On August 19, 1942, Fairchild Aircraft Division of the Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corporation opened Plant 7, the first unit in the company to employ Black workers, both men and women, as part of their WWII aircraft manufacturing efforts. Leased from Victor Hosiery, the building at 775 Frederick Street was south of central Hagerstown, Maryland, segregated by race and distance from other Fairchild units. The plant produced sheet metal and small corrugated parts, primarily for the PT-19, later for the UC-61. In late 1944, Plant 5 at Wilson Boulevard and Kuhn Avenue, manufacturing corrugated parts for the Martin PBM Mariner, replaced Plant 7 as the designated plant for Black employees. A rich, yet incomplete, record of their wartime service can be found in the Fairchild Industries, Inc. Collection at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Archives.

Aerial view of Hagerstown, Maryland, annotated with locations of properties in the Hagerstown, Maryland, area owned, operated, or subcontracted for use by Fairchild Aircraft Division of Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corporation during World War II, circa 1943-1945. Both Plant 7 and Plant 5, populated with Black workers, are located off the map, as indicated with arrows.

In 1939, the Fairchild Aircraft Division employed just 288 workers at one location, Plant 1, in Hagerstown. With no heavy industry in the town, the wartime expansion of manufacturing required a reimagining of business operations, billed by corporate executives as “The Hagerstown System.” Instead of building new facilities outright, Fairchild leased small plants and buildings, which were losing their labor pool to both the war’s front lines and other home front needs. When possible, Fairchild employed the plants’ displaced workforce or hired locally.

Map of Fairchild Aircraft Division of Fairchild engine and Airplane Corp Plants, Buildings and Sub-Contractors in Hagerstown, MD, and Vicinity, circa 1943-1945.  This map does include the locations of Plants 7 and 5. 

Fairchild initially filled labor shortages with women, then turned to Hagerstown’s Black population in compliance with Executive Order 8802, barring racial discrimination in defense industries, albeit one year after its passage.[1] R.S. Boutelle, Vice President, boasted that Black workers, “who might have found difficult in obtaining anything but building maintenance work in a single large factory in the area, have been utilized on skilled and semi-skilled jobs.” [2]

Kenyon E. Evans came to Hagerstown to run a defense training school in June 1942. A Black Baltimore native, Evans was a former instructor at the War Production Vocational Training School and had been employed by Muncie Aviation Corporation in Indiana doing sheet metal work. With facilities at North End High School and materials provided by Fairchild, Evans spent two months training the first group of Black Fairchild employees, who began work on August 19, 1942. He later was appointed General Plant Supervisor. In a May 8, 1943 article, the Baltimore Afro-American reported that Evans had trained over 100 Black workers to serve in skilled jobs. Recruited from within a 40-mile radius of Hagerstown, 75 percent of the workforce was women serving as “riveters, formers, aluminum and spot welders, sheet metal workers, drillers and inspectors.” Plant 7 operated with two shifts on a 48-hour, six-day week basis. Even the Army and Navy inspectors in Plant 7 were Black—only the three Fairchild company inspectors were White.

Plant 7 celebrated its first anniversary on August 19, 1943 with a group picnic. Kenyon Evans commemorated the event in a letter to Vice President Boutelle: “We wish there were words to express our appreciation to such honest, broadminded men, who were so considerate and thoughtful to extend a chance to our group industrially, for honest endeavor. We realize that ours was the first all Negro unit, also that our percentage of employment has been on a part or even better than other such companies….We have pledged ourselves to be Good Americans, studious workers, and Loyal Employees. We heartily thank all those who helped us in our beginning and will prove ourselves worthy as such. We feel that you will continue to help us remove that industrial barrier that stands before a minority group.”

Assistant General Manager Paul J. Frizzell responded to the letter: “Amidst all of the problems which are inherent in industrial operation under today’s conditions, your Management has counted itself fortunate that Fairchild and the Hagerstown Community have been free from the racial conflicts and tensions that have plagued [sic] so many communities. The contribution of your people to this happy result has been both necessary and significant. I have every confidence it will continue in the difficult days that still lie before us.”[3]

FAD, Fairchild’s monthly and bi-weekly employee newsletter, reflected the involvement of Plant 7 in the everyday life of the company. Each plant, sometimes even specific shifts, submitted a short column, full of inside jokes and gossip, as well as serious information about who was sick or coming and coming from the front. Notes, such as “Bernice, is Cupid busy?” shared space with “L. Fox will soon be sailing the ocean blue, because he’s joined the Navy” and “Really, Tryman, we wouldn’t kid you. There are such things as razor blades,” in the August 13, 1943 Plant 7 contributions.[4]

Plant 7 was also active in company sports teams and competitions. In Spring 1943, George Kent served as the plant representative to the Fairchild Employees Recreation Association (FERA) and the manager of the softball team. The softball team competed against their White plant counterparts, prompting congratulations on the defeat of Plant 2B in the June 1943 FAD issue and lamentations of “What happened to the softball team, boys?” the next month.

They Swing a Mean Racket: (L to R) Henry Brown, singles champion of Plant 7; Bruce Johnson FERA (Fairchild Employees’ Recreation Association) Director for Plant 7; and Howard Kent, runner up for the singles championship in tennis tourney recently completed.” From the May 12, 1944 issue of FAD newsletter.

But Plant 7 was also frequently segregated from their colleagues in company-sponsored sports as in work facilities. The July 1943 monthly newsletter proudly reported that Bruce Johnson and Tommy Bell signed up to represent FERA and Plant 7 in the state boxing tournament. But the July 9 weekly newsletter confessed that “both colored…won through default. No suitable opponents could be found for the boys and each was presented with a certificate emblematic of the championship in their weight classes.” There were two separate tennis tournaments announced in the August 13, 1943, newsletter: “Plant 7 had 25 entries for their tennis tournament at Wheaton Park.[5] So far the remainder of the plants have only 15 for the other tournament [played at the city park courts].”

Plant 7 also participated in the first ever FERA Follies event in February 1944. The Hagerstown Morning Herald highlighted two complete production numbers, “a specialty number called ‘Jive from Plant 7,’ as well as contributing a baritone solo of ‘Old Man River,’ to be sung by Henry Brown.” The FAD newsletter described Plant 7’s contributions as “another outstanding feature…which will present several numbers,” listed last in the article, immediately after the “black-face act that promises to be a riot of laughter.”

Members of the War Production Board Tour Fairchild Aircraft Division Plant 7 on August 26, 1944. (Left to right) Brigadier General Frederick M. Hopkins, Jr., USAAF, and War Department representative on the Facilities Committee of the War Production Board; Kenyon E. Evans, General Supervisor, Plant 7; Paul J. Frizzell, Assistant General Manager, Fairchild Aircraft Division, and Charles E. Wilson, Executive Vice Chair of the War Production Board. From the September 3, 1943 issue of FAD newsletter.

Plant 7 was also an active part of the War Production Drive Program at Fairchild and a highlighted stop for representatives of the federal War Production Board’s visit on August 26. Plant 7 had four War Production Drive award winners. Charles E. Wilson, Executive Vice Chair, and USAAF Brig. Gen. Frederick M. Hopkins, Jr., War Department representative on the Facilities Committee, toured the plant with Frizzell.[6] Wilson stated: “I am delighted to see this fine example of ‘Democracy at Work’. Yours is an unusually fine little plant….You have a great responsibility on your shoulders and I have no fear of your failure to meet it.”[7]

“Rozella Goens of Plant 7 is shown above as she presents Works Manager Lou Fahnestock with $375 subscribed by employees of the plant at the ‘Invasion Bond Rally’ last Monday.” Goens was the appointed “Bond Booster” for Plant 7. From the June 30, 1944 issue of FAD newsletter.

Fairchild reported 159 workers in Plant 7 the week of February 13, 1944, its highest of the war. Unfortunately, Fairchild’s contract for the PT-19 was cancelled two weeks later. The population of Plant 7 dwindled. By New Year’s Eve 1944, Fairchild reported only 13 workers employed at Plant 7 and there were none by the end of January 1945.[8] The lease with Victor Hosiery was not renewed.

The exterior of Fairchild Plant 5 at Wilson Boulevard and Kuhn Avenue, Hagerstown, Maryland. Circa July 1945.

The closing of Plant 7 was not the end of Black workers at Fairchild.[9] In late 1944, Fairchild began to transfer workers from Plant 7 to Plant 5 at Wilson Boulevard and Kuhn Avenue, also south of town. Plant 5 was designated for the corrugation of material for the Martin PBM Mariner wings.[10] A December 1, 1944 FAD report from Plant 7 teased, “Have you noted that not too far away look in E. Baltimore’s eyes? We would judge the distance to be about the distance between here and Plant 5.” Some workers were moved back and forth frequently between the two locations, as on November 17, it was noted that “Minnie is really being given the run-around. From Plant 7 to Plant 5 and back again.”[11]



Employees at work in Plant 5 of the Fairchild Aircraft Division of Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corporation, Hagerstown, Maryland; July 1945.

Employees at work in Plant 5 of the Fairchild Aircraft Division of Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corporation, Hagerstown, Maryland; July 1945.

Employees at work in Plant 5 of the Fairchild Aircraft Division of Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corporation, Hagerstown, Maryland; July 1945.

Three female employees pose outside Plant 5 of the Fairchild Aircraft Division of Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corporation, Hagerstown, Maryland; July 1945.

Four male employees pose inside Plant 5 of the Fairchild Aircraft Division of Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corporation, Hagerstown, Maryland; July 1945.

The workforce of Plant 5 remained steady at around 100 throughout 1945 and into 1946. Fairchild continued to employee skilled Black workers postwar, a fact noted throughout the Maryland Black community. A January 25, 1947 article in the Baltimore Afro-American reported that “the Fairchild Aircraft Corporation…hires the largest number [of Black workers]. Approximately 200 men and women earn an average wage of $35 a week in this plant. Most of them are considered as skilled workmen and many of them earn considerably more than average.” In his 1955 review “Desegregation in Maryland since the Court Decision,” published in The Journal of Negro Education, George C. Grant, dean of Morgan State College, also highlighted the role of industrial Black workers at Fairchild in comparison to agricultural workers on the state’s Eastern Shore. Despite the accomplishments of its Black employees at Fairchild, Hagerstown remained divided by race for years to come.[12]


Regrettably, the only captions on the photos of the employees of Plant 5 in the National Air and Space Museum Archives’ Fairchild Industries, Inc. Collection are the name of the plant and the date, July 1945.[13] The Museum would welcome any identifications.


[1] Christopher Shank, “Wings Over Hagerstown: Experiencing the Second World War in Maryland,” Maryland Historical Magazine, Winter 1993.

[2] Box 70, Folder 5, Fairchild Industries, Inc. Collection, Acc. NASM.1989.0060, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

[3] Box 390, Folder 4, Fairchild.

[4] Box 150, Folder 4, Fairchild.

[5] Wheaton Park named after Jacob Francis Wheaton, a Hagerstown resident who is believed to have been the first Black Marylander to cast a vote after the Civil War and the Black man to sit on a petit jury in Washington County, was located on Jonathan Street in the Black section of Hagerstown. Shanks notes that although the Fairchild workers earned more than other Black people employed in Hagerstown, they were unable to move away from Jonathan Street into the new homes constructed for White war workers and were subjected to predatory mortgages.

[6] Box 390, Folder 12, Fairchild.

[7] Box 150, Folder 4, Fairchild.

[8] Box 67, Folder 5, Fairchild.

[9] Christopher Shanks noted in his 1993 article about Fairchild that “in early 1945 the company had no remaining African-American employees.” He was most likely working with a handwritten document in the Fairchild Collection enumerating “Negro employees by month” in Box 68, Folder 5, which declared “none employed so far in 1945.” Fairchild’s 1946 Book of Statistics in Box 67, Folder 5 more accurately charts the shift from Plant 7 to Plant 5.

[10] Box 259, Folder 2, Fairchild.

[11] Box 150, Folder 7, Fairchild.

[12] Although Washington County schools began to desegregate in 1955, post Brown v. Board of Education, the school superintendent stated that there would be no large-scale plan for integration in Hagerstown due to crowded conditions. Hagerstown made national news in 1961 when a diplomat from Sierra Leone was refused service in a local restaurant, prompting an apology from the State Department.

[13] Box 71, Folder 2, Fairchild.


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