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James M. Shimer Kaiser-Fleetwings papers


Held at: Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Library [Contact Us]680 Radcliffe St, Bristol, Pennsylvania

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Library. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Established in 1926 as a business based on a patented mechanical timing device, Fleetwings reorganized in 1929 as Fleetwings, Inc. and began to manufacture airplanes and aircraft components. Based in Long Island, New York, the company moved to a factory along the Delaware River (previously Keystone Aircraft Corp.) that was located in Bristol, Bucks County, Pennsylvania in 1934. The location of the Bristol factory was desirable as Fleetings intended to develop a line of amphibious planes. Since few airstrips existed at the time, many in the industry predicted that the future of flight was in planes that could touch down on water.

Business for Fleetwings ramped up in the early 1940s, especially as Fleetwings began receiving military contracts during World War II. Henry J. Kaiser's Kaiser Industries acquired Fleetwings in 1943, renaming the company Kaiser-Fleetwings Corporation. The Kaiser-Fleetwings XBTK, a dive and torpedo bomber developed for the United States Navy starting in 1944, is its best-known product. Employment at the Kaiser-Fleetwings plant reached its peak in 1944 with over 6,300 employees, but business dropped precipitously after the end of World War II, and again after the Korean War. The company was forced to close its doors in 1962.

James M. (Jim) Shimer, Jr. (1914-2007) was born in Philadelphia and attended Frankford High School. He earned a degree in Industrial Design from the Philadelphia Museum School of Art (now the University of the Arts) in 1937. Soon after, he married Dolly E. Lashley, with whom he had three children. During World War II, Shimer was employed as Assistant Supervisor in the Graphic Art Department at Fleetwings, Inc. After the war, he worked as a technical illustrator in the Aviation Armament Laboratory at the Naval Air Development Center (Johnsville, Pa.) before returning to Kaiser-Fleetwings during the Korean War. In his position as Supervisor of the Graphic Art Group, Shimer prepared technical illustrations to assist in the production of Republic-F-84F fuselages and Martin B-57 wings, among other projects. He retired from Kaiser-Fleetwings in 1955 and moved on to positions preparing technical materials for various other companies. He was a long-time member of the Naval Institute, USAF Museum, American Aviation Historical Society, and the Reading Rail Road Technical and Historical Society, among other associations.


"James M. (Jim) Shimer, Jr." Obituary found in collection.

Trimble, William F. High Frontier: A History of Aeronautics in Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1982.

Halper, Evan. "Recalling First Weather Satellite Hurricane Floyd Triggered the Memory of Henry Liese of the Role Bucks County Played as a Pioneer in Aviation History." The Philadelphia Inquirer. September 20, 1999. Accessed February 15, 2013.

This collection consists of materials relating to James M. Shimer's work as a technical illustrator for Kaiser-Fleetwings. There are a large number of Shimer's drawings of aircrafts, blueprints, technical specifications, photographs of aircraft and of models, and promotional brochures for the aircraft. (There is also a small amount of the same types of materials for a dishwasher developed by Kaiser.) Also included are some of Shimer's employment records, such as daily schedules and scattered correspondence, and various employee newsletters and publications.

Gift of James F. Shimer, 2010

Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2012-2014 as part of a project conducted by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to make better known and more accessible the largely hidden collections of small, primarily volunteer run repositories in the Philadelphia area. The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This is a preliminary finding aid. No physical processing, rehousing, reorganizing, or folder listing was accomplished during the HCI-PSAR project.

In some cases, more detailed inventories or finding aids may be available on-site at the repository where this collection is held; please contact Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Library directly for more information.

Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Library
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Faith Charlton through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories
This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
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