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The name Boeing, known across the world, it’s a name with a rich and intriguing history, not just for the company that bears the name to day, but for the man that would inject the world of aviation with a vision of scale and innovation for the future.
William Edward Boeing was born on 1st October 1881 in Detroit, Michigan to Wilhelm Böing, an immigrant from North-western Germany . The Böing family made their early fortune in mining and timber. Williams early education took place in both Switzerland and North America, William would anglicise his name to Boeing on his return to the United States after his fathers death.
Attending Yale’s Sheffield Scientific School in 1904, Boeing excelled at his studies but was soon bored and craved adventures beyond the confines of the establishment he found himself in. Determined to make his own path in life he left university with only a year of study to complete. Boeing made cunning use of industry contacts and established himself in the timber trade of Washington State making a small fortune on trading timber. Only seven years later, Boeings need for adventure seized him again and he moved to Seattle where he would continue to take part in adventures both in the outdoors and in business.
On the 4th of July 1914, Boeing was offered a ride in a Curtiss hydroplane, it did not go well, Boeing was frustrated at the experience. Boeing approached Conrad Westervelt, a friend and business partner and both agreed that they could build a superior aircraft.
Taking lessons from none other than Glenn Martin, Boeing hastily learned the basics of flight and then when his first solo flight was completed, he bought a Martin Model TA seaplane and flew it back to Seattle.
Soon after his arrival in Seattle at the Boeing & Westervelt shipyard, Boeing managed to crash the aircraft, determined that they could do better and Using the basic elements of the Martin design, Boeing set to work on his new aircraft. It featured a greater wingspan and a lighter construction, and new landing pontoons which were attributed by Boeing as to causing the initial accident. The Boeing & Westervelt shipyard in Seattle’s harbor was converted to an temporary aircraft factory employing the shipwrights from shipyard to construct the prototype. Boeing himself flew the Bluebill, B&W Model 1, on its initial flight on the 15th of June 1916
World War One loomed on the horizon, Boeing again used his contacts in government and business and the fledgling Pacific Aero Products company began to build Navy trainers, the Boeing Model C, But for the United states the war period was brief, and the resultant economic downturn endangered the Aero Plant and its operation, Boing diversified the business, even going back into the timber trade to ensure the business stayed afloat.
His determination paid off, in 1927 Boeing was awarded the lucrative government international airmail contract, from that point on despite many struggles Boeing and his business grew. In 1928, Boeing was quoted.
"It is a matter of great pride and satisfaction to me to realize that within the short space of 12 years, an infant company with a personnel of less than a dozen men, has grown to be the largest plant in America, devoted solely to the manufacture of aircraft, and at the present time employing approximately 1,000 men."
William E. Boeing died on the 28th of September, 1956, aboard his own personal ship that he had built himself the Taconite. He had remained actively associated in the boeing business even after being forced to break up the company he had built in 1934, he subsequently retired that year. He did not have a formal funeral, as was his way in life having his family scatter his ashes into the sea off British Columbia where he had spent so many years enjoying his time aboard the Taconite. The legacy of technical innovation, engineering excellence and scientific pioneering left by Boeing continues to this day, and is testament to this one mans endeavour.
Aaron “Anglomanii” Lentz