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Henry A. Liese collection


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

Henry A. Liese (1914-2003) was an aircraft manufacturer who co-founded the Lavelle Company, located in Newtown, Pennsylvania, with aircraft pioneer Thomas Lavelle in 1940. The company, which became known for manufacturing precision aircraft parts during World War II, created the world's first experimental and operational weather satellite in 1960.

"Liese grew up on Long Island and worked at Roosevelt Field, where his job included washing the plane that Charles Lindbergh later flew to Paris. After earning a mechanical engineering degree from the Brooklyn Institute of Technology, Mr. Liese joined the Fleetwing Aircraft Co. The Long Island airplane manufacturer later moved to Bristol [Pennsylvania] and Mr. Liese moved with it, working on projects including the first stainless steel wing and on amphibian aircraft.

"In 1941, coworkers Mr. Liese and LaVelle left Fleetwing to start their own firm in a former hosiery factory in Newtown Borough. The company moved from producing clamps and engine mounts to sophisticated vertical stabilizers for the Army's biggest troop transport planes during World War II. At the height of the war, LaVelle had nearly 500 employees.

"After the war, Mr. Liese developed a farm equipment division to compensate for dwindling business from government contracts. He and Mr. LaVelle sold the business in 1987." (Holmes)

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 in Bristol, Bucks County, Pennsylvania in 1934. The location of the Bristol factory was desirable as Fleetwings intended to develop a line of amphibious planes.

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.

The Bristol factory that Fleetwings occupied for nearly 30 years had been home to Keystone Aircraft Corporation, which built early bombers and float planes on Army Air Corps contracts until it moved out in 1931. A 20-passenger aircraft that boasted a speed of 151 mph, Keystone's Patrician, was one of the first planes built to accommodate daily flight service for civilians.


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.

Quoted text from: Holmes, Kristin E. "H. Liese, Aircraft Firm Founder." The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 22, 2003. Accessed February 20, 2013.

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

The collection consists largely of photographic prints of Fleetwings, Inc., including aircraft, machinery, personnel, events, and the Bristol factory. The collection also includes photocopies of newspaper clippings, articles, and journals dealing with Fleetwings, aviation and the aircraft industry, and Bristol history; and printed magazines and journals relating to the aviation and aircraft industry, circa 1970s-1981. A run of the Fleetwings employee newsletter, "Fleetwings News," circa 1944-1946, is also included in the collection. There are some materials relating to Keystone Aircraft Corporation, including blueprints for plane parts and specifications, circa 1928-1929, as well.

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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