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General Motors Overseas R-3-A plant in India photograph album

Ms. Coll. 1189

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Summary Information

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
General Motors Overseas R-3-A plant in India photograph album
Date [inclusive]:
Call Number:
Ms. Coll. 1189
08 Linear feet (1 volume)
This photograph album documents a General Motors plant in Calcutta from 1944 to 1945 and the activities of the creator while in India.
PDF Version:

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As early as 1928, General Motors had business ventures in India and, according to Encylopedia Brittanica, "by 1941 it was making 44 percent of all the cars in the United States and had become one of the largest industrial corporations in the world." During World War II, General Motors joined the war effort by producing trucks, guns, airplane engines, airplanes and parts, tanks, marine diesels, and shells. The corporation worked with both British and American war offices and in January 1942, General Raymond A. Wheeler suggested that a number of projects be undertaken in the Middle East, including "motor vehicle reconditioning, rebuilding, repairing, and servicing in Iran and India" (Motter, page 143) and training of native Indians to work in the plants.

According to Staff Sargent Tom Flanagan who met two engineers from the General Motors plan in Calcutta during his own time in the war, the plant focused solely on reconditioning engines. The assignment of the engineers was to establish an engine rebuilding plant to overhaul engines from all types of vehicles. The task of finding a location, hiring local staff, training unskilled workers despite a language barrier was accomplished in less than a year.

Works cited:

Flanagan, Tom.

Motter, T.H. Vail. The Persian Corridor and Aid to Russia. Accessed March 9, 2016.

Scope and Contents

This collection captures the General Motors R-3-A plant in Calcutta from 1944 to 1945 and the activities of the creator while in India. About half the photos document a very large General Motors plant with both external and internal shots. Researchers will find images of workers, machinery, assembly lines, piles of engines, boxes prepared for shipping, bulldozers, and group photos of the workers. Workers are mostly Indian and management appears to be Caucasian. It is possible that the plant was working on reconditioning engines. The only captions in the album are of the plant. The only named individuals are Sorgini, McComb, Baum, Wilder, Pfluecke, Murphy, Levski and Bentling. There appear to only be men at the plant and in the leisure photos.

The balance of the photos documents scenes of India including burning ghats, people in the street, Indian religious rituals, parades, and many photos of poverty-stricken individuals. The leisure activities memorialized include trips to the shore, bicycling, and relaxed shots of men in front of the house in which they presumably lived.

Administrative Information

Publication Information

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts,  2016 February 26

Finding Aid Author

Finding aid prepared by Clémence Scouten

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Source of Acquisition

Purchased, 2007.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)
  • General motors corporation.
  • Photograph albums
  • Photographs
Geographic Name(s)
  • India--History--British occupation, 1765-1947--Photographs
  • India--Photographs
  • India--Social life and customs
  • Automobile industry and trade
  • World War, 1939-1945--India

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Collection Inventory


Photograph album, 1944-1945.