Founder William Boeing was raised in Michigan, where his father operated a lucrative forestry business. While he was in San Diego, California, in 1910, Boeing met a French stunt pilot named Louis Paulhan who was performing at the International Air Meet. When Paulhan took Boeing for an airplane ride, it marked the beginning of Boeing's fascination with aviation.
After two years of study at Yale's Sheffield School of Science, Boeing returned to Michigan to work for his father. He was sent first to Wisconsin and later to the state of Washington to acquire more timber properties for the family business. In Seattle he met a navy engineer named Conrad Westerveldt who shared his fascination with aviation. A barnstormer named Terah Maroney gave the two men a ride over Puget Sound in his seaplane. Later Boeing went to Los Angeles to purchase his own seaplane, thinking it would be useful for fishing trips. The man who sold him the plane and taught him how to fly was Glenn Martin, who later founded Martin Marietta.
While in Seattle, Boeing and Westerveldt made a hobby of building their own seaplanes on the backwaters of Puget Sound. It became more than a hobby when a mechanic named Herb Munter and a number of other carpenters and craftsmen became involved. In May 1916, Boeing flew the first 'B & W' seaplane. The next month he incorporated his company as the Pacific Aero Products Company. The company's first customer was the government of New Zealand, which employed the plane for mail delivery and pilot training. In 1917 the company's name was changed to Boeing Airplane Company.
Boeing and his partners anticipated government interest in their company when the United States became involved in World War I. They discovered their hunch was correct when the company was asked to train flight instructors for the army. After the war, Boeing sold a number of airplanes to Edward Hubbard, whose Hubbard Air Transport is regarded as the world's first airline. The company shuttled mail between Seattle and the transpacific mailboat that called at Victoria, British Columbia. Later, when the post office invited bids for various airmail routes, Hubbard tried to convince Boeing to apply for the Chicago to San Francisco contract. Boeing mentioned the idea to his wife, who thought the opportunity looked promising. In the prospect, he and Hubbard created a new airline named the Boeing Air Transport Company. They submitted a bid and were awarded the contract.
To meet the demands of their new business Boeing and his engineers developed an extremely versatile and popular airplane called the Model 40. Fitted with a Pratt & Whitney
air-cooled Wasp engine, it could carry 1,000 pounds of mail and a complete flight crew, and still have room enough for freight or passengers. The Kelly Airmail Act of 1925 opened the way for private airmail delivery on a much wider scale. As a result, a number of airline companies were formed with the intention of procuring the stable and lucrative airmail contracts. One of these companies was Vernon Gorst's Pacific Air Transport, which won various routes along the Pacific Coast. Boeing purchased this company and then ordered a young employee named William Patterson to purchase its outstanding stock. Boeing also purchased Varney Airlines, which began operation in 1925 and won almost every mail contract it applied for until it became overextended and had financial difficulties.
With the addition of National Air Transport, Boeing's airline holdings formed the original United Air Lines
. In 1928 all these companies were organized under a holding company called the Boeing Aircraft and Transportation Company. In 1929 a larger holding company was formed, the United Aircraft and Transportation Company. Included in this group were the 'United' airlines and Stout Airlines; Pratt & Whitney (engines); Boeing, Sikorsky, Northrop, and Stearman (manufacturers); and Standard Steel Prop and Hamilton Aero Manufacturing (propellers). Boeing was made chairman of the company and Fred Rentschler of Pratt & Whitney was named president.
Boeing and Rentschler became extremely wealthy in this reorganization by exchanging stock with the holding company in a method similar to J.P. Morgan
's controversial capital manipulation. They multiplied their original investments by a factor of as much as 200,000 times. It was, however, entirely legal at the time. In 1933 the government conducted an investigation of fraud and other illegal practices in the airline industry. Boeing was called upon to testify and explain his windfall profits before a Senate investigating committee. Under examination he admitted to making $12 million in stock flotations.
Boeing was so infuriated with the investigation that he retired from the company (at age 52) and sold all his aviation stocks. Upon Boeing's departure the company's production manager, Phil Johnson, was named the new president. But William Boeing was not forgotten by the aircraft industry. In 1934 he was recognized for his innovation in aeronautical research and development with the award of the Daniel Guggenheim medal, 'for successful pioneering and achievement in aircraft manufacturing and air transport.
In 1934 a government investigation of collusion in the airmail business led to a suspension of all contracts awarded. As a result, the U.S. Congress declared that airline companies and manufacturers could not be part of the same business concern. This led to the break-up of the three aeronautic conglomerates: Boeing's United, the Aviation Corporation of the Americas
, and North American Aviation
. All of the Boeing company's aeronautic properties east of the Mississippi became part of a new company, United Aircraft (later renamed United Technologies
), operated by Fred Rentschler. The western properties, principally the Boeing Airplane Company, remained in Seattle exclusively manufacturing airframes. Pat Patterson was put in charge of the commercial air carriers, which retained the name of United Air Lines and based their operations at Chicago's Old Orchard (later O'Hare) airport.
In the years leading up to World War II Boeing led the way in developing single-wing airplanes. They were constructed completely of metal to make them stronger and faster; more efficient aerodynamic designs were emphasized; retractable landing gear and better wings were developed, along with multiple 'power plant' technology; and, finally, directional radios were installed which enabled better navigation and night flying. Boeing had established itself as the leading manufacturer of airplanes.
When the United States launched its wartime militarization program, Boeing was called upon to produce hundreds of its B-17 'Flying Fortresses' for the U.S. Army. During the war the B-17 became an indispensable instrument for the U.S. Air Corps. In June 1944, when production was at its peak, Boeing's Seattle facility turned out 16 of these airplanes every 24 hours. By this time the company was also producing an improved bomber called the B-29 'Super Fortress.' It was this airplane that dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.
Boeing's president, Phil Johnson, died unexpectedly during the war. He was replaced with the company's chief lawyer, William M. Allen, on the last day of the war. Under Allen's leadership, Boeing produced a number of new bombers, including the B-47, B-50, and the B-52. Boeing's B-307 Stratoliner, a B-17 converted for transporting passengers, was succeeded by the B-377 Stratocruiser in 1952. The Stratocruiser was a very popular double-deck transport, most widely used by Northwest Orient. It was also Boeing's only airplane built for the commercial airline market since before the war.Close Up of Vignette
Registered Note, specimen, late 1900’sPrinter: Security-Columbian / United States Bank Note Company Dimensions:
8” (h) x 12” (w)State: WA-Washington Subject Matter: Famous Companies
| Aviation and Aerospace
| Specimen Pieces Vignette Topic(s): Male Subject
| Airplane Featured Condition:
No fold lines, punch hole cancels in signature areas and bodies. Very crisp.