The years before World War I were spent in patent litigation for aviation pioneers Glenn Curtiss and Orville and Wilbur Wright.
Scope and Contents:
The Curtiss-Wright Corporation Archives - Patent Files collection consists primarily of materials relating to patents issued to and maintained by the Curtiss-Wright Corporation and its subsidiaries from the 1910s to the 1950s, though the bulk of the materials pre-date World War II. The majority of the collection is original patent certificates. Other materials include records of litigation proceedings, correspondence, memoranda, aircraft drawings and blueprints, reports, sales brochures, meeting minutes, and annual reports.
The collection is arranged in four series: Patents, Patent File Wrappers, Patent Litigation, and Curtiss-Wright Corporation Records. Series I contains original patents and related materials issued or assigned to the Curtiss-Wright Corporation and related organizations. Covering the years between 1911 and 1939, the series is further divided into two subseries: United States Patents and International Patents. Series II consists of file wrappers prepared by the United States Patent Office, containing a complete record of the patent's history. The third series includes materials from Curtiss-Wright's numerous litigation proceedings in defense of its patents. The fourth series contains business records created by the Curtiss-Wright Corporation including photocopies of historic patent and stock documents, division minutes, and reports for the U.S. Navy Department.
Series I - Patents, 1911-1939
Subseries I - United States Patents, 1911-1939
Subseries II - International Patents, 1916-1935
Series II - Patent File Wrappers, 1916-1930
Series III - Patent Litigation, 1916-1947
Series IV - Curtiss-Wright Corporation Records, 1906-1945
The years before World War I were spent in patent litigation for aviation pioneers Glenn Curtiss and Orville and Wilbur Wright. The Wright brothers claimed wing warping patents and sought to prevent Curtiss and others from manufacturing and selling aircraft and products based on these patents. During World War I, the aircraft manufacturing industry set up the Manufacturer's Aircraft Association, a patent pool in which all participants were allowed to use any patents to build aircraft for the war effort. After the war, Wright Aeronautical Corporation and the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company continued to be major players in the aircraft industry, long after Curtiss and the Wrights ended association with their namesakes.
In 1929, the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company merged with the Wright Aeronautical Corporation to form the Curtiss-Wright Corporation. After the merger, responsibility for engine and propeller manufacture was consolidated under the Wright name while Curtiss concentrated on airplanes. Although the two companies were merged by name and under the direction of a corporate headquarters located in New York City, the separation and specialization of the two divisions continued to cause problems for the company. The election of former Wright personnel to key corporate positions soon led to Wright becoming the dominant division. The Great Depression and the collapse of the market for commercial aviation revealed how reliant the aviation industry was on military production. Sales dropped and Curtiss-Wright was forced to close certain satellite plants and transfer some of their product lines to the St. Louis facility.
During the U.S. military build-up prior to World War II, existing Curtiss-Wright plants were expanded and new aircraft factories were built to meet the growing production demand. The company failed, however, to plan for the future after the war. In 1946, Curtiss-Wright had only two experimental military models at hand for postwar delivery and no assurance of production orders. Wright Aeronautical continued to build engines, but was no longer at the forefront of development. The eventual sale of the Airplane Division to North American included design rights to the former Curtiss-Wright airplanes. The Curtiss-Wright Airplane Division, which manufactured airframes, finally closed down in 1951.
The Curtiss-Wright Corporation still exists in the 21st century, but has become a diversified technology corporation in various markets, including aviation and defense.
Curtiss-Wright Corporation, gift, 1987.
No restrictions on access.
This collection consists of reports on the design, construction, and testing of the NC series flying boats and photographs of NC-4's construction and transatlantic flight.
Scope and Contents:
This collection consists of reports on the design, construction, and testing of the NC series flying boats and photographs and 3 negatives of the NC-4's construction and transatlantic flight. The collection is set up in a series of books with two copies of each book, except books 11 and 13. There is some water damage to book 10. Due to the fact that book 5 contained oversize materials, both copies of this book are filed out of sequence in box 4.
The collection is set up in a series of books with two copies of each book, except books 11 and 13. There is some water damage to book 10. Due to the fact that book 5 contained oversize materials, both copies of this book are filed out of sequence in box 4.
In 1917, during World War I, the United States Navy sent out specification for a flying boat of sufficient range to cross the Atlantic Ocean by air to Great Britain, where it would serve as an anti-submarine patrol aircraft. The Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company, in conjunction with the United States Navy, developed a three-engine aircraft to meet these specifications. The first of the new aircraft was the NC-1 that flew for the first time on October 4, 1918. This was followed by the NC-2 whose maiden flight took place on April 12, 1919 with four engines in tandem pairs. The engine arrangement of the NC-2 had been declared unsatisfactory for the mission and the wings were removed and installed on the NC-1 to replace the originals that had been damaged in a storm. By this time, World War I had ended, but the Navy decided to continue the program in an effort to make the first transatlantic flight crossing by air. The new NC-3 and NC-4 models reverted to the three-engine format, although the NC-4 had a fourth engine mounted as a pusher behind the center engine. On May 16, 1919 the NC-1, NC-3 and NC-4 assembled at Trepassy Bay, Newfoundland, under the command of Commander John H. Towers, to begin the 1400-mile flight to the Azores. The NC-1 was forced down short of the island and sank. Naval vessels stationed along the flight path rescued the crew of the NC-1. The NC-3 landed two hundred miles short and taxied the remaining distance to the island. Only the NC-4 completed the flight successfully, reaching Plymouth, England, via Lisbon, Portugal, on May 31, 1919. Following publicity tours of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States, the Curtiss NC-4 was given over to the Smithsonian Institution and is now part of the National Air and Space Museum collection.
Lee Pearson, XXXX-0422, Unknown.
No restrictions on access.
Clement Melville Keys (1876-1952) was a financier and corporate organizer who promoted aviation through the post-World War I decade. In 1916 he came to the aid of the financially-troubled Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Co. and was made an unsalaried vice president. Keys accompanied the American Aviation Mission to Europe in 1919, returning to purchase a controlling interest in Curtiss in 1920. He remained president of Curtiss until the 1929 merger with Wright Aeronautical Corp. to form Curtiss-Wright Corporation, whereupon he became president of the new company. In 1931, however, Keys resigned as chairman of T&WA following a bitter struggle for control of the airline. Mental collapse followed and Keys surrendered all his remaining aviation interests and left Curtiss-Wright in 1933.
Scope and Contents:
This collection consists primarily of Keys' business records and correspondence from the 1920s and early 1930s. The bulk of the material relates to the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company/Curtiss-Wright Corporation and related firms, as well as Transcontinental Air Transport. The material includes business (operating) correspondence and records relating to Keys' financial interests.
The collection is divided into three series. The first series consists of materials dated through Keys' withdrawal from his aviation interests in 1932, followed by a second series of materials post-dating 1932. The final series consists of a small number of legal-sized documents not marked by Keys or his secretary and not otherwise placeable in either of the first two series. Because of the small amount of legal-sized material in the collection, the bulk of the collection has been stored in letter-sized containers; all legal-size documents have been placed in legal-sized containers at the end of the collection (Boxes 29-31) and a cross-reference note entered in the appropriate place in basic folder list. Larger materials have been placed in a single oversized box (Box 32) with cross-references in the folder list as appropriate.
Note: The digital images shown for this collection were repurposed from scans made by an outside contractor for a commercial product which did not reproduce all materials found in this collection; some items have not been scanned.
The processing of the Keys papers began as an intern project. The intern, however, was unable to complete the work before the end of the intemship period and I was assigned to rebox the materials that had been left unprocessed so that higher priority activities could continue. The long-term plan was that I would finish processing the collection when other projects had been completed. At this time I discovered two things: first, many of the documents had been marked for filing, apparently by Keys or Mr. Swan, his confidential secretary; second, much of the material was no longer in this order. When my work load allowed me to return to the processing of the Keys Papers, I surveyed the collection. The remaining original folder labels and cross-reference sheets appeared to confirm my first discovery - many of the documents had been marked for filing.
Most of my work since has been directed at undoing the mishandling from the initial work, most of which occurred in the files relating to the Curtiss group of companies. Almost all of the items dating from mid-1928 onwards carry some sort of filing marks: these items have been reorganized into the indicated filing units (see folder list, below). Unfortunately, enclosures often were not marked: some of these were refiled in 1987 and their provenance is, therefore, lost. A close textual analysis of the collection would be necessary to reunite enclosures with their cover letters; current work load and staff levels preclude this labor-intensive operation.
Almost all of the items dating from mid-1928 onwards carry some sort of filing marks: these items have been reorganized into the indicated filing units (see folder list). Unfortunately, enclosures often were not marked: some of these were refiled in 1987 and their provenance is, therefore, lost. A close textual
analysis of the collection would be necessary to reunite enclosures with their cover letters; current work load and staff levels preclude this labor-intensive operation.
Materials pre-dating mid-1928 or otherwise unmarked have been filed by "best guess" from the correspondents and subject of the letters. Some materials doubtless remain misfiled. Researchers should examine folders that seem even marginally related to their topic for unmarked but related documents.
Titles appearing in brackets [ ] are the archivist's.
Materials through 1932
Biographical / Historical:
Clement Melville Keys (1876-1952) was a financier and corporate organizer who promoted aviation through the post Word War I decade. Canadian-born, Keys graduated from Toronto University (B.A. 1897) and taught classics before coming to the United States in 1901 (naturalized, 1924). He went to work for the Wall Street Journal, first as a reporter (1901-1903), then as railroad editor (1903-1905) before becoming financial editor for World's Work (1905-1911). In 1911 he founded C. M. Keys & Co., an investment counseling firm and bond dealer. In 1916 he came to the aid of the financially-troubled Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Co. and was made an unsalaried Vice President. Keys accompanied the American Aviation Mission to Europe in 1919, returning to purchase a controlling interest in Curtiss in 1920. He remained president of Curtiss until the 1929 merger with Wright Aeronautical Corp. to form Curtiss-Wright Corporation, whereupon he became president of the new company. During his tenure as president of Curtiss (1920-1929) and its successor, Curtiss-Wright Corp. (1929-1933), Keys brought the company from the brink of bankruptcy to a position as one of the leading aircraft manufacturers in the world. Curtiss also became the center of a group of aviation-related companies which served to market and operate Curtiss aircraft. At the same time, Keys expanded his own holdings until he was at the head of twenty-six corporations, including aviation holdings companies, such as North American Aviation and National Aviation Corp., as well as the first American transcontinental air service, Transcontinental Air Transport (later Transcontinental & Western Airline). In January 1932, Keys withdrew from all his aviation interests, citing ill health. He remained connected with C. M. Keys & Co., concentrating mainly on financial and real estate interests. Upon retiring from Keys & Co. in 1942, he started a new company, C. M. Keys Aircraft Service Co. and, after World War II, helped organize Peruvian International Airways, which began operating in South America in 1947.
Donated by Elizabeth Keys Stoney.
No restrictions on access.
This collection consists of documents and memorabilia relating to Curtiss during the years of his active aviation pursuits. The bulk of the material relates to patent suits, including Wright v. Curtiss, Herring v. Curtiss, and Curtiss v. Janin.
Scope and Contents:
This collection consists of the personal papers of Glenn H. Curtiss. These papers relate to his career as an aviation pioneer and aircraft manufacturing business owner. This collection also includes a small amount of personal correspondence. Moreover, materials pertaining to patents filed by Curtiss and the Wright brothers, as well as legal documents and testimony, are found in this collection.
Series 1: Professional materials
Subseries 1.1: Corporate correspondence
Subseries 1.2: Personal correspondence
Subseries 1.3: Miscellaneous corporate materials
Subseries 1.4: Patent materials
Subseries 1.5: Reports
Subseries 1.6: Photographs
Subseries 1.7: Menus, programs and tributes
Subseries 1.8: Books, journals, newsletters, and miscellaneous materials
Subseries 1.9: Newspaper clippings and articles
Series 2: Legal materials
Subseries 2.1: Curtiss versus Herring
Subseries 2.2: Curtiss versus Wright Brothers
Subseries 2.3: Lena P. Curtiss versus Herring
Glenn Hammond Curtiss (1878-1930) is best known as an aviation pioneer and inventor and founder of the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Co. Initially a bicycle repairman and designer, by 1902 Curtiss had begun to manufacture motorcycles using a lightweight internal combustion engine of his own design and founded the Curtiss Manufacturing Co. By 1904 Curtiss' engine had been co-opted by Thomas Baldwin for his airship experiments. This activity led to a connection between Curtiss and Alexander Graham Bell and, in 1907, to the foundation of the Aerial Experiment Association. In 1909 Curtiss joined with Augustus M. Herring to form the Herring-Curtiss Co to manufacture powered vehicles, but Herring's unsubstantiated claims to priority over the Wright Brother's aeronautical patents led to the Wright and Curtiss patent suits which continued until the merger of Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor with Wright Aeronautical in 1929. Curtiss and Herring split after the Wright's filed suit and Herring sued Curtiss, claiming that Curtiss had failed to turn his air race winnings over to the company. Despite these, and other, suits, Curtiss continued to advance the cause and technology of aviation, founding the first public flying school (1910) and later a chain of schools across the US, inventing the aileron (1909), the dual-control trainer (1911) and the hydroaeroplane (1911). In 1920 Curtiss retired from active aviation pursuits. After Curtiss died, his wife continued the legal fight on her husband's behalf until a judge decided in Herring's favor (1931).