Thea Foss

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Thea Christiansen Foss (8 June 1857 – 7 June 1927) was the founder of Foss Maritime, the largest tugboat company in the western United States. She was the real-life person on which the fictional character "Tugboat Annie" (originally portrayed on film in 1933 by Marie Dressler) was based.


Lobby card from original 1933 Tugboat Annie with Marie Dressler and Wallace Beery

Thea Christiansen came to the United States from Eidsberg, Ostfold, Norway and married Norwegian immigrant Andrew Foss in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1881.

Thea Foss launched the future tugboat firm on the Tacoma waterfront in the summer of 1889. She started the Foss Launch Company, which eventually became the Seattle-based Foss Maritime Company.[1]

Thea Foss died in Tacoma on the day before her 70th birthday.[2]

As 'Tugboat Annie'[edit]

The fictional character of "Tugboat Annie", which was based on the life of Foss, debuted on 7 July 1931 (1931-07-07) in the first of a series of seventy-five stories published over a span of thirty years in the Saturday Evening Post written by Norman Reilly Raine.[3][4] This was followed by the smash hit 1933 movie Tugboat Annie, starring Marie Dressler and Wallace Beery as a comically quarrelsome middle-aged couple who operate a tugboat. The Arthur Foss, one of the oldest wooden-hulled tugboats afloat in the United States, was cast by the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie studio to play in this production.

A sequel called Tugboat Annie Sails Again, starring Marjorie Rambeau as Annie and featuring future U.S. president Ronald Reagan, was released in 1940, followed by another called Captain Tugboat Annie, starring Jane Darwell as Annie, in 1945. There is also a 1957 Canadian-filmed television series, The Adventures of Tugboat Annie starring Minerva Urecal.



  1. ^ Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History
  2. ^ History of Foss Maritime Archived 19 June 2007 at
  3. ^ "The Bashing of Bullwinkle". Saturday Evening Post. 25 June 2010. Retrieved 6 April 2016. 
  4. ^ Olafson, Robert B. (Spring 1980). "Tubgoat Annie in the Northwest: Seventy-five Stories, Two Movies, and a TV Series". The Pacific Northwest Forum. 5 (2): 2–4. Retrieved 6 April 2016. 

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