Our Stories

Did You Know?

By Richard L. Major

Okay, by now most readers know that among his hundreds of patents Nikola Tesla fathered the distribution of alternating current and the polyphase electric motor-- inventions that power industry and provide the basis for our modern way of life. But DID YOU KNOW that Tesla, born in 1856 in Smiljan, Croatia to Serbian Orthodox parents, was also the father of radio? Although most textbooks still credit the Italian scientist Marconi as the inventor of radio, the U.S. Supreme Court in 1943 ruled that Tesla's patent preceded that of Marconi.

And DID YOU KNOW that Ivan Lucic (later Lucas) was a pioneer in the U.S. oil industry. Lucic, born in Split, Dalmatia in 1855 was an electrical engineer but, unlike his contemporary Nikola Tesla, he used his skills to pursue oil-- "black gold" as it was then called. It was his team that drilled and loosened the famous Lucas Gusher in what eventually became known as the Spindletop oil field in eastern Texas in 1901. This discovery changed the course of history in that it rejuvenated the lagging industrial revolution and transformed the United States into a superpower.

Closer to home, most local folks know that the Suzzallo Library on the University of Washington campus was named after Dr. Henry Suzzallo who was president of the University from 1915 to 1926. But DID YOU KNOW that Suzzallo also started the University's Schools of Fisheries and Forestry and, with uncanny foresight, launched the Department of Aeronautical Engineering. Historian Adam Eterovich has established that although Suzzallo himself was born in San Jose, California in 1975, his parents came from the village of Ljuta near Dubrovnik where the name was originally Cucalo.

Other big contributors to the building of America were the Tacoma-area shipyards-- Barbare, Petrich and Martinac in Tacoma proper, Skansie in Gig Harbor and Martinolich in Dockton. Much has been written about the thousands of salmon purse seiners built by these companies in the first half of the last century not to mention some of the largest tuna seiners. But DID YOU KNOW some of these same shipyards built and restored ships for the U.S. Navy in both World Wars I and II? And DID YOU KNOW that Martinolich built the passenger-only vessels Vashon and Verona which were part of the so-called Puget Sound Mosquito Fleet that preceded the introduction of auto-bearing ferries? And further DID YOU KNOW that the Skansie brothers built at least five of the first car ferries and operated their own system called the Washington Navigation Company?

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