With the models that are now released commercially, there is always some complaint about accuracy. The bow is wrong. There should only be one catapult. The widget is too far forward. When I started model ship building in the 1950s there was a limited selection of models available. Then as now, manufacturers tried to improve their products to supply the most accurate kit possible. The Revell kits of the early 1950s, Missouri, Midway, Sullivans, had flat bottoms but the next generation from Revell, Essex, , Forrestal, Forrest Sherman, improved upon these efforts. Before you scoff at the detail of the early Revell and Aurora efforts, think about the kits available to the men that fought the ships of World War Two. Those young seamen aboard California, Maryland and Tennessee on the morning of December 7, 1941 or the young aviators flying from the decks of Lexington at Coral Sea or Yorktown at Midway, what kits did they have to build when they were growing up? Thanks to Tom Ratliff, you can see many of those kits. The photographs depict many of the wooden warship kits produced from 1934 to 1943, with the great majority from 1935 to 1938. See what the men of the "Greatest Generation" had to work with, when they were youngsters.
By accident in a bunch of junk stuff last November on the auction site I got a Megow's USS Lexington CV-2 made in 1936. I had never seen such a model. Although I am a serious plastics builder and have built and collected ships for 50 years this ship opened the door to me to a world I never knew existed. Fortunately my local hobby shop in Peachtree City is big into balsa airplanes and their working group has helped me repair many of these and build two (apologies offered).
Model warship building is not a new hobby. The British Museum has an Egyptian felucca model full of soldiers buried with a Pharaoh and dug up at Ur dating from 3100 B.C. Like many model builders I began in the mid-50s as a child with the standard plastic Revell and Lindberg ships. While it has always been a hobby it was resurrected when two sons came along and I became a serious collector. I did not know these pre-WWII model ships existed until I got a Megow's Lexington in a lot. A number of modeler friends gave me various ones they had accumulated. I wish I could say I built them but to be honest the most I can say is I helped repair them. The balsa airplane modelers at my local hobby shop made more pieces than I could ever do. There is a website that mentions some of these called Solid Model Memories @ Bravepages.com. You can also search under Strombecker and the airplane collectors websites, several of which mention these. I have collected these and thought someone else might enjoy seeing some ship models that I did not know existed.
The Baltimore class heavy cruiser dates from 1943 and is really the USS Chicago by Monogram. This kit was just about finished when I got it but the directions stated that it was number 338 sold with the war bonds which the people of Chicago bought to replace their cruiser sunk in 1942. Interestingly it varies somewhat from the actual Baltimore class plans because the design was classified and was apparently built to a plan given by the Navy to the fund raising group. Monogram then cut the hulls and supplied the rest as balsa cut out.