World War I ended in 1918 and brought with it a huge surplus of aircraft. This surplus caused the newly formed Boeing Company to experience some growing pains as the extra military aircraft were sold into the commercial aircraft market. Making things worse, the company’s commercial sales of the Model C biplane hit a slump at the same time. This challenging era did not bode well for the 337 people that Boeing had employed to complete its first major order of 50 Model Cs for the U.S. Navy in wartime. During the next year, Boeing continued to develop new and innovative aircraft. To pay the bills, company officials opted to produce some interesting, if not surprising, products.
William E. Boeing, originally a timber man that had acquired his wealth from the Pacific Northwest’s abundant wood industry, learned the ins and outs of products made from…well…wood. Shortly after WWI ended, he manufactured furniture. Yup you heard it correctly: Boeing resorted to building and selling furniture, such as dressers and counters to a corset company and a confectioner’s shop, to supplement the company’s income in 1918. Also during this time, Boeing, having had initial success in seaplanes, manufactured flat-bottom boats called Sea Sleds for mariners in and around the Puget Sound.
In 1919, The Boeing Company continued to struggle to make ends meet. The struggling company won a contract to produce 25 HS-2Ls, a military seaplane designed by Curtiss Aeroplane Company.
In trying and uncertain economic times, this geek finds inspiration in ingenuity. Leaders like William Boeing embody the spirit of America. He did everything in his power to keep his company afloat even if that included making furniture instead of aircraft.