The Boyertown Museum is excited to announce the official opening of its newest exhibit A Rosie Outlook: WWII and the Girls with a Star-Spangled Heart on Saturday, May 22. This exhibit will feature several military vehicles, including a rare Bantam Jeep built by the American Bantam Company of Butler, Pennsylvania and on loan to the Boyertown Museum from the Military Technology Museum of New Jersey, as well as three vehicles built by the Boyertown Auto Body Works. The Boyertown Museum is housed in several of the former factory buildings of the Boyertown Auto Body Works. Of these Boyertown-built pieces, two are being displayed for the first time since becoming part of the Boyertown Museum collection. The one, a 1942 Dodge WC-54 ambulance, was converted by the Boyertown Auto Body Works in 1951 to a S-8-MA-50-1 Ambulance. These conversions allowed for more space for wounded soldiers—the WWII models previously could only carry four wounded soldiers, but the Korean War era conversion allowed for six stretchers. It is believed that 1500 of these Dodge ambulances were converted by the Boyertown Auto Body Works for military use in the early 1950s.
The other vehicle making its debut in A Rosie Outlook is a Mobile Shoe, Textile, and Canvas Repair Unit mounted on a Dorsey frame with body work by the Boyertown Auto Body Works. This was one of 2500 trailers the body works built for the United States Marine Corps for use in the Pacific Theater during World War II. While these were built for a multitude of uses, including machine repair, dental and medical care, and radio communications, the Mobile Shoe, Textile, and Canvas Repair Unit on display is one of 140 built for that specific task. These trailers, along with the 900 ambulances built by the Body Works and mounted on International Half-Ton chassis, earned the BABW a prestigious Army-Navy E Award. One of these USMC ambulances has been part of the Boyertown Museum collection for many years, and will be the third Boyertown-built piece part of the A Rosie Outlook exhibit. The Army-Navy E Award was bestowed upon companies that maintained incredibly high quality control in whatever said company manufactured for the war effort. In addition to the quality of the workmanship, dedication of the factory works was also a factor in which companies won an Army-Navy E Award. The Army-Navy E Award flag is proudly on display along with the Boyertown Auto Body Works trailer and ambulance.
In addition to the many dedicated and skilled craftsmen employed by the Boyertown Auto Body Works, the company also saw the integretation of women into its factory floor workforce during WWII, typically to fill in for the men who joined the military to fight on the frontlines. This was a national phenomenon, and one fueled by an incredibly successful recruiting campaign. “Rosie the Riveter” was the star—a tough-as-nails woman in her blue coveralls and red bandanna, ready to fight on the homefront for her country. Between 1940 and 1945, the female percentage of the female workforce increased from 27% to 37%. The photo archives of the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles contain many images of the BABW’s very own ‘Rosies’ working on the manufacturing and assembly of these USMC trailers. These photos will be part of the A Rosie Outlook exhibit.
The opening event on May 22 will be from 11am-2pm and held outside. Additional military vehicles not part of the A Rosie Outlook exhibit will be on display in the Museum parking lot. DJ Chuck Loggia will be outside entertaining visitors with music from the 1940s. And our friends at the Peppermint Stick Candy Store will be in front of our garage along Route 562 selling vintage-style refreshments. At noon we will unveil our Rosie the Riveter Rose Garden in front of our Hafer Building at the corner of Walnut and Third Streets (facing the Museum’s parking lot). These heirloom “Rosie the Riveter Roses” will be planted and serve as a way to honor Boyertown Auto Body Works’ Rosie the Riveters, and all women who served on the homefront in World War II. Photos of these women will be on display by the Rose Garden, and we hope more of them can be properly identified. The Boyertown Museum staff has been trying to identify all the women in these photos. We are happy to have Beth Norton, granddaughter of Boyertown ‘Rosie’ Carrie Butterwerk, on hand to help plant our roses at noon.
The outdoor event on Saturday is free to attend. The full A Rosie Outlook exhibit is included with regular admission to the Museum. Also included with admission on Saturday, May 22 will be blacksmithing demonstrations in our 1872 Jeremiah Sweinhart Carriage Factory. A Rosie Outlook will be on display throught September 2021.
The “Rosie the Riveter Rose Garden” is made possible by CD’s Place Catering & Eatery and the Dietz Family. A Rosie Outlook: WWII and the Girls with a Star-Spangled Heart is sponsored by the Peppermint Stick Candy Store. Thank you to our generous sponsors for helping to preserve Boyertown’s World War II homefront history.