Boeing History: Growing Pains – 1903-1936

Boeing history - model c

After the war ended Nov. 11, 1918, the military did not order more aircraft. Civilian biplanes were not selling either. Boeing found he was competing with the flood of war-surplus biplanes that glutted the market. Struggling to survive, the tiny airplane company began to build dressers, counters and furniture for a corset company and a confectioner’s shop, as well as flat-bottomed boats called sea sleds.

The Boeing Airplane Company did have a contract to build 25 HS-2Ls, a Curtiss-designed military seaplane or “flying boat.” Boeing also designed, and built, the prototypes for several different types of commercial biplanes, none of which went into production.

First international airmailThese civilian biplanes did make history, however. Early in 1919, William Boeing and pilot Eddie Hubbard used Boeing’s C-700 to carry 60 letters from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, to Seattle, delivering the first international airmail. Hubbard then used the B-1 mail plane on the same mail route.

On May 24, 1920, the Boeing BB-L6, the first airplane to fly over Mount Rainier, made its first flight. The company’s second international sale was the BB-1 seaplane, sold to a Canadian in 1920.

The company was kept in business by orders from the Army Air Service to build 200 Thomas-Morse MB-3A pursuit fighter biplanes and to modernize 298 British-built de Havilland DH-4 fighter biplanes. It was clear, however, that in order to prosper, the company needed to design, mass produce and sell its own aircraft.

From 1922 through 1925, Edgar Gott, William Boeing’s first cousin, was president of the company. While Gott was president, the Navy awarded Boeing a contract to build a primary trainer. The Navy bought 71 NB trainers, and Boeing subsequently sold five more to Peru.