Boeing Company, Vertol Division records1943-1967
In its various iterations, the Boeing Vertol Company has been a major developer and builder of helicopters. These records reflect development, manufacture, testing, improvement, and sale of helicopters, especially for military use in Vietman. This includes information relating to reports on factories visited, military needs of the United States and foreign countries, sales, conferences, and meetings with military personnel, government agencies, and representatives of foreign countries.
- Boeing Company. Vertol Division (Organization)
12 Linear Feet
Boeing Company, Vertol Division and its predecessors have been major developers and builders of helicopters. Begun in 1940 by Frank N. Piasecki (1919-2008) of Philadelphia, the organization's leading members were young University of Pennsylvania engineering students, which included Piasecki, Harold Venzie (1914-1975) and Elliot Daland (1886-1977). The group produced its first prototype, the PV-2, a single-seat helicopter, in the spring of 1943. It was flown publicly on many occasions by Piasecki, the first American to hold a helicopter pilot's license. The group was incorporated in Pennsylvania on January 6, 1943, as the P-V Engineering Forum, taking its name from Piasecki and Venzie. In 1944, the firm secured a contract to design an experimental helicopter for the Navy.
The PV-3 tandem-rotor helicopter made its first flight in March 1945, and early in 1946 Piasecki won a Navy contract for a further refinement, the PD-14. Piasecki obtained new capital from A. Felix du Pont, Jr. (1905-1996) and Laurance Rockefeller (1910-2004), and the company was renamed the Piasecki Helicopter Corporation on May 1, 1946. A factory was built in Morton, Delaware County, in 1946-1947. In 1949, the company leased an additional plant site at the Philadelphia Airport. By 1953 the Piasecki International Corporation, a subsidiary completely owned by the Piasecki Helicopter Corporation, had been formed to license the manufacture of helicopters and provide parts and servicing abroad.
The PD-14 evolved into the HRP-1 Rescuer, nicknamed the "Flying Banana." It was followed in 1948 by the HRP-2, an improved design featuring a stressed-skin construction and semi-monococque fuselage. A further refinement, its H-21 Work Horse, followed in 1952, being offered in several models for troop transport and assault and as the PH-42 for civilian service. The more compact HVP-1 Retriever was developed for the Navy in 1948 for ship-based rescue and utility work. The H-25A Army Mule and H-25B Retriever of 1948 eliminated tail fins by the use of a modified Sperry automatic pilot. In 1953 the company produced a much larger version, the YH-16 Transporter, followed in 1954 and 1955 by the YH-16A and YH-16B Turbotransporter, the first twin-turbine powered helicopter in the world.
In 1955, the influence of the Rockefeller group increased and Piasecki was forced out as Board Chairman on April 29, 1955. Piasecki then formed a new company, the Piasecki Aircraft Corporation of Philadelphia, on June 21, 1955. To eliminate confusion, the Piasecki Helicopter Corporation was renamed the Vertol Aircraft Corporation on March 9, 1956, the name "Vertol" being derived from "vertical take-off-and-landing." Vertol continued to develop and improve its old designs and worked on a contract with the U.S. Office of Naval Research and the U.S. Army for the development of a tilting-wing aircraft. On March 31, 1960, the Vertol Aircraft Corporation was acquired by the Boeing Airplane Company of Seattle (which became the Boeing Company on May 4, 1961), and became a division of that company under the name of Boeing Vertol Company. The old plant at Morton was closed, and a large new facility was constructed at Eddystone, Pennsylvania, utilizing a portion of the former Baldwin Locomotive Works.
Vertol produced the Model 44, an improved version of the H-21 Work Horse in 1956. Model 107 followed in 1957, offered in a civilian version and as the Marine Corps CH-46A Sea Knight and other military models. In 1959 the company announced plans for the development of a 3-ton helicopter, the "Chinook," for use by the United States Army; it was designed to move troops, armaments, and other heavy cargoes. The CH-47 Chinook was first produced in 1961.
Decades later, the organization was renamed the Boeing Helicopter Division in 1987. It became Boeing Rotorcraft Systems in 2002. As of 2020, it is the Vertical Lift division of Boeing Defense, Space & Security.
Scope and Contents
These records date from 1947 to 1967 and originated in the Executive Departments and either the Office of the Chairman of the Board, the office of the President, or the Director of Marketing. The earlier records are of the Piasecki Helicopter Corporation; those from 1955 to 1960 are of the Vertol Aircraft Corporation; and from 1960 to 1967 are of the Boeing Company, Vertol Division.
The records reflect development, manufacture, testing, improvement, and sale of helicopters, especially for military use in Vietman. This includes information relating to reports on factories visited, military needs of the United States and foreign countries, sales, conferences, and meetings with military personnel, government agencies, and representatives of foreign countries. There are reports on the products of competitors with comparisons of the various features of the helicopters.
The files labeled "Trips" cover itineraries, schedules, expense accounts and memos. Trips made by company officials were important for marketing purposes and for customer relations as well. The reports reflect the handling of complaints of customers, inspections, and evaluations during actual military use. Detailed specifications, research development tests and evaluations, costs, and production progress are also included. There is likewise information on labor relations, 1952 to 1956, when employees were organized by the International Union of Automobile, Aircraft & Agricultural Implement Workers of America (U.A.W.-C.I.O.) in 1956.
The collection includes board of directors' minutes, reports of the directors, executive committee minute books, contract legal papers, assembly, design, fabrication, and quality control records. There are also occasional minutes and other documents of national and local trade associations, as well as minutes (1952-1953) for Philadelphia International House, Inc.
The collection is broken into the following four series: Series I. Reports and minutes; Series II. Piasecki Helicopter Corporation records (1943-1955); Series III. Vertol Aircraft Corporation records (1955-1956); Series IV. Papers of Harry S. Pack, Director of Customer Relations, Vertol Division, Boeing Company (1963-1966).
Materials are stored off-site and require 24 hours’ notice.
Language of Materials
Boeing Company, Vertol Division photographs (Accession 1972.437), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum & Library
- Boeing Company. Vertol Division (Organization)
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- Boeing Company, Vertol Division records
- Manuscripts Department, encoded by Angela Schad
- 1973, 2020
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