Mr. Joe D. Esch and his two sons, William and Rowland, have been in New London several times with their airplane and are here now (June 1929) for the purpose of establishing a factory for the manufacture and repair of both monoplanes and biplanes.
Considerable activity has been manifested and some tangible results have been accomplished towards the location of a real airplane factory for our community. A local committee of citizens of whom A.N. Dambach and W.B. Lawrence have been most active, are in the process of leasing the old Bunnell dance hall building on Grant Street for the purpose of repairing and manufacturing airplanes.
A deal has also been made with Marion Watts for using part of his property on the Ashland Road for a landing field. They say a one year contract has already been signed.
Mr. Esch has been connected with the flying game as well as the manufacturing end for more than ten years. He is thoroughly conversant and knowledgeable with every aspect of the business. He is one of only 28 men in the State of Ohio who has more than 4000 hours flying time. Both he and his son, William, are both licensed commercial pilots and the other son, Rowland, is in the process of obtaining his license.
In addition to the building and repair of airplanes, the Esch's will instruct beginners in the art of flying to the point where they will be able to secure a first class pilots license. They will also be willing to fly any person who so desires to any destination in the country. Several men of means have offered to help finance the new company. The new industry is to be called "The New London Aircraft Co."
The flying game is yet in its infancy and the newpapers have frequently reported many deaths from air crashes. The airplane is comparatively safe for properly trained pilots and most crashes have been traced to "carelessness"! The Esch family will see that their students are thoroughly versed in the art and laws of flying so that they will end up as licensed pilots with full knowledge of the dangers of flying!
At the end of June, 1929 William Esch went to Detroit and purchased a new airplane. This is the second plane which they have recently purchased for the service of both carrying passengers and of instructing future pilots. New machinery is also being placed in the building on Grant Street for the repair and building of airplanes. In Sept. 1930, Mr. William J. Esch married Olive Collins and after a short honeymoon trip will make their home in Sandusky. His father, Joe, also has an airplane field in Sandusky. By February of 1931 the Esch's were busy filling orders for several new gliders. One was as far away as Lima, Peru. A local glider club has been established and it is hoped this will help contrubute to the new business.
By 1933 New London's "baby aircraft industry" was outgrowing its home and with the help of the local Rotary Club they managed to secure the old Lancaster Iron Works building on Prospect St. This building was large enough to hold a complete airplane within its structure. A total of six employees have been hired to work on the airplanes. Richard "Piney" King was sent to welding school and also has been taught the mechanics of the airplane as well as flying one of them. At present they are working on rebuilding planes for gentlemen in Shelby, Mansfield and Wooster! By 1934 a new side line of making shirts from airplane fabric was established and new machinery added to do so. This business flourished for a short time.
The depression and war clouds in Europe soon began to cut into their airplane repair business. I have found no exact dates as to when the factory closed its doors, but it must have been in about 1938. By 1940 the building was sold to Wilmer White Sr. who later established a fleet of steel trucks in the building. A newspaper article shows Roland Esch living back in Akron in 1941. Joe moved to Sandusky and Bill entered the service and was later the Squadron Commander at Shaw Field in Fort Sumpter, S.C. The "Airplane Factory" was a short lived but very interesting chapter in the history of New London, Ohio.
V.K. Neel, from Bob Esch and New London Record articles.