Aviation | 1 February 2017Seeds of a Juggernaut: The Boeing Company Share article facebook twitter google pinterest Frequent fliers hear it time and time again. Their captains welcome them aboard “our beautiful Boeing 747 to (insert destination),” or some variation of this. A child may ask a parent, “What does ‘Boeing’ mean?” and a likely response is that it’s the name of the type of commercial jet they’re on. In fact, the plane was designed and manufactured by The Boeing Company. Though Boeing now also designs, manufactures, and sells rockets and satellites, they’re most famous for their original success: airplanes. The following excerpt from Warbird Factory: North American Aviation in World War II brings us back to where it all began with a brief history of the Boeing’s milestones. The Seeds of a Juggernaut William E. Boeing was born in 1881. His father was a self-made German immigrant, Wilhelm, who earned his wealth in the iron ore and timber businesses but died of influenza when young William was a mere eight years old. A generous inheritance ensured Wilhelm’s only son would receive the best education, which included a stint at Yale.The self-motivated William Boeing, driven to achieve success on the scale of his father, relocated from Virginia to rain-soaked western Washington State while still in his twenties in search of his own fortune as a timber baron. A nationwide construction boom stimulated the demand for lumber and Bill Boeing prospered, but life in the small coastal logging town of Hoquiam soon became mundane. The search for excitement triggered a move to the nearby city of Seattle where Boeing became smitten with airplanes and flying. In 1916, Boeing established an airplane company in the former Heath shipyard, snugly situated on waterfront a short distance upstream from the confluence of the Duwamish Waterway and the tidewater of Seattle’s Elliot Bay. He hired a diverse crew: men with woodworking skills, women who were experts at sewing fabric, and an American-educated Chinese aeronautical engineer named Wong Tsoo. In March 1919 Bill Boeing and Eddie Hubbard won their first air mail contract between Seattle and Victoria, the provincial capital of British Columbia. The distance was only 72 miles but saltwater (Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca) prevented the construction of a highway or railroad. Boeing sometimes piloted the airplane himself. Photo Credit – Boeing Archives The fledgling Boeing Airplane Company was soon building airplanes for early mail routes. Starting in March 1919, he teamed with Eddie Hubbard to establish the international airmail link between Seattle and Victoria, British Columbia. Boeing occasionally piloted the route himself. The web of airmail routes grew over the following years until the main corridor extended from New York to San Francisco with ever-expanding branches reaching many locales. Early airmail pilots observed with curiosity that individuals sometimes presented themselves at the airfields, seeking transportation. When circumstances permitted, and in exchange for fare, an occasional passenger would sit amid the sacks of mail. The spaces allocated for passengers in airplane designs were expanded. Bill Boeing was the founder and mastermind behind the biggest and most formidable of the aviation consortiums. He had a sharp eye for sizing up people and businesses. When he encountered exceptional men of vision and organizational ability, he recruited them either as partners or employees.The business expanded into other aviation endeavors far from Seattle, as gifted managers with entrepreneurial skills were placed into emerging business opportunities. The capstone of the Boeing corporate pyramid was United Aircraft and Transport Corporation (UATC), an empire created in 1929 when the Boeing firms teamed up with Frederick Rentschler of Pratt & Whitney. Bill Boeing liked doing business with the ebullient Rentschler. The resulting portfolio of companies touched all aspects of commercial and military aviation, including engines,airframes, propellers, and air transport. The list of brand names included Boeing Airplane Company, Stearman,Sikorsky, Hamilton, Chance Vought, and United Air Lines.The Boeing-organized consortium became an economic juggernaut but in 1934 was pilloried by politicians and broken up by antitrust legislation. Buy from an Online Retailer US: UK: Explore the WWII history of the company that later became a part of Boeing and made more aircraft from 1938 to 1944 than any other company in the United States. During World War II, Los Angeles was the ultimate boom town. By the end of the war, the L.A. area had produced 17 percent of all of America’s war needs. North American Aviation, Inc. (NAA), operating out of their main Inglewood, California, plant, which is south of and adjacent to the city, was a key player in that work. From 1938 to 1944, NAA built over 40,000 aircraft, more than any other company in the United States. The bulk of them were of three iconic types designed by NAA: – The P-51 Mustang, arguably the best fighter of WWII. – B-25 Mitchell medium bombers, which saw worldwide combat. – Two-seat military pilot trainers, such as the AT-6 Texan. This is a fascinating story of a remarkable time in aviation history, when American businesses helped fund the arsenal of democracy that helped defeat the Axis powers. Warbird Factory tells this story with over 200 photographs, many of which come directly from the NAA/Boeing archives, where they have resided since WWII. This is an essential book for anyone interested in warbirds, aviation, Boeing/NAA, WWII, and/or the history of Southern California! Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.