Biography of William E. Boeing

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Published Date:06-07-2017
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Biography of William E. Boeing Company Founder and Owner, President, Chairman of the Board Boeing, 1916-1934 William E. Boeing left Yale University in 1903 to them until they were broken. A frayed aileron cable take advantage of opportunities in the risky and caused him to remark, "I, for one, will close up cyclical, but financially rewarding, Northwest shop rather than send out work of this kind." timber industry. That experience would serve him well in aviation. Under his guidance, a tiny airplane Fortuitous Beginnings: manufacturing company grew into a huge Finding the "Good Luck" Ore corporation of related industries. When post- William E. Boeing was born in Detroit to Wilhelm Depression legislation in 1934 mandated the and Marie Boeing in 1881. His father, who arrived dispersion of the corporation, Boeing sold his in the United States in 1868, had come from interests in the Boeing Airplane Co., but continued an old and well-to-do family in Hohenlimburg, to work on other business ventures. Germany, and had served a year in the German He became one of America's most successful army. He had a lust for adventure, however, and breeders of thoroughbred horses. He never lost left his family, emigrating to the United States his interest in aviation, and during World War II he when he was 20 years old. volunteered as a consultant to the company. He Wilhelm started work as a farm laborer lived until 1956, long enough to see the company but soon joined forces with Karl Ortmann, a he started enter the jet age. lumberman and, ultimately, his father-in-law. Young William E. Boeing was a private person, a Wilhelm bought timberland, with its mineral rights, visionary, a perfectionist, and a stickler for the in the Mesabi Range, built a large home, and facts. The wall of his outer office bore a placard became the director of Peoples Savings Bank, that read: "Years ago Hippocrates said: 1. There president of the Galvin Brass and Iron Works, is no authority except facts. 2. Facts are and a shareholder in the Standard Life Insurance obtained by accurate observation. 3. Deductions Company. He also bought land in Washington are to be made only from facts. 4. Experience State in the area now known as Ocean Shores has proved the truth of these rules." and timberland in the redwood forest in California. According to his son, William Boeing, When Wilhelm was logging in Minnesota Jr., Boeing was a fast and avid reader and he had difficulty running compass lines on his remembered everything he read. He was also a property. He was logging over the iron-ore range. perfectionist. While visiting his airplane building Fortunately, when he purchased timberlands he shop at the Duwamish shipyard in 1916, Boeing kept the mineral rights also. There was low-grade saw a set of improperly sawed spruce ribs. He iron ore known as taconite near the surface, and brushed them to the floor and walked all over below that lay veins of high-quality ore. Though Copyright © 2016 Boeing. All rights reserved. Young Boeing left Vevey after a year and continued his schooling in public and private schools in the United States. Between 1899 and 1902, he studied at the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale but did not graduate. Instead, in 1903 at age 22, William E. Boeing left college, went west, and started his new life in Grays Harbor, Washington, where he learned the logging business on his own, starting with lands he had inherited. Boeing bought more timberland, began to add to the wealth he had inherited from his family, and started to explore new frontiers by outfitting expeditions to Alaska. Building a Better Airplane Wilhelm did not live to see the development He moved to Seattle in 1908 to establish the of those mining rights, his widow received the Greenwood Timber Co. His first home in that city benefits of the mineral rights, and upon her death was a genteel apartment-hotel on First Hill, but in she left an estate of approximately 1 million to her 1909, he was elected a member of The Highlands, son, William E. Boeing. a brand-new, exclusive residential suburb in the Shoreline area north of town. In 1910, he bought the Heath Shipyard on the Duwamish River to build a Exploring New Frontiers yacht, named the Taconite — after the "good luck". Wilhelm Boeing died of influenza in 1890 when Three years later Boeing asked the architecture firm he was only 42 years old. He left behind his wife, of Bebb and Mendel to design his white-stucco, Marie; 3-year-old Gretchen; 5-year-old Caroline; red-roofed mansion in The Highlands. and 8-year-old William Edward. Marie eventually By then, he was already enthralled with remarried and became Marie M. Owsley. Young airplanes. He attended an aviation meet in 1910 William, who biographers of the time say did not in Los Angeles, where he tried to get a ride on get along with his stepfather, was sent to school one of the boxy biplanes but had no success. in Vevey, Switzerland, where he established an In 1915, Thomas Hamilton, later founder of outward correctness that remained with him Hamilton Metalplane Co. (acquired by Boeing in for the rest of his life. According to a note in the 1929), introduced Boeing to U.S. Navy Lieutenant Boeing Historical Archives, William visited his G. Conrad Westervelt. Boeing and Westervelt father's ancestral home in Hohenlimburg some became close friends and when flier Terah years before World War I. Copyright © 2016 Boeing. All rights reserved. Maroney brought a Curtiss-type hydroplane to 25.5 feet long and flew 900 feet. Thus, the largest Seattle later that year, the pair took turns riding aerospace company in the world was born. above Lake Washington. Boeing told writer Harold Mansfield that he sat beside Maroney on the front edge of the From War to Peace: lower muslin-covered wing and as the biplane The Commercial Flying Boat banked away from the lake, he saw the whole On July 15, 1916, Boeing incorporated Pacific Aero landscape tilting up beside him like a flat picture Products and consolidated most of the fledgling plate. After a few more sessions with Maroney, company's work at the Heath shipyard. Boeing Boeing and Westervelt decided they could build needed somewhere in Seattle to test his airplanes, a better airplane. so he paid for the construction of a wind tunnel at the University of Washington in exchange for the university's establishment of a curriculum in the The Largest Aerospace Company in the new science of aeronautics. World is Born On April 8, 1917, U.S. President Woodrow By 1915, Westervelt was exchanging information Wilson declared war on Germany and on May with Jerome Hunsaker, who had established a wind 17, 1917, the company was renamed the Boeing tunnel at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Airplane Company. William Boeing enrolled in At the same time, Boeing visited Herb Munter, an the U.S. Navy Reserve in July of that year. His exhibition flier who was preparing a plane for flights company began to build Navy trainers, the Boeing over Seattle's Harbor Island, and asked him if the Model C. Pontoons for the first two were built in public was interested in aviation. "Mostly they come the University of Washington's shell house. out to see you crash, Munter told him. Boeing kept his office in the Hoge building "At that time I was merely desirous of learning in downtown Seattle, while his plant managers to fly," Boeing later told writer Harold Crary. "After were on site at the shipyard. "It now behooves us making inquiries of various sources, I applied to to devote our energies toward the development the Glenn L. Martin School in Los Angeles for of machines which will be used in peacetimes," instruction," Boeing continued. "In August of that he wrote to his cousin, Edward C. Gott, who year, I started a course under the tutelage of Floyd was running the factory when the war ended Smith. On completing the course, I ordered for my November 11, 1918, while Boeing was in Chicago. personal use a plane known as Model TA from the "In this connection the first logical opening will be Martin factory. the development of a commercial flying boat." "The machine was delivered to me in October of 1915, and, being convinced that there was a Diversifying to Make Ends Meet definite future in aviation, I became interested in Meanwhile his company struggled to make ends the construction as well as the flying of aircraft. meet. It made furniture, phonograph cases, and Enlisting a group of technical assistants, less than fixtures for a corset company. To promote the idea a dozen men in all, work was begun in designing of commercial aviation, Boeing and pilot Eddie the first Boeing plane. Hubbard used Boeing's personal C-700 (a civilian "At that time, our combined factory and version of the Model C) to deliver 60 letters from seaplane hangar were housed in a small building Vancouver to Seattle as part of the Canadian on the shores of Lake Union, and it was from there Exposition. This was the first international airmail to that I made the initial test flight of the first Boeing reach the United States. plane." That was June 15, 1916. The seaplane/ The company then started to show a profit biplane was the Bluebill, B&W Model 1 — the from repairing military aircraft and building biplane initials stood for Boeing and Westervelt. It was fighters designed by other companies. By 1921, Copyright © 2016 Boeing. All rights reserved. the company had reestablished itself and Boeing of aircraft, and at the present time employing had found himself a bride. That year, Boeing approximately 1,000 men." brought his new wife, Bertha Potter Paschall, and On February 1, 1929, Boeing Airplane and her two young sons from a previous marriage, to Transport Corporation became United Aircraft his estate in Highland Hills. Later, another son, and Transport Corp. and included several airlines, William Boeing, Jr., was born to the couple. aircraft manufacturers, engine and propeller Boeing continued to run his timber business manufacturers, and a school for pilots and and was able to absorb details of both lumber and maintenance personnel in California. airplane enterprises. Years later, he could recall the description and topography of a parcel of land and the species and quality of timber that it would The Taconite yield. He believed in details and told his managers Boeing was a member of a yacht club in Vancouver, that many a wrong decision stemmed from a detail B.C., and in 1929 bought Vancouver boatbuilders overlooked or incorrectly interpreted. Hoffar-Beeching Co., intending to build flying boats there. When the Great Depression hit later that year, Boeing kept the company alive by paying 421,000 Air-cooled engine wins the bid for the construction of the second Taconite — an Nonetheless, he demonstrated an unerring ability extremely luxurious 125-foot Burmese teak yacht — to look at the big picture. He knew the trees, but as a gift for Bertha. could grasp the importance of the forest. His In 1934, the Government enacted antitrust decision to use air-cooled engines rather than the laws and United Aircraft and Transport Corp. was traditional water-cooled engines on the Model 40A split into different enterprises. Boeing resigned as mailplane, which was competing for the Chicago chairman and sold his stock. On June 20, 1934, to San Francisco airmail route, allowed him to win he was awarded the Daniel Guggenheim Medal for the bid. The contract required that Boeing have 26 aeronautical achievement. airplanes in operation by July 1, 1927. At the award ceremony in San Francisco, Boeing had to underwrite a 500,000 bond Boeing remarked: "Now that I am retiring from with his own money to secure the company's active service in aircraft manufacturing and air performance on the airmail contract. Bertha transportation, to be so greatly honored as to be Boeing was asked to launch the first Model recipient of the Daniel Guggenheim Medal is a 40A mailplane but was told that, because of real climax of my life. As the past years devoted Prohibition, no champagne was allowed on Crissy to aircraft activities have been filled with real Field in San Francisco. She objected and a legend romance, the many forward projects now in the was born. In one version, she christened the making will continue to keep me on the sidelines plane with orange juice and soda but never knew as a keen and interested observer." the difference. In another, she was given special permission to use real champagne. In either case, this started the company in the business A legacy of perfectionism and of air transportation and the mass production of high standards commercial air transports. Boeing continued in the timber business until In 1928, Boeing told an interviewer: "It is a about 1954 and made a variety of investments. matter of great pride and satisfaction to me to Around 1937, he began to breed racehorses and realize that within the short space of 12 years, by March 1938 had accumulated a stable of 40 an infant company with a personnel of less than thoroughbred horses in Walnut Creek, California, a dozen men, has grown to be the largest plant and had purchased the contract of famous jockey in America, devoted solely to the manufacture Basil James. That year the Boeing stable was fifth Copyright © 2016 Boeing. All rights reserved. in the United States for purses won. the National and Washington State Registers of In the real estate business, Boeing's interests Historic Places. included the development of the Blue Ridge Boeing then added animal husbandry to his subdivision north of Seattle that in 1936 included activities. At first, Boeing raised purebred Herefords a clubhouse, tennis courts, an archery range, on Aldarra, but later switched to Black Angus and a playfield. Every summer, Boeing and family cattle and sheep. He is credited with having done cruised aboard the Taconite, often as far north as much to improve the standards of registered beef Alaska. Boeing, who always loved new machinery, stock throughout the Northwest. Aldarra became made sure that the Taconite had the most modern completely mechanized. During the 1950s Boeing equipment as it became available. She was built the state's only noncommercial grass dehydrating the first civilian vessel to have two-way radio — plant so the cattle had prime pasture all year round. developed by Boeing's brother-in-law, Thorpe Boeing personally inspected every acre of his Hiscock, for use on Boeing mailplanes. After land, striding briskly and swinging a cane he did not World War II, she was the first civilian vessel to need, and followed by a Pekingese named General have radar. The Taconite was still taking notables Motors. When his health began to fail in 1954, he on cruises in 1999, and wherever she went she began to tour by jeep. On May 15, 1954, he and symbolized the Boeing legacy of perfectionism, Bertha returned to The Boeing Company again for attention to detail, and high standards. the Dash-80 rollout and the birth of the jet era. This Boeing bought a Douglas-built Dolphin time Bertha was able to use real champagne. "I amphibian aircraft and hired a pilot to use the christen thee the airplane of tomorrow, the Boeing Dolphin to fly him from Taconite landings on the Jet Stratoliner and Stratotanker," she proclaimed. Alaskan coast for fishing trips on remote lakes She was right; this was the jet that would change the inland. Boeing took delivery of the Dolphin off face of aviation worldwide. It would emerge as the the coast of Canada and timed its climb with 707, the first of the famous Boeing family of jetliners. a stopwatch to make sure it met performance William E. Boeing died September 28, 1956, specifications. During the late 1930s, Boeing aboard the Taconite. He remained until the end an became an expert on fishing and helped originate active and interested participant in the world around the polar-bear fly used for salmon fishing. him. He did not have a formal funeral, and his family scattered his ashes into the sea off the coast of British Columbia where he had spent so many The Airplane of Tomorrow is Christened months aboard the Taconite. Boeing kept his promise to stay in touch with On December 15, 1966, Bill Boeing was friends and colleagues at his old company. He memorialized in the Aviation Hall of Fame in returned to work as an advisor during World War Dayton, Ohio, "for outstanding contributions II when the Boeing Airplane Company began to to aviation by his successful organization of a build warplanes, and the enterprises that had been network of airline routes and the production of split following the Depression joined forces to vitally important military and commercial aircraft." defend the country. Bertha Boeing died on June 27, 1977, at home In 1942, Boeing donated his Highland Hills at the Aldarra Farm. In May 2001, half the estate mansion to Children's Orthopedic Hospital and was designated as the Aldarra Golf Course. The moved to the 500-acre Aldarra Farm near Fall City. remainder of the land had been previously sold for The mansion was subsequently sold to raise funds residential development. for the hospital, and in 1988 was placed on both The Boeing Company 100 North Riverside Plaza Chicago, IL 60606-1596 Copyright © 2016 Boeing. All rights reserved.

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