The man who put Middle River on the map

AS LOCKHEED Corp. proceeds with its recently announced plans to merge with the Bethesda-based Martin Marietta Corp. to form Lockeed Martin Corp. -- which would be the nation's largest defense contractor -- many around Baltimore are pleased that Martin will be part of the new company's name.

The Martin stands for Glenn Luther Martin, a man who helped put Essex and Middle River, in Eastern Baltimore County, on the map.


Glenn L. Martin, one of the country's aviation pioneers, brought his aircraft factory here in 1930 from Cleveland (and Santa Ana and Los Angeles, Calif., before that).

He was 43 years old and already had behind him a colorful and pioneering career in aeronautics, which included working as hTC daredevil stunt flier performing around the country, giving flying lessons and manufacturing aircraft.


The Kansas native's fascination with flight began very early. He built box kites from his own design as a child and sold them to his friends. In 1908, he built his own plane and taught himself to fly. Around that time, a family friend called him "a wild-eyed, hallucinating visionary" and begged his parents to guide him into more sensible pursuits.

In the middle years of World War II, the Glenn L. Martin Co. in Middle River was the state's largest employer. In those days, almost everyone in Baltimore knew somebody working one of the three shifts at Glenn L. Martin. It has been said by many if there hadn't been a Glenn L. Martin there wouldn't be an Essex or a Middle River.

How Martin acquired that land in Middle River is a story told by Essex and Middle River insiders. It seems that the land Mr. Martin wanted for his plant and adjoining airport was owned by no less than 45 individuals. Obviously, if the word got out among the landowners that an aircraft manufacturer with deep pockets was anxious to buy the property, inflated values and delays would inevitably follow. Mr. Martin could afford neither. So his real estate agents devised a plan: They would pose as "agents for a New York sportsmen's club." It was felt that so modest sounding a buyer would discourage the property owners from inflating the prices of their property. It worked.

After World War II the defense industry changed with the development of high-technology weaponry. Glenn L. Martin Co. continued working on military and commercial aircraft as well as items for the next frontier -- space travel.

In 1949 Glenn Martin resigned as president and general manager of his company, and in 1952 he stepped down as chairman of the board. However, he remained a director until his death from a cerebral hemorrhage on Dec. 4, 1955, at age 69 at University Hospital.

Six years after his death, the company bearing his name was merged with American Marietta, creating Martin Marietta Corp.

While Mr. Martin is most closely associated with military aircraft (He developed the first standard bomber, the MB-2, among other achievements.), he also contributed the China Clipper, which provided the first trans-Pacific commercial air service.

Martin Marietta, which currently employs 4,300 workers in Maryland, is one of the top three defense contractors in the state.


The Lockeed Martin Corp., which will be based in Bethesda, projects earnings of $1 billion annually and will have 170,000 employees in 20 states.

That's quite a legacy for a fellow called "a wild-eyed, hallucinating visionary."