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Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Curtiss Aeroplane & Motor Company, Ltd
PredecessorCurtiss Aeroplane Company
Curtiss Motor Company
FoundedJanuary 1916; 104 years ago (January 1916)
FoundersGlenn H. Curtiss
Defunct1929; 91 years ago (1929)
United States of America
Number of locations
RevenueUS$1.566 billion
Number of employees
21,000 (1916)

Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company was an American aircraft manufacturer formed in 1916 by Glenn Hammond Curtiss. After significant commercial success in the 'teens and 20s, it merged with the Wright Aeronautical in 1929 to form Curtiss-Wright Corporation.


Curtiss-Herring flying machine photographed in Mineola, New York.
Curtiss-Herring flying machine photographed in Mineola, New York.

In 1907, Glenn Curtiss was recruited by the scientist Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, to be among the founding members of Bell's Aerial Experiment Association (AEA), with the purpose of helping establish an aeronautical research and development organization.[1] According to Bell, it was a "co-operative scientific association, not for gain but for the love of the art and doing what we can to help one another."[2]

In 1909, the AEA was disbanded[3] and Curtiss formed the Herring-Curtiss Company with Augustus Moore Herring on March 20, 1909,[4] which was renamed the Curtiss Aeroplane Company in 1910.[5][6]

Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company

Curtiss 160 hp reconnaissance biplane (1918)
Curtiss 160 hp reconnaissance biplane (1918)

The Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company was created on January 13, 1916 from the Curtiss Aeroplane Company of Hammondsport, New York and Curtiss Motor Company of Bath, New York. Burgess Company of Marblehead, Massachusetts, became a subsidiary in February 1916.[7][8]

With the onset of World War I, military orders rose sharply, and Curtiss needed to expand quickly. In 1916, the company moved its headquarters and most manufacturing activities to Buffalo, New York, where there was far greater access to transportation, manpower, manufacturing expertise, and much needed capital. The company housed an aircraft engine factory in the former Taylor Signal Company-General Railway Signal Company.[9] An ancillary operation was begun in Toronto, Ontario that was involved in both production and training, setting up the first flying school in Canada in 1915.[10]

In 1917, the two major aircraft patent holders, the Wright Company and the Curtiss Company, had effectively blocked the building of new airplanes, which were desperately needed as the United States was entering World War I. The U.S. government, as a result of a recommendation of a committee formed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy, pressured the industry to form a cross-licensing organization (in other terms a Patent pool), the Manufacturer's Aircraft Association.[11][12] [13] Later that year, Curtiss was acquired by the automobile manufacturer Willys-Overland.[14]

Curtiss was instrumental in the development of U.S. Naval Aviation by providing training for pilots and providing aircraft. The first major order was for 144 various subtypes of the Model F trainer flying boat.[4] In 1914, Curtiss had lured B. Douglas Thomas from Sopwith to design the Model J trainer, which led to the JN-4 two-seat biplane trainer (known affectionately as the "Jenny").[15][16]

The Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company worked with the United States' British and Canadian allies, resulting in JN-4 (Can) trainers (nicknamed the "Canuck") being built in Canada.[17] In order to complete large military orders, JN-4 production was distributed to five other manufacturers. After the war, large numbers of JN-4s were sold as surplus, making influential as the first plane for many interwar pilots, including Amelia Earhart.[18] A stamp was printed to commemorate the Curtiss JN-4, however a printing error resulted in some having the aircraft image inverted, which has become very valuable, and one of the best known rare stamps, even being featured in a number of movies.

Curtiss military aircraft being tested in College Park, Maryland circa 1912
Curtiss military aircraft being tested in College Park, Maryland circa 1912

The Curtiss HS-2L flying boat was used extensively in the war for anti-submarine patrols and was operated from bases in Nova Scotia, Canada, France and Portugal. The John Cyril Porte of the Royal Navy and Curtiss worked together to improve the design of the Curtiss flying boats resulting in the Curtiss F5L and the similar Felixstowe F.3. Curtiss also worked with the US Navy to develop the NC-4, which became the first aircraft to fly across the Atlantic Ocean in 1919, making several stops en route. By the end of World War I, the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company would claim to be the largest aircraft manufacturer in the world, employing 18,000 in Buffalo and 3,000 in Hammondsport, New York. Curtiss produced 10,000 aircraft during that war, and more than 100 in a single week.

Peace brought cancellation of wartime contracts. In September 1920, the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company underwent a financial reorganization and Glenn Curtiss cashed out his stock in the company for $32 million and retired to Florida.[19] He continued as a director of the company but served only as an advisor on design. Clement M. Keys gained control of the company from Willys-Overland and it later became the nucleus of a large group of aviation companies.[20][21]

Curtiss seaplanes won the Schneider Cup in two consecutive races, those of 1923 and 1925. The 1923 race was won by U.S. Navy Lieutenant David Rittenhouse flying a Curtiss C.R.3 to 177.266 miles per hour (285.282 km/h).

Piloted by U.S. Army Lt. Cyrus K. Bettis, a Curtiss R3C won the Pulitzer Trophy Race on October 12, 1925, at a speed of 248.9 miles per hour (400.6 km/h).[22] Thirteen days later, Jimmy Doolittle won the Schneider Trophy in the same aircraft fitted with floats with a top speed of 232.573 miles per hour (374.290 km/h).

The Curtiss Robin light transport was first flown in 1928, becoming one of the company's biggest sellers during the Great Depression, and the 769 built helped keep the company solvent when orders for military aircraft were hard to find.

Curtiss-Wright Corporation

On July 5, 1929, Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company together with 11 other Wright and Curtiss affiliated companies merged to become the Curtiss-Wright Corporation. One of the last projects started by Curtiss Aeroplane was the ambitious Curtiss-Bleecker SX-5-1 Helicopter, a design that had propellers located midpoint on each of the four large rotors that drove the main rotors. The design, while costly and well engineered, was a failure.[23]

Curtiss Aviation School

Curtiss also operated a flying school at Long Branch Aerodrome in Toronto Township, Ontario from 1915 to 1917 before being taken over by the Royal Flying Corps Canada.[24]

Atlantic Coast Aeronautical Station

Glenn H. Curtiss sponsored the Atlantic Coast Aeronautical Station on a 20-acre tract east of Newport News, VA Boat Harbor in the Fall of 1915 with Captain Thomas Scott Baldwin as head. Many civilian students, including Canadians, later became famed World War I flyers. Victor Carlstrom, Vernon Castle, Eddie Stinson and General Billy Mitchell trained here. The school was disbanded in 1922.



Model name First flight Number built Type
Curtiss No. 1 1909 1 Experimental single engine biplane
Curtiss No. 2 1909 1 Experimental single engine biplane
Pfitzner Flyer 1910 1 Experimental single engine monoplane
Curtiss Model D Single engine biplane
Curtiss Model E 1911 Single engine biplane flying boat
Curtiss Model F 1912 150+ Single engine biplane flying boat
Curtiss Model J 1914 2 Single engine biplane trainer
Curtiss Model K 1915 51+ Single engine biplane flying boat
Curtiss Model R 1915 ~290 Single engine biplane utility plane
Curtiss C-1 Canada 1915 12 Twin engine biplane bomber
Curtiss JN-4 1915 6,813 Single engine biplane trainer
Curtiss Model L 1916 4+ Single engine triplane trainer
Curtiss Model N 1916 560 Single engine biplane floatplane trainer
Curtiss Model T 1916 1 Four engine triplane flying boat patrol bomber
Curtiss HS 1917 ~1,178 Single engine biplane flying boat patrol airplane
Curtiss GS 1918 6 Single engine biplane floatplane scout
Curtiss HA 1918 6 Single engine biplane fighter/mailplane
Curtiss JN-6H 1918 1,035 Single engine biplane trainer
Curtiss NC 1918 10 Four engine biplane flying boat patrol airplane
Curtiss 18 1918 8 Single engine biplane/triplane fighter
Curtiss Eagle 1919 ~24 Three engine biplane airliner
Curtiss Oriole 1919 Single engine biplane
Curtiss Cox Racer 1920 2 Single engine monoplane/biplane/triplane racer
Curtiss CR 1921 4 Single engine biplane racer
Curtiss CT 1921 1 Twin engine biplane torpedo bomber
Curtiss Orenco D 1921 50 Single engine biplane fighter
Curtiss P-1 Hawk 1923 107 Single engine biplane fighter
Curtiss CS 1923 83 Single engine biplane torpedo bomber
Curtiss R2C 1923 3 Single engine biplane racer
Curtiss R3C 1925 3 Single engine biplane racer
Curtiss Carrier Pigeon 1925 12 Single engine biplane mailplane
Curtiss F6C Hawk 75 Single engine biplane fighter
Curtiss F7C Seahawk 1927 17 Single engine biplane fighter
Curtiss Falcon 488 Single engine biplane observation/attack airplane
Curtiss Fledgling 1927 ~160 Single engine biplane trainer
Curtiss Robin 1928 769 Single engine cabin monoplane
Curtiss Tanager 1929 1 Experimental single engine cabin biplane
Curtiss Thrush 1929 13 Single engine cabin monoplane
Curtiss Kingbird 1929 19 Twin engine monoplane airliner
Curtiss XO-30 N/A 0 Unbuilt twin engine monoplane observation plane
Curtiss P-6 Hawk 70 Single engine biplane fighter
Curtiss XP-10 1 Prototype single engine biplane fighter
Curtiss XP-18 N/A 0 Unbuilt single engine biplane fighter
Curtiss XP-19 N/A 0 Unbuilt single engine monoplane fighter
Curtiss YP-20 1 Prototype single engine biplane fighter
Curtiss XP-22 Hawk 1 Prototype single engine biplane fighter
Curtiss PN-1 1 Prototype single engine biplane night fighter
Curtiss B-2 Condor 13 Twin engine biplane bomber
Curtiss Model 41 Lark 3 Single engine biplane floatplane
Curtiss Model S ~8 Single engine biplane/triplane fighter
Curtiss Autoplane 1 Roadable aircraft
Curtiss Twin JN 8 Twin engine biplane observation airplane
Curtiss F5L 60 Twin engine biplane flying boat
Curtiss TS 34 Single engine biplane fighter

Aircraft engines


See also



  1. ^ Casey 1981, pp. 4–5.
  2. ^ Milberry 1979, p 13.
  3. ^ Casey 1981, pp. 36–37.
  4. ^ a b Gunston 1993, p. 87.
  5. ^ Bell 2002, p. 87.
  6. ^ Casey 1981, p. 37.
  7. ^ Mondey and Taylor 2000, p. 197.
  8. ^ "New Curtiss Aeroplane Company is Organized". Elmira Star-Gazette. 31 December 1915. p. 2. Retrieved 15 September 2020.
  9. ^ "Cultural Resource Information System (CRIS)". New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Archived from the original (Searchable database) on 2015-07-01. Retrieved 2015-11-01. Note: This includes Martin Wachadlo and Francis R. Kowsky (February 2014). "National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Taylor Signal Company-General Railway Signal Company" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-11-01. and Accompanying photographs
  10. ^ Molson and Taylor 1982, p. 23.
  11. ^ "Patent thickets and the Wright Brothers". 2006-07-01. Archived from the original on 2007-10-30. Retrieved 2009-03-07. In 1917, as a result of a recommendation of a committee formed by the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (The Honorable Franklin D. Roosevelt), an aircraft patent pool was privately formed encompassing almost all aircraft manufacturers in the United States. The creation of the Manufacturer's Aircraft Association was crucial to the U.S. government because the two major patent holders, the Wright Company and the Curtiss Company, had effectively blocked the building of any new airplanes, which were desperately needed as the United States was entering World War I.
  12. ^ "The Wright Brothers, Patents, and Technological Innovation". Retrieved 2009-03-07. This unusual arrangement could have been interpreted as a violation of antitrust law, but fortunately it was not. It served a clear economic purpose: preventing the holder of a single patent on a critical component from holding up creation of an entire aircraft. Practically, the pool had no effect on either market structure or technological advances. Speed, safety, and reliability of US made airplanes improved steadily over the years the pool existed (up to 1975). Over that time several firms held large shares of the commercial aircraft market: Douglas, Boeing, Lockheed, Convair, and Martin, but no one of them dominated it for very long.
  13. ^ "The Cross-Licensing Agreement". Retrieved 2009-03-07.
  14. ^ "Willys-Overland Controls Curtiss Aeroplane". Wall Street Journal. 16 August 1917. p. 5. Retrieved 15 September 2020.
  15. ^ Casey 1981, pp. 103, 123–124, 134–136, 174–175.
  16. ^ Casey 1981, pp. 176–179.
  17. ^ Casey 1981, p. 196.
  18. ^ "The Humble WWI Biplane That Helped Launch Commercial Flight". Wired. 2014-08-14. Retrieved 2015-09-01.
  19. ^ Rosenberry 1972, p. 429.
  20. ^ Studer 1937 p. 352
  21. ^ "Curtiss Company Sold to C. M. Keys". New York Times. 26 September 1920. p. 1. Retrieved 15 September 2020.
  22. ^ "Curtiss R3C-2." Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Retrieved: February 10, 2010.
  23. ^ "New Plane May Fly Straight Up In The Air." Popular Science, September 1930.
  24. ^ Long Branch Archived 2009-01-05 at the Wayback Machine


  • Bell, Dana, ed. Directory of Airplanes, their Designers and Manufacturers. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 2002. ISBN 1-85367-490-7.
  • Bowers, Peter M. Curtiss Aircraft 1907–1947. London: Putnam & Company Ltd., 1979. ISBN 0-370-10029-8.
  • Casey, Louis S. Curtiss, The Hammondsport Era, 1907–1915. New York: Crown Publishers, 1981. ISBN 978-0-517543-26-9.
  • Gunston, Bill. World Encyclopedia of Aircraft Manufacturers. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1993. ISBN 1-55750-939-5.
  • Mondey, David, ed., revised and updated by Michael Taylor. The New Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft. London: Greenwich Editions, 2000. ISBN 0-86288-268-0.
  • Milberry, Larry. Aviation in Canada. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1979. ISBN 0-07-082778-8.
  • Milberry, Larry. Aviation in Canada: The Pioneer Decades, Vol. 1. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: CANAV Books, 2008. ISBN 978-0-921022-19-0.
  • Molson, Ken M. and Harold A. Taylor. Canadian Aircraft Since 1909. Stittsville, Ontario: Canada's Wings, Inc., 1982. ISBN 0-920002-11-0.
  • Sobel, Robert. The Age of Giant Corporations: A Microeconomic History of American Business, 1914–1970. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1972. ISBN 0-8371-6404-4.
  • Roseberry, C.R. Glenn Curtiss: Pioneer of Flight. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, 1972. ISBN 0-8156-0264-2.
  • Studer, Clara. Sky Storming Yankee: The Life of Glenn Curtiss. New York: Stackpole Sons, 1937.

External links

Preceded by
Curtiss Aeroplane Company
Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company
Succeeded by
Curtiss-Wright Corporation
This page was last edited on 15 September 2020, at 02:51
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