American corporation that is the world's largest manufacturer of commercial aircraft. By the 1996 purchase of McDonnell Douglas Corporation, they are also the world's largest manufacturer of military aircraft

Started in 1916 as Pacific Aero Products by William Boeing (1846-1956) in Seattle who was fanatically interested in flying, which was a modernity at the time. Boeing had the same year built the seaplane B & W together with his friend and navy engineer George Conrad Westervelt. William Boeing, 35 years old when he started the company, had made a small fortune in the forest industry. A year later the company name was changed into Boeing Airplane Company. Out of Seattle, Boeing hired several of the very few aeronautical engineers in the country at the time, and also started collaborating with the University of Washington for research studies. Although the market for airplanes weren't exactly profitable - has it ever been ? - the company had a total of 28 employees in 1917. 

This would all change with the outbreak of World War I. The Navy ordered 50 Model C seaplanes, and in 1918 the company had grown to over 300 people. When the war ended that same year, so did also most of the orders from the military. The company started focusing on the civilian market, and more specifically bi-planes which were common at the time. The company sold a few of these for use with mail deliveries in the Nortwest and Canada, where distances are great. It was however the army that kept the company alive by purchasing 200 Thomas-Morse MB-3A fighter bi-planes for the Army Air Service. These were not Boeing design however, so the company only put them together. 

In 1923 Boeing managed to win a contract for design and production of a pursuit fighter for the Army Air Service, and starting with the Model 15 and forward to the P12/F4B, Boeing became the largest supplier of fighters to the military. They also managed to become the vendor of mail planes to the US Post Office in 1927 and even started the airline Boeing Air Transport to run the postal service between San Francisco and Chicago. In the late twenties, the company bought several competitors, vendors, contractors and even airlines to be included in Boeing. At this time the Boeing airline changed its name to United Aircraft and Transportation Corporation... you can see where this one's going, can't you ? 

In early 30s there was an increased interest in monoplanes and Boeing soon developed both civilian and military variants. The civilian Monomail, not surprisingly intended for mail services, was also used as an airliner under the name Model 247. The greatest competitor at this time was Douglas with its DC-2

In late 30s the antitrust legislature of the United States caught up with the companyt. It was decided that airplane manufacturers could not own airlines, or more specifically mail carriers. The result was that William Boeing resigned as his company was split in three: 

The remaining company now focused on manufacturing larger passenger planes and military bomb planes. The result was the B-17 Flying Fortress and its civilian counterpart Stratoliner. The latter was a great success with millions of passengers every year in the booming market in the beginning of 1940s. The B-17 was also a great success and the company produced several hundred a month of these and its successor the B-29 during the World War II

After the war came trouble for the company, with as many as 70,000 people fired. The company started focusing on smaller jet fighters and larger commercial planes such as the Stratocruiser. The future did not lie in propellers, however, so the Stratocruiser was soon cancelled. The company instead came up with the jet bomber B-47 Stratojet and later in 1952 the legendary B-52 Stratofortress, which still is in use. The B-52 were also used as the base for the commercial jet 707 which also came in the 1950s

Following the 707 came a long row of different sized commercial jets, most of which come in both passenger and freight versions:

  • 727 (1964), 130 passengers
  • 737 (1967), 107 passengers, smaller version of 727
  • 747 1970, the jumbo jet four-engine which is still the world's largest commercial aircraft, up to 500 passengers
  • 757 (1982), up to 290 passengers
  • 767 (1981), up to 400 passengers
  • 777 (1995), up to 400 passengers

As mentioned, Boeing now owns McDonnel Douglas, and with them the airplanes MD-11 and more, but I won't include them here. 

On the military market, the B-2 stealth fighter is the larger of recent projects. They also work on the Joint Strike Fighter. Boeing was also heavily involved with the Apollo Program, lending over 2000 executives to NASA for coordination and they also built large parts of the rockets. Boeing also has manufactured satellites, helicopters and missiles and the International Space Station.

After the acquisition of McDonnel Douglas, the company now has over 220,000 employees and over $51 billion in revenues.  The company has recently moved its headquarters from Seattle to Chicago.

source: Boeing