Legacies of Boeing’s First 100 Years


There’s an oft-used quote that you should “…never forget where you came from”. As The Boeing Company turns 100 years, the rich tapestry of people and corporate entities that became parts of the Boeing company are worthy of a closer look. By the mid-1930s, the Boeing Company had a different name and a wide range of business activities. This group of famous-named aviation manufacturers and airlines was broken up in 1934 by an act of Congress. A few decades later, little by little, the Boeing company absorbed a few more companies, and became a stronger leader in world aviation. Here’s a look at many of the aircraft manufacturing concerns that have joined Boeing’s business along the way.

The Boeing Airplane and Transport Corporation was formed in 1928, to encompass manufacturing and airline operations that had grown over the previous decade. In 1929, a rapid growth of this company led to another renaming, becoming the United Aircraft and Transportation Corporation (UATC). For five years, this organization encompassed more than a dozen aircraft manufacturers and airlines, but was divided into three corporate entities in 1934, due to the anti-conglomerate legislation contained in the Air Mail Act of 1934. Three interests were spun off: the United Aircraft Corporation, the Boeing Aircraft Company, and United Airlines. Many influential pioneers of the aviation industry have been associated with today’s Boeing, in one way or another. Today, the Boeing Aircraft Company has transformed itself into The Boeing Company, with five major divisions within it.

Boeing Airplane Company: As the initial Boeing company, this division in the 1928 Boeing Airplane and Transport Corporation was the ever-growing manufacturing concern in the corporation. In 1934, it became one of the three divisions that were spun off due to the Air Mail Act of 1934, and continued to exist through World War II and beyond. Today, the Boeing Commercial Airplanes Division and the Boeing Defense, Space and Security Division are the two largest divisions of The Boeing Company.

Vought_O2U_Corsair_over_Cavite_in_1930[2] copy

Vought O2U Corsair

Chance Vought Corporation: In 1928, the company founded by Chance M. Vought was acquired by the UATC. In 1934, it was spun off to the United Aircraft Corporation. In 1939, the Vought Division was merged with the Sikorsky Division; both remained in Connecticut.

Pratt and Whitney Aircraft Corporation: Fredrick Rentschler became the president of the Wright Aeronautical Corporation, until in 1924, he resigned his post. In 1925, he became a partner in the new Pratt and Whitney Aircraft Company, a division of the Pratt and Whitney Machine Tool Company of Hartford CT. He left that company in 1929, and along with the Vought and Boeing companies (among a few others), they combined into the United Aircraft and Transport Corporation (UATC). He kept the name of Pratt and Whitney Aircraft Company, and continued to manufacture aircraft engines. In the 1934 breakup of UATC he became president of the United Aircraft Corporation, which today is known as the United Technologies Corporation.

Hamilton Metalplane Division: Thomas F. Hamilton started the Hamilton Aero Manufacturing Company around 1910, and later befriended William Boeing in Washington. Hamilton evidently introduced Conrad Westervelt to Bill Boeing, and the B & W seaplane design – and the Boeing Company – began with the collaboration between Boeing and Westervelt. Hamilton began producing seaplanes in Canada, but he and his company moved to Milwaukee around the World War I years. His Hamilton Aero Manufacturing Company built aircraft propellers. In the 1920s, in competition to the Stout/Ford all-metal triplane, Hamilton and company designed the first certificated all-metal airplane in the U.S. and had named the brand as the Hamilton Metalplane Company. The Metalplane product lagged behind the Ford aircraft’s success, and in 1929, the Metalplane Company was absorbed into the United Aircraft and Transport Company, which was formed a year earlier. Parts of Hamilton’s earlier Hamilton Aero Manufacturing Company were spun off, and would later become part of the modern Hamilton Standard company.

Boeing Aircraft of Canada: Starting in 1929, this division of the Boeing Company began producing aircraft for western Canada. It remained with the Boeing Airplane Company after the 1934 breakup of the UATC. It is still in operation today, manufacturing parts for airliners – including the 787.

Avion Corporation: This was Jack Northrop’s first aviation manufacturing concern, and it was absorbed by the UATC in 1929 as the newly-named Northrop Aviation Corporation. This was moved from California to Kansas in 1931, and Jack Northrop and Donald Douglas would began the second Northrop Company in California. That later became a Douglas Aircraft division, and Jack started a third Northrop Corporation that would ultimately be part of today’s Northrop Grumman company. The original Northrop Aviation Corporation’s name was dropped by UATC.

Stearman Aircraft Company: Lloyd Stearman began the Stearman Aircraft Corporation in California in 1926, and re-established it again in 1927 in Wichita, Kansas. In 1929, the company was bought by the UATC. In 1934, the Stearman brand was spun off to the Boeing Aircraft Company. The Stearman brand faded away, but the designer’s name continued on. Boeing’s Wichita presence, including the new B-29 factory built during World War II, came from the Stearman acquisition.

Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation: Joined the UATC in 1929 while it was known as the Sikorsky Manufacturing Company. It designed and manufactured seaplanes and landplanes. In the 1934 breakup, it joined the United Aircraft Corporation, and later was merged with the Vought Aircraft division. After this merger, Igor Sikorsky focused on helicopter design and production. Sikorsky had bought the Schweizer helicopter brand in 2004, and within the past few years, was itself purchased by Lockheed Martin.

As the Boeing Aircraft Company thrived in the 1960s, it acquired the Vertol Aircraft Corporation, once known as Piasecki Aircraft Company – begun by helicopter pioneer Frank Piasecki. Shortly after the acquisition, the military’s CH-46 and CH-47 helicopters first flew; the CH-46 type has recently been retired, but the CH-47 Chinook still flies on, in a new –F version still in production.

In 1996, Boeing acquired Rockwell’s aerospace and defense units, including support of the B-1 Lancer bomber. Rockwell’s lineage includes North American Aviation too.

In 1997, Boeing merged with giant McDonnell Douglas. Airliners and military transports and tactical jets were still in production, although C-17 Globemaster III production has just ended… and none of the “Douglas Commercial (DC-)” or “McDonnell Douglas (MD-)” models are still in production. The MD-95 jetliner was later named the Boeing 717-200 though. The AV-8 Harrier, F-4 Phantom production is complete, and the F-15 Eagle has been produced only for export recently. In 1984, McDonnell Douglas had purchased the Hughes Helicopter concern, and the Boeing name includes the heritage of two helicopter manufacturers… Piasecki and Hughes.

So, lots of familiar companies and aviation pioneers have had business partnerships with Boeing companies, some brief and others lasting. Through 100 years’ worth of mergers and partnerships, The Boeing Company stands strong today.

This is the second article looking at Boeing’s history as it reaches its first 100 years in business. To see more on the Boeing 100 year story, go to: www.Boeing.com/Boeing100 

Ken Kula

Assignment and Content Editor, writer and photographer A New Englander all of my life, I've lived in New Hampshire since 1981. My passion for all things aviation began at a very early age, and I coupled this with my interest of photography during college in the late 1970s. I spent 32 years in the air traffic control industry, and concurrently, enjoyed my aviation photography and writing adventures, which continue today. I've been quite fortunate to have been mentored by some generous and gifted individuals. I enjoy contributing to this great site, and working with some very knowledgeable and equally passionate aviation followers.

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