“…And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth…” -Galadriel, The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring. 

Separating Fact From Fiction

Even though the quote is a common trope in fictional stories, it illustrates a common challenge with historical research. That in some cases there are issues with the authenticity of historical data or like Esoterix’s tale of the Sea Bird that there are “plot holes” in history where there is some information but, much is missing. The data regarding Lodner Phillips and his submarines are fraught with these “plot holes” that it’s hard to bring all the information together into a cohesive narrative, which is what this blog is going to attempt to do. Another issue is Lodner developed his submarines mostly in secret with little data about its manufacture and use. The information about these novel craft has become sensationalized since the 1850’s that it becomes a challenge to separate fact from fiction, myth from reality. Earlier researchers of Lodner Phillips and his submarines acknowledge this challenge:

“In writing about early submarines one deals with a blend of fact and fiction which is difficult to evaluate.”

I believe that these issues could possibly be overcome by the discovery and study of the possible physical remains of one of his submarines that may have persisted into the present. The Story of Lodner Phillips and his submarines span over 167 years and has a large cast of characters, this blog is going to be Part I in a series of blogs connecting the history into the present day.

Phillips Models
Lodner Phillips Submarine Model on Display at the Michigan City Old Lighthouse Museum, Michigan City, Indiana


Lodner Phillips and his First Submarine “Whitefish”

         Lodner Darvontis Phillips was born in 1825 in Perington, New York, the son of Cyril and Virena Phillips. The family moved to Michigan City, Indiana in 1842 where his father started a shoe factory. Records indicated that Lodner never received a formal education and it was accepted that he would continue his father’s business. It is a source of conjecture about just what would have inspired young Lodner to construct a submarine. Just that he was inspired to build and use a submarine. His first submarine was constructed in 1845. It was a composite vessel constructed out of wood, sheathed in sheet copper, ballasted with pig lead and was “modeled after a whitefish” It more resembled a barrel. It was constructed in Michigan City and Launched into Trail Creek. It had a radical yet crude form of propulsion; a pole that ran from the interior of the sub out through an opening made watertight with rubber gaskets. This pole would then be used to push the “Whitefish” across the bottom. Inside of the “Whitefish” was a cylinder with a plunger attached, which could draw in water to ballast the submarine to dive and then it could expel the water to surface the vessel. Lodner was able to take the “Whitefish” to a depth of 20 feet. This boat eventually sank, collapsing under the pressure of the water in Trail Creek near the Michigan City Lighthouse in about 12 feet of water. It was said to have either contained no occupants of Lodner himself escaped the sinking “Whitefish” through its hatch. Lodner and his brother raised this barrel and took it up Trail Creek and where it sat neglected while Lodner worked on his larger, more improved submarines. This first submarine eventually fell back into the river and due to changes from the channel improvements, it’s either buried in the channel or perhaps buried in the modern shoreline. This vessel was a one-off, a proof of concept design to prove that Lodner could submerge underwater and return to the surface again.

Old Lighthouse, Michigan City Indiana. Lodner launched his first submarine nearby

Second Submarine “Foolkiller”

Lodner continued work perfecting his submarine concept and apparently launched a second prototype submarine. This submarine was built and launched in the Chicago River, this craft did not fare much better than the first and it sank in the Chicago River possibly on its maiden voyage. The issue with this second submarine is that it’s based on circumstantial evidence. As we will see in Part II, this submarine was eventually recovered off the bottom of the Chicago River in 1915 and it has been hence attributed to being of Phillips manufacture. In an interview with Phillip’s nephew, this nephew states that the discovery of the Foolkiller was his uncle’s second submarine. Another piece of circumstantial evidence is that the Phillips family wanted to expand their shoemaking enterprise to the bustling city of Chicago and for a brief time tried to set up operations there. It is possible that during this time Lodner continued working on his submarine in his new environs. In an interview with William Phillip’s one of Lodner’s sons, William states that his father left for California in 1849 for the gold rush. Which is possible that he was searching for ways to finance his submarine operation. Another possibility is that he recalls his father leaving to find a new fortune and perhaps a second submarine was part of that plan. A concrete piece of evidence is in a later letter that Lodner wrote to the Navy Department in 1852 describing his submarine, he states that he first invented his submarine boat in 1847. When Phillips applied for a patent for his diving armor in 1856 his place of residence is stated as Chicago, Illinois. Although 1856 is after the construction of this second submarine, this goes to show that a Chicago connection exists. There is no further description of this submarine or its interior, though it’s most likely a cruder form of his third submarine.


F.M Barber Submarine I
The Marine Cigar, Lecture on Submarine Boats

Third Submarine Marine Cigar 


Phillips Submarine La Navigation Sous Marine
The Marine Cigar La Navigation Sous-Marine

Evidence for the third submarine is somewhat better attested and may have survived as a shipwreck into the present day. Lodner had received financial support from his family to help bring his concept to life even though Lodner himself was in the steady business of shoemaking. Though it is certainly possible that he may have shed his career completely to follow his dream. Lodner eventually grew debted to many people around Michigan City and it may have been another reason to have absconded to Chicago. The third submarine Marine Cigar was constructed over the summer of 1851 in Michigan City, Indiana. This submarine was a vast improvement over his previous two submarines in terms of its technology, even more than submarines that would appear less than a decade later during the Civil War. The Marine Cigar was 40 feet long and 4 feet in diameter and weight 8 tons. Its bow came to a point and the vessel was cigar-shaped (hence its name) It was powered by a hand-cranked two-bladed propeller. With this propeller, Lodner was able to achieve a speed of 4-1/2 knots with two men and the cranks. The vessel had one sail or “cupola” that was apparently collapsible and could be pulled into the vessel though, this may be simply a concept that Lodner had come up with while the submarine did not have it. Underneath the “cupola” would be the wheel and the compass. The vessel was also apparently equipped with a rudimentary snorkel, which was a tube that could slide up and down and could provide the Marine Cigar with air when it was submerged in 4 feet of water.

The Marine Cigar had an ingenious method for purifying the air within, something that wouldn’t be seen for another 50 years. The Marine Cigar actually had rudimentary ballast tanks that could both take in and expel water for submerging and surfacing. Along the top of the water tanks there was a pipe connected to an air pump and at intervals along this pipe would be hoses connected to the water tanks. The air pump would draw the used air into the water tanks and the air would percolate through the water and the carbonic acid would be washed out. The air would then pass out through a vent. This apparently kept the air within the Marine Cigar respirable for hours on end. As the story goes, Lodner had taken his family on an underwater picnic on the bottom of Lake Michigan for a whole day. The vessel was fitted with rudders however, it did not have dive planes, sinking and surfacing was done entirely through the ballast tanks. The Marine Cigar had circular anchors that were worked by small windlasses. The boat also apparently had some mechanism located amidships that kept the vessel on an even keel and at a given depth automatically that was located amidships. The Marine Cigar apparently four keels, one each side to keep it stable while submerged. Apparently the bow of the Marine Cigar was on a hinge and could be opened for using tools outside of the vessel for salvage purposes. The removable bow had a bulkhead just aft that had further tools for salvage. This false bow could also be released if the Marine Cigar ever collided with anything. The vessel had several glass “bullseyes” in the cupola for viewing outside and a few deadlights along the top of the vessel to take advantage of the natural light filtering through the water.  Entrance in the vessel was through a hatch in the cupola. It is stated that this vessel was also completely constructed from wood but, a later description has it as a composite vessel constructed from both wood and iron. The deepest he dove with the Marine Cigar was 20 feet.

Patent Steering
Phillips Patented Steering Submarine Patent No. 9389

On November 9, 1852, Lodner Phillips had patented the steering mechanism for submarines. Lodner had developed a new, novel way for steering his submarine boat by putting the propeller on a ball and socket joint. As Lodner states when a submarine is below the water, that sufficient headway cannot be obtained to steer her with a rudder of the usual construction and the lives of the inmates are greatly imperiled. This idea may have been inspired by his first submarine “Whitefish”. It is unknown if the Marine Cigar was outfitted with this novel technology or if this was an idea the inventor had developed in response to difficulty steering either the Marine Cigar or the Foolkiller. Though, in various descriptions and depictions of the Marine Cigar there is no indication that it had this unique propeller. The submarines illustrated with this patent are illustrating the concept and not actual depictions of the submarine.  Lodner had also attempted to sell the Marine Cigar to the U.S. Navy.

“I have made application for a Patent for a Submarine boat which I invented in 1847 and two years ago I made application for a patent for the same through Watson & Renwick as agents to get the patent for me and have not been able as yet to obtain one I have made two of these boats which I have experimented to the satisfaction of all who have seen me operate I went down in the depth of water 20 feet for which I have travelled underwater at the rate of 4 miles an hour by use of a screw propeller and now have a machine of the same kind which I am confident I can go down with safety 100 feet with safety and travel 4-5 miles per hour. My boat will be completed in about 3 months then I will be prepared to make experiments for the Navy or elsewhere. My object in writing to you is this I understand you are authorized to examine a machine of this kind and if approved of by you, to purchase for the Navy if so, I wish you to write me and let me know whether you have one in view & if so where it was invented & by whom,

Respectfully Yours,

L.D. Phillips.

P.S. I have understood that there was a submarine boat invented in New York by a Frenchman which the cost is very expensive and cost some nine thousand dollars the boat which I have now nearly completed only cost $800 dollars and all I ask is a fair trial and if I can’t operate as well or better than any… I am very much deceived if this broke description should make any impression on your mind in the way of submarine boat you can call on Watson & Renwick Washington City and examine the description of said boat”

From L.D. Phillips to William H. Graham of the Navy Department

The response Lodner had received from the Navy was decidedly lackluster:

“ Sir, Your letter of the 7th instant in relation to the submarine boat of your invention was referred to the Bureau of Construction & the Chief of which reports that “no authority is known to this Bureau to purchase a submarine boat” “The boats used by the Navy go on and not under the water.” “Nothing is known of the boat said to be invented by the Frenchman.” On this report, the department concurs.”

I am respectfully your servant,

William H. Graham

Shortsighted for its time, the military would quickly change its tune at the outbreak of the Civil War with the Confederate construction of submarines and the union’s U.S.S. Alligator. Although Lodner mentions having already received a patent, the patent was in November in 1852 and the letters were earlier in the year in April of 1852. Perhaps he added the detail that he had a patent for his vessel to instill confidence in the Navy. Or that he was in the process of applying for a patent that did not come until November. Had Lodner perhaps attempted to patent his first vessel the Foolkiller? Perhaps he was scammed or for whatever reason, this patent did not work out as this Patent was Lodner’s first. After Lodner had received his patent, his submarine was described in Scientific American and another submarine with universal joints and two props was pictured, most likely another concept drawing. In the article the submarine’s stated purpose is exploration.

Phillips Submarine Propeller
Phillips Submarine Propeller Scientific American

The Loss of the Atlantic and The Marine Cigar


S.S. Atlantic

On August 20, 1852, the palace steamer Atlantic was rammed and sunk by the steamer Ogdensburg. The Atlantic was built in 1849 in Newport, Michigan at the yards of John Wolverton. It was 265 feet long with a 33-foot breadth. For its time, the Atlantic was the largest and fastest passenger steamer on the Great Lakes. One of its claims to fame was making the Detroit, Michigan to Buffalo, New York run in 16-1/2 hours. When the Atlantic was rammed, it was carrying a full complement of passengers and 200 Norwegian immigrants headed west. The vessel was rammed as the vessel was traveling past long point in northern Lake Erie. The vessels had collided on a clear night purely because each vessel had failed to yield to each other. The pilots on each vessel had figured that damage was minimal and each vessel moved on. This was not the case as the Atlantic quickly began to take on water, which eventually reached the boilers, which caused a plume of water to erupt through the vessel. The Atlantic sank in 165 feet of water. In all about 250 people (or more) lost their lives making the Atlantic one of the worst disasters on the Great Lakes at the time. The wreck quickly became very desirable for salvage as it was carrying payroll money, gold, and passenger valuables. The Norwegian immigrants aboard were carrying their life savings with them.

S.S. Atlantic rammed by the Ogdensburg

This wreck caught the attention of many divers and salvagers including Lodner Phillips who saw it as an opportunity to prove the abilities of the Marine Cigar and maybe make some money while doing so. If Lodner was able to prove his vessel, his services, and his submarine would be in high demand and he would be able to pay off his debts. It was most likely famous Great Lakes diver Eliot Harrington led Lodner to the Atlantic. Moving the submarine from Michigan City to be deployed for use on the Atlantic in Lake Erie is what got the Marine Cigar noticed.

In October of 1853, Lodner made his attempt to dive the Atlantic.

“We noticed Phillip’s Patent Diving Boat on the Michigan Central Dock this morning having been brought down by the steamer Ocean. The owner of the boat intends making an attempt to reach the Atlantic in a day or two with his new invention.”

“A SUBMARINE PROPELLER we saw yesterday, says the Detroit Advertiser, at the Railroad Freight House, a curious looking structure of wood and iron, shaped something like a pear only about twenty feet long, with a little propelling paddle wheel at one end and an iron flanged steering paddle at the other.” On the sides were small bull’s eye windows with very thick glass. The machine, we are informed is Phillips Sub-marine Propeller, and came over by railroad from Michigan City on her way to pay the Atlantic a visit. We know not whether to examine her previous to making new efforts to raise her, or merely to examine her legally whether she was hit by the Ogdensburg on the larboard or starboard side, which is a point were there is some question yet.”

Buffalo Daily Republic

Saturday, October 15, 1853

These two articles are the only newspaper mentions of the Marine Cigar. What follows is purely anecdote. Lodner had arrived at the wreck of the Atlantic. In his first diving attempt, the Marine Cigar sprung a leak at 100 feet and Lodner brought the vessel back to the surface. The next attempt was to lower the submarine to depth by the use of a hawser without anyone aboard. In the subsequent attempt to raise the submarine, the hawser broke and the Marine Cigar was lost presumably alongside the Atlantic. The submarine sank was due to the leak in the submarine worsening and the submarine filled with water and became too heavy to lift. The Marine Cigar was not able to withstand the pressure at depth and the Atlantic proved too much of a challenge. Lodner had to leave the Atlantic empty-handed and without his dream vessel. This story has led history to believe that the inventor had went down with his submarine. This story comes from William, son of the inventor who stated that the submarine was lost because there was a terrific explosion and said that the explosion was because the Marine Cigar was steam-powered and had suffered a boiler explosion. Although Lodner had conceptualized steam engine for his submarine, there is nothing to support that the Marine Cigar was steam-powered. In fact, the temperature within the submarine would be unbearable to its crew. Perhaps it was the ruckus caused by the hawser breaking and snapping or that the hawser they were using was not able to cope with the submarine. In any case, the Marine Cigar is missing possibly still waiting to be found.

Diving Suit

As mentioned earlier, in October of 1856 Lodner Phillips developed and patented a diving suit for use in underwater salvage and exploration. It is unknown if the loss of the Marine Cigar was the impetus for creating this suit for Lodner to recover his former vessel but, there are several anecdotes. It was a true atmospheric suit, rendering the diver free from the complications of compressed air but, a breach would prove catastrophic. The Diving armor also made extensive use of the ball and socket joints like his previous patent. It was equipped with a propeller to blow away sediment, an interior lantern for a spotlight, tools for salvage and a balloon to resurface the suit. One of the advantages as the inventor states is that the operator is freed from water pressure at any depth. It is unknown if this suit was ever constructed or used but, in the same interview with Lodner’s son William states that the diving suit was constructed and tested in the Chicago River, which apparently made the papers of the day (although I couldn’t find any). At some point, Lodner had teamed up with Great Lakes diver Elliot Harrington. In 1855 Harrington and Phillips teamed up to help recover the body of farmer William Briggs who drowned in a lake near Scio Township in Michigan. It’s unclear if they were working together to test Lodner’s submarine armor but, certainly working together with an experienced diver would have given Lodner some inspiration and ideas for his diving armor. Perhaps they were working together for Lodner to get a better understanding of diving underwater; in any case, they were unsuccessful in their attempts to recover the lost farmer.

Patent Diving Armor
Lodner Phillips Patent Diving Armor Patent No. 15,898

In 1856 Harrington would raise the coveted safe from the Atlantic containing $36,000. Harrington’s dive paints a picture of the wreck four years after it’s sinking:

“A submarine diver from Buffalo has at least succeeded in raising the safe of the American Express Company, which was lost when the steamer Atlantic was sunk off long point in 1852…The diver was protected by copper armor, and was under water forty minutes, during which time he had some strange adventures…when the diver alighted upon the deck, he was saluted by a beautiful lady, whose clothing was well-arranged and her hair elegantly dressed. As he approached her, the motion of the water caused an oscillation of the head, as if gracefully bowing to him. She was standing erect, with one hand grasping the rigging. Around lay the bodies of several others as if sleeping. Children holding their friends by their hands, mothers with their babies in their arms were there.”

Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper of July 12, 1856

   Harrington would lose most of the money in the ensuing court battle, which may have been part of his motivation for the following: Harrington had written a letter to Rear Admiral Francis Du Pont, in which he offered to build a submarine for the U.S. Navy.

“Among my experience was one with a submerged small propeller, driven by hand power. Capable of being supplied with air by means independent of outside help. With it I can make ½ miles per hour at a depth of 80 feet or less and conduct operations outside of it at any depth and any given depth with success.”

This suggests that Eliot Harrington had seen the Marine Cigar and had also seen the craft’s capabilities previously described. Perhaps his plans were to raise the Marine Cigar from the Atlantic wreck site and profit off of the craft where Lodner could not. This further concretes that there was a working relationship between Lodner Phillips and Eliot Harrington and there is no other explanation as to where Harrington would have received his experience with a submarine propeller. Notice Harrington says “80 feet” and not “100 feet”.

Phillips Attack Boat La Navigation Sous Marine
Phillips Attack Submarine La Navigation Sous-Marine

Latter Days: The Attack Submarine and the Civil War

     In January 1859, Lodner made another attempt to sell his submarine, this time to the British and apparently the French. He had a Mr. William Delaney submit the plans for a larger variant of the Marine Cigar to the British government, this new boat was to be 60 feet long and 7 feet 6 inches in diameter. According to the following image and description, the vessel was to be fitted with two cupolas.


British Proposal
British Proposal Submarine Illustrated London News

“The London Times says that an American invention has been taken to England with a view of it disposed of to the British or any European government and if it does one-half of what the patentee guarantees can be done with it will make such a change in the mode of carrying on naval warfare as to put steamers out of the question and to render of no avail the tremendous forts of Cronstadt or Cherbourg. The invention is a submarine boat for working underwater without air tubes or any other communication with the surface of the water, and capable of carrying men or a large quantity of explosives. The American and French Governments are said to have declined anything to do with the invention while the British Admiralty was giving it full and prompt attention.”

The New York Times January 24, 1859

To this author, it sounds a lot like Robert Fulton’s attempts to sell his Nautilus to both the British and French Governments nearly 50 years prior. The following description in the London Illustrated Times provides some tantalizing details:

“It is the invention we understand of Mr. Lodner D. Phillips of Chicago formerly of Michigan City, in the United States…It has two double hatches one on the top and one at the bottom, the upper hatch is sealed when the vessel is submerged. When the upper hatch is open the bottom one is shut and Vis Versa. It has two sight domes, which are used when the vessel is on the surface of the water has four interrupted keels to prevent it from turning over when submerged. When in deep water, lights with reflectors are places opposite so of the bulls eyes nearest the fore part of the boat to enable those within to see where they are going.

Should the vessel run into anything it can be extricated without injury having on its point or bow, a thimble or outer case, which is, so constructed that by reversing the screw the boat would be backed leaving the thimble. Having a glass tube properly marked the exact depth from the surface is always shown. Fresh air is supplied as necessary from tanks containing many atmospheres compressed…. It may be propelled by hand power or electromagnetism. (I have no idea what this is about)…. It is sixty feet long by seven feet six inches in diameter…. It has been submitted to her Majesty’s government by Mr. William Delany of Chicago who intends to build a boat to prove it to be what the inventor represents. Mr. Delany is now negotiating with several gentlemen on the subject. The powers of this submarine boat given by the patentee borders on the marvelous….”

The account goes on to further describe a naval version of the Marine Cigar that is decades ahead of its time:

“He has invented and constructed a submarine boat weigh at about 8 tons…. He has, while in his boat and underwater by machinery working through its side, sawed timber fourteen inches square…He can attach powder torpedoes to the outside of his boat on its deck or sides and proceed underwater out to see in any weather to an enemy ship in sight fix or anchor to the ship’s bottom, set in motion clockwork to fire the torpedoes simultaneously or at intervals and retire. Still underwater out of danger from the explosion and out of reach of an enemy’s guns. He can also convey powder torpedoes inside his boat of 100lb weight and when under an enemies ship pass them out the side of his boat through his patent hatch. He can enter an enemies harbor and underwater make surveys only showing above the surface a sight tube no more than a half-inch in diameter and retire still underwater and proceed outside to sea and make his report to the command of the fleet or ship. He can go out to sea meet a hostile fleet, go under their bottoms fix torpedoes to go off by clockwork or bore holes in their bottoms and come away unseen. With a large boat he can carry a 12 or 24 pound gun (or larger) in the forward end of his boat near the to so rigged that he can load in 100 feet of water rise near the surface, sight on the horizon an enemies ship and if one is in sight, take the course for her and process towards her enemy and within a stones throw rise wickedly near the surface as to only show the muzzle of the fun through the outside porthole valve aim at the ships near her water line and then sink to reload and rise at another point to fire and repeat. In regard with a large boat he can remain underwater with several men with him do service at sea off or in harbors for several days without landing or showing one inch of his boat above water.”

The Illustrated London News March 12, 1859

For such a promising as a report, the British and the French did not take. In this account, it is important to bear in mind the difference between the real capabilities of his Marine Cigar and what the vessel could do. (More on this later)

In 1862 Lodner had proposed a submarine boat to combat the C.S.S. Virginia (Merrimac) but this never came to fruition. The U.S. Navy had changed its tune with submarines first with the construction and subsequent loss of the U.S.S. Alligator in 1862 and with the February 1864 sinking of the Housatonic by the Confederate submarine Hunley and on June 9, 1864, Lodner had written the Navy once again on tests of the Marine Cigar conducted in Lake Michigan.

“All the distinctive feature were unquestionably demonstrated by the construction of a vessel, forty feet in length, in the year 1850 and by its constant use up to the year 1855… The use of shell rockets upon the water line and the discharging of cannon beneath it was coincident with the use of the vessel from 1850 to 1855, hulks having been blown into pieces or sunk on more than one instance.”

Letter From L.D. Phillips and Frederick M. Peck to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Wells.

Phillips Attack Boat II
Phillips Attack Submarine In Action The Story of the Submarine

Lodner was living in New York at the time of the writing of the letter, in the interview with Lodner’s son William, he states that his father had worked for the government in New York and thought he had some hand in constructing the Monitor trying to use his skills in a time of need. Not long after on June 28 Admiral Davis had recommended to Gideon Wells that the Navy should adopt the Phillips Submarine design and wrote another description of the Marine Cigar. It was received favorably as a response to the Confederate navy threat and the Navy had in fact finally approved of Phillips design. However, once again for a vessel more advanced than it’s then contemporaries, ultimately nothing came of it. Although descriptions of the Phillips attack submarine and the Marine Cigar sound really similar there is nothing to substantiate that they are one in the same vessel. I believe that the attack submarine was only a concept to sell to the military and all the descriptions of the vessel and its abilities were attempts for Lodner to sell his submarine or he felt a sense of resentment to the Navy for having blown off both him and his design years prior. Unless we come across shipwrecks in Indiana that appear that they have been blown apart or that the wreck of the Marine Cigar is found to be armed. The same goes for the steam-powered variant; Phillips had conceptualized it but did not have the resources or the support to carry it out. Of course, Lodner did not mention the failures of his vessels to the Navy. Lodner Phillips died in New York October 15, 1869.

F.M Barber Submarine II
Phillip’s Attack Submarine, an armed Marine Cigar Lecture on Submarine Boats

Apparently, after the dust had settled from the court battles over the steamship Atlantic that made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which found both vessels at fault. An attempt was made to raise the entire wreck, in 1867 the Western Wrecking Company was organized to raise the Atlantic and this attempt was either never made or botched and the company abandoned its plan two years later. Though there doesn’t seem to be anything to substantiate this. This salvage attempt will come into play in the next installment.

It is my conclusion that although Lodner had constructed his submarine there is much between what the vessel he built could do and the various ideas he had for it. The problem is that there is so little to substantiate it either way. For the fact that the inventor took out loans and went into debt for simply building the craft suggests that he had many more ideas that he couldn’t incorporate into his craft due to financial restraints. The rudimentary periscope although very cool and way ahead of its time, it’s uncertain if his vessel actually had this or any of the other technical aspects including the armed version. There is a further rumor that states that he had built the fourth armed attack submarine and it sank in a boiler explosion off of Buffalo, New York in Lake Erie taking the inventor with it. Which is a combination of other stories about his submarine. What else is clear is that Lodner clearly was a secretive inventor (he wasn’t the only early submarine pioneer who was like this) and kept his vessel under wraps, which must be why there is so little documentation about the vessel. Perhaps he felt his submarine wasn’t perfected yet, which is why he kept it secret. The interview with his son, William was when he was 81 years old in 1941, the first primary document regarding the Phillips submarine was written in 1875. All that’s left is the sporadic accounts past those.

The next installment will be about the controversial find and recovery of the Foolkiller out of the Chicago River, The continuing court battle around the Atlantic, and the search for the Marine Cigar.

Sources & Resources:

Anchor News. Story of First Submarines Launched in Great Lakes The “Phillips” Submarine

Barber, F.M. Lecture on Submarine Boats and Their Application To Torpedo Operations


Bien, Laura In The Archives: Ypsi’s Submarine Diver, The Wreck of The Steamship Atlantic The Ann Arbor Chronicle


Buffalo Daily Republic A SUB-MARINE PROPELLER 


Corbin, T.W. The Romance of Submarine Engineering 


Delgado, James Silent Killers: Submarines and Underwater Warfare

Field, Col. Cyril C. The Story of The Submarine From the Earliest Ages to the Present Day


Gruse, Patricia A. Great Lakes First Submarine – L.D. Phillips Foolkiller *one of the best resources on all things Lodner Phillips.

The Illustrated London News A New Submarine Boat. January 15, 1859

The Illustrated London News Submarine Boat. March 12, 1859

Keel Block Earlier Submarines ?Mystery?

Keel Block Earlier Submarines

Kuntz, Jerry The Heroic Age of Diving 

Letter: Michigan City, Indiana April 7, 1852 L.D. Phillips to  William H. Graham Esq. National Archives Records Group 45

Letter: Washington D.C. April 21, 1852 William H. Graham to L.D. Phillips Esq. Michigan City, Indiana National Archives Records Group 45

Letter: New York June 9, 1864 L.D. Phillips and Frederick M. Peck to Hon. Gideon Wells, Sec. of the Navy National Archives Group 45

Michigan City Old Lighthouse Museum


Pesce, G.L. La Navigation Sous Marine


Ragan, Mark Submarine Warfare In The Civil War

Scientific American Phillips Submarine Propeller. Vol. 8 No. 22, 1853

The Sinking of the S.S. Atlantic 


Spear, Lawrence Submarine Torpedo Boats, Past, Present & Future. Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, Vol. X. November 1902

Swenson, Grace Down Under:  Story of First Submarines to be Launched in the Great Lakes The “Phillips” Submarines. Anchor News

Tanber, George J. Lake Erie Claimed The First American Submarine The Toronto Blade

Therebreathersite. 1856 Lodner D. Phillips. *Great CG Views of the Diving Suit


The New York Times January 24, 1859

United States Patent Office Patent No. 9389 Steering Submarine Vessels

United States Patent Office Patent No. 15898 Submarine Exploring Armor

Wrecksite. Atlantic Passenger/Cargo Ship 1849-1852


Zalinski, Edmund L. Submarine Navigation in The Forum Vol. 2. 1886



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