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Real life Tugboat Annie

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Most of us have either seen the movies, watched the TV series or at least heard the name “Tugboat Annie.” What most of us don’t know is that this fictional character was based on the life of a real person, Thea Christiansen Foss who was a pioneer entrepreneur and a women’s role model.

Thea Christiansen Foss was a Norwegian woman who came to America and happened to marry a Norwegian gentleman in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Thea Foss was a businesswoman in a time that being one was not that common. She took her place in a man’s world and she worked like a man alongside her husband Andrew Foss.
The seedlings of her business began with Thea realized the need for water transportation. The germination of her future business started with the $5.00 purchase of a rowboat. “Through her life and work, Thea Foss became a pioneer archetype for women in the first half of the twentieth century.”

In 1889 she created a tugboat business on the Tacoma, Washington waterfront. Foss Launch Company would one day become the Seattle-based Foss Maritime.

Much glamour has been written about Tugboat Annie first starting with a series of shorts published in the “Saturday Evening Post” In the 1920s

The classic movie, “Tugboat Annie” starring Wallace Beery and Marie Dressler aired in 1933. This version put out by Metro Goldwyn Mayer portrayed the couple as funny but quarrelsome mainly due to Terry, the movie husband’s drinking.

The “Tugboat Annie Sails Again” production was released in 1940, “Captain Tugboat Annie” made in 1945, and a Canadian series called “The Adventures of Tugboat Annie “ was produced in 1957.

The family had three children who continued on with the business for decades. Thea died just before her 70th birthday.

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