A fine set of photographs that document the construction of the American Aviation Corporation’s assembly plant located at the Jamestown Airport has spurred a bit of research about the company and the product. This set of over 40 photographs was donated to the collection of the Fenton History Center. The assembly plant was built, beginning in the fall of 1942, and looks about finished in the last photograph dated March 12, 1943.
This assembly plant, when finished, produced wooden airplanes-everyone knew that during the war. But what kind of airplane? This was a restricted program and employees had to keep all types of information- the production schedule, specifications of parts, and plans-secret. The building was designed by Beck & Tinkham and were in hand even before the U. S. Navy approved the contract. It was designed to be constructed of cinder block and wood which were supplies that would be available during World War II. The initial office for American Aviation Corporation in Jamestown was located in the Furniture Mart Building. It remained there until the new assembly plant was finished at the Jamestown Airport.
The local newspaper in September 1943 began to have, as a regular feature, a page of news from the company. This was designed “to take the people of the Jamestown area behind the scenes of its own aircraft industry, as far as censorship, necessary to national security, will allow.” The company like many others of the time had an employees’ newsletter/magazine to keep employees informed about the company but mostly the social happenings of their fellow workers. Most factories and businesses in the area had sports teams that competed both with teams within the company as well as teams from other organizations. All those activities were reported, and of course there was a gossip column included. The first issue was December 1942 and was entitled “The You Name It” and included a contest to come up with a name for the new publication. Volume 1, Number 1 of American Aviation Sky-Gest came out in January 1943 and continued until at least February 1944 which is the latest issue in the collection of the Fenton History Center.
In reading more about the American Aviation Corporation, it was not a local company. It had been incorporated in Delaware and had the headquarters office in New York City. The local end of things was the co-operation of six wood furniture companies, in the Jamestown area, in organizing themselves into the Jamestown Aeronautical Corporation “for the purposes of facilitating their joint efforts.” They built the assembly plant by the airport and then sold it to the American Aviation Corporation when the U. S. Navy approved its construction. The plant was expected to employ up to 400 in each shift with possibly 3,000 more jobs in the local furniture industry. It was expected to include additional furniture companies and metal companies to supply the parts needed.
The six furniture companies were Jamestown Lounge Company, Randolph Furniture Works, Union-National, Inc., Empire Case Goods Company, Jamestown Sterling Corporation and Herrick Furniture Company, Inc. a division of Kling Factories. Jamestown was chosen for the airport that had just been completed, the close proximity of Lake Chautauqua for the testing of possible amphibian airplanes, and for the expertise in the area on wood and wood products, and for the already in-place manufacturing plants capable of manufacturing needed parts made of wood.
The new airport was used for the testing of the plane that was assembled at the plant. The program, as known in Jamestown, ended in the fall of 1944 and the contract was canceled by the U. S. Navy. Pictured: The almost finished American Aviation Corporation building located at the Jamestown Airport in 1942. It was the assembly building for the wooden airplanes produced and tested here during World War II.
Next week we will take a look at the plane produced in Jamestown.