Print Print Email Email Share Share

William E. Boeing Sr.

William E. Boeing

1881-1956

William E. Boeing Sr. was born in Detroit, Michigan on October 1, 1881. His interest in aviation was sparked by an air meet he attended in 1910. Boeing learned to fly in 1915, and subsequently purchased a Martin seaplane. It was flown to Seattle in October of that year and finding it to be quite unsatisfactory; Boeing set out to build a better one.

Boeing was joined by Conrad Westervelt, an engineering officer in the Navy, who had the task of collecting and analyzing every bit of technical information available. On July 15, 1916, Boeing piloted the first two flights of the new B & W seaplane. Pacific Aero Products Company was established in 1916 which became Boeing Airplane Company a year later.

The company did well during World War I building trainer-type seaplanes for the Navy, but in the aeronautical drop that followed the war the company even manufactured household furniture and boats to stay alive.
Boeing never doubted that he was on the right track. In 1921, the company's first break came when it received a large contract for pursuit planes from the Army. In 1927 they received the Chicago-San Francisco airmail route. Boeing's newly formed Boeing Air Transport service flourished, and to it was added other airlines under the banner of the Boeing system, later United Air Lines.

Knowing that progress could be best made by pooling industry resources and know-how, Boeing teamed up with Frederick Rentschler of Pratt and Whitney to form the United Aircraft and Transport Corporation. Boeing served as company chairman until 1934.

United Aircraft and Transport Corporation grew to become a leader in the manufacture of multi-engine aircraft, commercial jet transports, and space vehicles. In 1934, the year of his retirement, Boeing received the Daniel Guggenheim Medal and was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame.
Boeing was enshrined on October 26, 1991 for his contributions to the production of both military and commercial aircraft as a leader in America's aeronautical progress in the early years of flight.

Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program