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William E. Boeing

Aircraft Manufacturer

Founder of Boeing Airplane Co.

Born Detroit, Michigan

October 1, 1881—September 28, 1956

After graduation from Yale University in 1904*, William Edward Boeing entered the lumber business in Washington State and became interested in the fledgling aviation scene as a hobby. While learning to fly under the tutelage of Glenn Martin in 1911, he became convinced of the airplane's future as a means of transportation. Organizing his own aircraft company in 1916, Pacific Aero Products Corporation, he constructed two successful planes, changed the name of his company to the Boeing Airplane Company, and so was born the aerospace industry giant of today.

A war contract with the U.S. Navy for 50 trainer airplanes, and a postwar order from the Army Air Services for 200 pursuit plans assured the future of his company. In 1919, with Boeing at the controls**, the first air mail between Vancouver BC and Seattle was flown—an event which led to the company becoming involved with the U.S. airmail contracts in later years.

By 1928, the Boeing Company had become one of the largest U.S. aircraft manufacturers, and was deeply involved with air transportation as well. The prestigious Guggenheim Medal was awarded to him in 1934 for his pioneering and achievement in aircraft and air transportation. Under his direction, Boeing Air Transport became the first to fly passengers at night on regular schedules and long distances.

William Boeing left the aviation industry in 1934, returning in World War II to assist in fulfilling the vast military production requirements. Although he was active in the aviation scene for only 18 years, few men in history have contributed so much to a single industry.

Invested 1984 in the International Aerospace Hall of Fame

From "These We Honor," The International Hall of Fame; The San Diego Aerospace Museum, San Diego, CA. 1984

* According to several sources, Boeing studied at the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale between 1899 and 1902, but left before graduating.  See the Boeing Company website and the National Aviation Hall of Fame, for example.

**A historical note:  According to the Seattle newspapers of that day, Eddie Hubbard actually flew the first air mail route on March 3, 1919 carrying Boeing as a passenger.


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Updated: February 03, 2011