The founder of The Boeing Company was born Wilhelm Böing, and his parents were of German-American origin. His father was a wealthy mining engineer and businessman, and he himself began his career as a timber merchant. He bought extensive timberlands southwest of Seattle, Washington. He first saw an airplane at a fair in Seattle, after which he became fascinated with aeronautics.
In 1916 Boeing founded an aircraft manufacturing company, which at first produced hydroplanes made from wood. During the Great War (World War I) he obtained large orders from the U.S. Navy. After the war, he switched to manufacturing civilian aircraft. He also started a passenger service, but a law passed in 1934 made it illegal for one company to both produce airplanes and transport passengers. Boeing’s company had to be split in two. The part of the company responsible for transporting passenger became known as United Airlines, and remains one of the largest airline companies in the world.
The Boeing Company continued to produce aircraft, including many military models during World War II, such as the B-17 Flying Fortress and B-29 Superfortress bombers. The production of civilian jets, the 707, 717, and 727 models, began shortly after the war. The 737, 747, 767, 777, and 787 models are still in production. All except the 737 are built at the Boeing factory in Everett, near Seattle, the largest building in the world by volume.