William Boeing

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The war to end all wars -- WWI -- had ended.

America was heading into the Roaring '20s.

Indeed, business was about to boom -- except for the fledgling flight industry. That idea, launched 15 years earlier in a brief takeoff in Kitty Hawk, N.C., was dangling.

A team of nearly 300 shipwrights, cabinetmakers and seamstresses working in a warehouse along Seattle's Duwamish River hustled to make ends meet. William Boeing had gathered the group over the prior few years to build floatplanes for the U.S. military. Boeing's crew would grow through the next decade to become the largest aviation operation in the world.

Yet for now they built furniture, speedboats and whatever else would earn a buck until airplanes outgrew their status as a barnstorming oddity.

"Wall Street would not invest in the airline business," said Robert van der Linden, chairman of the aeronautics division of the Smithsonian Institution's National Air & Space Museum. "It was so new, so raw and so unproven that no one wanted to risk investment."

Boeing's view was longer. He recognized aviation's potential and saw the rate at which the world around him was changing.

Technology was presenting challenges so "new and unusual," he said, "that it behooves no one to dismiss any novel idea with the statement that it can't be done."

Soaring Cash

Boeing (1881-1956) had an advantage over competitors: money. The Detroit native quit Yale University in 1903 -- the year the Wright brothers took off -- to head for the Pacific Northwest. He then leveraged inherited timberland into a booming lumber firm.

Boeing also inherited a large share of mineral rights in Minnesota's iron ore-rich Mesabi range.

Combined, the assets hoisted him into the upper crust of...

... middle of paper ...

...ny that bore his name.

The lumberman-turned-aviator turned his focus to breeding thoroughbred horses. But the company he founded would continue as one of the world's two largest aircraft makers and remains the largest exporting operation in the U.S.

"Boeing had taken the airplane from being a curiosity," Lombardi said, "into a tool that was running the commerce of the country."

Works Cited

"William Boeing's Airline Boost; See The Horizon: His feel for tech and talent steered planes in the right direction." Investor's Business Daily 7 Aug. 2007: A03. Gale Student Resources In Context. Web. 13 Nov. 2011. http://ic.galegroup.com/ic/suic/NewsDetailsPage/NewsDetailsWindow?displayGroupName=News&disableHighlighting=false&prodId=SUIC&action=e&windowstate=normal&catId=&documentId=GALE%7CA192580366&mode=view&userGroupName=west34111&jsid=c0c3471468b48bcbd7ba5020f7581646

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