THE COMPANIES OF SIMON LAKE
Jeffrey B. Lake
The life of Simon Lake spanned 79 years from 1866 to 1945 during which he formed numerous companies in order to market his inventions relating to submarines as well as other areas of engineering.
Simon Lake was born into a Family of Invention. Jesse and David Lake invented the Caterpillar Tractor in 1892; Jesse Lake invented the Whistling Buoy, the Cable Car Crib, the Mowing Machine, and the Ratchet for House Moving in the 1880's; and Vincent Lake invented an Automatic Justifying Typesetting Machine in 1882. Simon's Father, John Christopher Lake, patented the Roller Shade and built steering mechanisms for vessels. Christopher maintained a foundry in New Jersey where young Simon honed his skills in mechanical operations at The Lake Manufacturing Company (1885). Simon's first invention was The Lake Canning Machine. He also developed bicycle mechanisms and oystering equipment. In working with his father in the J.C. Lake and Son Company (1892) and with his inventive uncles, Simon Lake was destined for a life of invention and manufacture.
Simon Lake was fascinated with the Nautilus from Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea and he vowed that one day he would build the infamous submarine of fantasy. Thus began his journey of submarine invention and he formed his first commercial company, The Lake Submarine Company in 1895 that built the Argonaut in 1896. The submarine received world-wide renown as the first successful and practical submarine in 1898, and Simon received a congratulatory telegram from Jules Verne.
Simon's main interest in submarines was for peaceful and commercial purposes, as salvaging sunken cargoes and challenging the sea the give up her treasures of food, pearls, minerals and oil. However, governments of the world demanded military type submarines, so Simon formed the Lake Torpedo Boat Company in 1901 that built Protector. The company submarines for the United States and foreign governments during the early 1900's.
The main parent companies were The Lake Submarine Company for commercial ventures and The Lake Torpedo Boat Company for military purposes.
The Lake Submarine Company spawned many smaller companies as Sound & Coast Wrecking Co. in 1900, Pearl Fisheries Sub. Machinery Co. in 1909, Bedrock Gold Sub. Machinery Co. in 1911, Catawba Dredging Co. in 1911, Lake Motor Boat & Aero Co. in 1914, Sub. Exploration & Recovery Co. in 1920, Deep Sea Submarine Salvage Corp. in 1929, Industrial Submarine Corp. LTD in 1930, Explorer Submarine Corp. in 1932, Underseas Recovery Corp. in 1938, and Lake & Dannenhower, Inc. in 1928 which related to the re-outfitting of a Lake-type submarine for under-ice navigation renamed the Nautilus . However, the most lucrative commercial companies were The Lake Submarine Salvage Corp. in 1930 and Argonaut Salvage Corp. in 1919.
Simon Lake was a creative engineer in non-marine areas of engineering as well. He designed tunnels, and developed a variety of building construction methods using pre-fabricated concrete walls. From Lake Engineering formed 1907 , he formed The Lakeolith Corp. in 1930, Connecticut Concrete Products, and The Sunshine Homes Corp. in 1920.
Other companies included Lake Heat Engine Co. in 1900 for building diesel engines, The American Sub-Torpedo Boat Co. in 1908, The Lake Aero Corp. in 1919, Housatonic Shipbuilding in 1917,and California Shipbuilding, 1916.
The smaller companies never prospered as well as the main parent companies. At one time, Simon Lake employed nearly 5000 people, and an estimated 10,000 people worldwide during his lifetime. In the United States, he had offices in Milford and Bridgeport Connecticut, Norfolk, Baltimore, Ocean City, California and New York. Abroad he maintained offices in Austria, Russia, Germany, Italy and England - where he shared his office space with London newcomers, Wilbur and Orville Wright.