William E. Boeing, whose eponymous company has become the global giant of the aviation world was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1881.

His father (Wilhelm) had arrived as a German immigrant arrived in 1868. Starting as a labourer he built up a successful timber and forestry business owning forest land from Ohio across into California. When Wilhelm was logging in Minnesota he had difficulty running compass lines on his property. He was logging over the iron-ore range. Fortunately, when he purchased timberlands he always bought the mineral rights. Wilhelm did not live to see the development of the iron ore mines but his widow received the benefits and on her death she left an estate of approximately $1 million to her son, William E. Boeing.

Boeing studied, but did not graduate, at Yale before going into the family timber business and establishing a new timber company in Seattle in 1908. Here he became interested in aviation, particularly seaplanes. At that time all airplanes were made of wood so there was a connection between the family timber business and the new aviation business. Many of the early names in aviation history were taken into the Boeing fold – perhaps “under the wing” might be more appropriate – including Chance Vought, Pratt & Whitney and many others.

Over the years since it was established Boeing has become the biggest aerospace company in the world, being involved in manufacturing and design of aircraft and engines and running its own airline businesses.

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