lieutenant Edmund Zalinski, Professor Tuck announced to the crowds that the exhibition of the Peacemaker’s abilities would commence. Setting off from the barge with John Kline and John Holland, the tiny submarine craft slowly crept along the surface until she reached a barge in the river. Suddenly, the “dark-green turtle back” submarine descended below the surface. Applause erupted on the two vessels as the submarine appeared after several minutes nearly two hundred yards from where she had descended. Professor Tuck continued to conduct tests before the crowds before he allowed his submarine to be captured by men aboard the barge. The tests were considered a success and the company officials reported that the next set of demonstrations would be made at Fort Monroe and that moving forward with additional designs and boats was paramount to the advancement of the technology. Assertions that funding for such designs was also heralded as a necessity for the upcoming sessions of the U.S. Congress.
Two years later, Professor Tuck’s Peacemaker, along with designs from John Philip Holland, George Nordenfelt and George C. Baker were submitted to the United States Navy’s call for submarine designs in 1888. Holland’s design was selected and he commenced construction on his Plunger submarine. Professor Tuck’s design was cast aside as were his hopes for a successful and lucrative government contract with the construction of his Peacemaker design.
In April of 1898, the then aged Professor Tuck was residing in San Francisco and was interviewed by a reporter from the San Francisco Examiner regarding his legacy in the advancement of submarine technology. When confronted with the news that John P. Holland was being considered the “wizard of modern naval warfare,” Professor Tuck cried foul indicating that Holland’s design was nothing more than “an enlarged copy of his own invention” - the Peacemaker. The Professor continued noting that the Peacemaker had been “constructed and operated successfully years and years ago” when “inventor Holland was only his engineer aboard that self-same wonder.” Tuck continued to explain the Peacemaker’s unceremonious end indicating that the company organized to further the development of his submarine and which Professor Tuck had deeded all of his patents had been absconded by Wall Street brokers with the plans and patents being provided to Holland to further his own attempts at mastering the underwater environs. The Peacemaker, he continued to explain, remained in New York shanghaied shore side amidst the wharfs, mired in the murkiness of the company’s financiers and other corrupt managers. The laurels of a submarine pioneer, according to Professor Tuck, had been wrongly placed on the crown of Holland and instead belonged to the aged mining engineer and designer of the Peacemaker
Though Holland was squarely in the crosshairs of Professor Tuck’s assertions, other inventors also remained at odds with the inventor’s recollections of the submarine saga. He further contended that other advancements of submarine technology had been largely stolen from his work on the Peacemaker. “The French engineer came over and took sketches on the sly while making trips in my boat, but there were certain things that it was impossible for him to find out; so when he went back to France and sixty boats were built in accordance with drafts, fifty-nine of them went to the junkshop, the remaining one going to the bottom and staying there. A Spanish engineer,” he continued, “and an excellent one, too, came over for the purpose of duplicating the Peacemaker. He built a boat which was very imperfect but would navigate a little under water, and his country made him a noble and gave him a castle.” Then, he continued to postulate, “Italy sent over an engineer also, with a show of enthusiasm, and in his report to his government he said that, although Italy had the finest warships in the world, there was a little boat in American no bigger than a large fish that could sink the whole Italian Navy.”
Even the United States Navy - indirectly -showed interest in Professor Tuck’s submarine when Admiral David Dixon Porter - one of the Union Navy’s heroes of the American Civil War -partook in tests aboard the submarine. As noted by Professor Tuck, “the greatest depth in which was ever tried was ninety-six feet. This was in the North River, New York. On that trip, Admiral Porter was with me, and he expressed his astonishment at the ease and facility with which the boat could be managed. He declared that he would not be afraid to approach within 150 yards of any ironclad on the surface of the water. In fact, it would be a hard matter to hit her, even on the surface, due to her small size. And if she were seen beneath the waves, the water would protect her from shots. The Admiral,” Professor Tuck continued, “was a warm friend of mine and when the Wall Street men got hold of the stock in the invention he told them; ‘It is the most terrible engine of destruction I have ever seen, and one of the most wonderful inventions. If you freeze Tuck out, our stock will not be worth beans.” Despite Admiral Porter’s support, the submarine inventor’s dreams were roughly sunk.
Professor Tuck’s invention surely assisted in the development of other inventors and their quest for mastering submarine technology. These assertions coupled with his undermining of control of the destiny of the Peacemaker submarine had left Professor Tuck a disheartened inventor. “The invention having passed out of my hands, and having become disgusted over my loss, which represented twenty years’ time and $100,000 spent in experimentation and in constructing the Peacemaker, I intended to do nothing further in the matter.” But with the call to war with the Spanish, the pioneer and inventor remained a dreamer that all had not been lost in his quest. “I am now willing to build an improved boat of the same kind if it should be needed in the event of war.” Though Professor Tuck indicated in the 1898 article that efforts would be made in the future to produce a new “submarine” there is no indication that the words had been put into action.
Professor Josiah H.L. Tuck passed away two days after his seventy-sixth birthday on October 14, 1900. He was buried at Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma, San Mateo County, California. He had lived to see the U.S. Navy’s acceptance of the John Holland design and the efforts of many of his contemporaries to make history with both military and commercial enterprises in the underwater environs. Though his legacy in the design of the modern submarine has been largely forgotten, his efforts, like so many other inventors, moved the standard forward to ensure that an effective, relatively safe, and efficient vessel could master the underwater realms. Professor Tuck, though he never garnered a major contract from the United States Navy or any other country, was and proved that he was a maverick inventor and dreamer and more importantly, he realized his dream as his Peacemaker descended and more importantly resurfaced in the North River on many occasions in our waters.


 

 



 

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