Unless I'm much mistaken, the very first plastic aircraft carrier kit was either the Revell Franklin D. Roosevelt (straight-decked) or the Lindberg Essex-class Wasp. Both came out in about 1954. (Maybe the Lindberg offering was a year or so earlier; I don't have a good reference on that point.)
For a five- or six-year-old modeler that Lindberg kit was pretty awesome - and slightly scary. The first one I saw included an electric motor (there was a non-motorized version earlier), and a great mass of Hellcats - with instructions to chop off and "fold" the wings on some of them. It also had a hangar deck, in the form of a pre-cut sheet of cardboard. (I don't remember how one was supposed to change the batteries.)
By modern standards, of course, it's pretty awful. It did have a full hull (unlike Revell's FDR), but the underwater hull form was based on speculation. (The hull lines of WWII American warships, generally speaking, were still classified in those days.) Lindberg gave it two rudders - which no ship of the class ever had. It also featured individual (if not very accurate) 20mm guns. Quite a project.
Lindberg issued it many, many times; I have no idea under how many names. (I'm pretty sure John Steel did the box art for some of them.) Most notoriously, the company sold it for a while under the name Enterprise.
Here's a currently-available example in (I think) the original box. Take a deep breath before you read the price: http://www.oldmodelkits.com/index.php?detail=2060&cat=Military%20Ship&manu=Lindberg . Lindberg in fact still lists this old fossil: http://lindberg-models.com/water_model70826.html . I'm not sure of the company's status at the moment; I've heard rumors that it's gone broke. Those interested in the history of plastic warship kits might be well advised to grab it while the grabbing's good.
Those Revell straight-decked Essexes were pretty crude; they were among the company's first effort to establish a new standard scale of 1/720. The underwater hull was a separate piece, so the modeler could choose between full-hull and waterline configuration. Not long after that, Hasegawa started releasing its 1/700 Essexes - both long- and short-hulled. And now, of course, we have an embarassment of riches in this department, with excellent 1/700 kits from both Trumpeter and Dragon.
I do hope Dragon eventually gets around to the later modified versions - with the angled deck and the hurricane bow. To my notion this is a rare example of a major modification program making a bunch of ships look better than they did when they were built.