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Archives at The Museum of Flight

Douglas, Donald Wills, Sr., 1892-1981


Biographical Note

Donald W. Douglas, Sr. was an aeronautical engineer and the founder of Douglas Aircraft Company.

Donald Wills Douglas, Sr. was born in Brooklyn, New York on April 6, 1892. In 1909, Douglas entered the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, where he spent much of his time building and testing model airplanes. He left the Naval Academy in 1912, before he graduated, to look for work in aeronautical engineering. However, he was turned down for jobs so enrolled at MIT, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering in just 2 years. He remained at MIT for another year as assistant to Professor Jerome Hunsaker.

In 1915, Douglas joined the Connecticut Aircraft Company, where he was part of designing the Navy's first dirigible, the DN-1. In August of 1915, he left to join the Glenn L. Martin Company as chief engineer. After the Wright-Martin merger, Douglas resigned and in November 1916 became the chief civilian aeronautical engineer of the U.S. Army Signal Corps Aviation Section. He served only a short time before joining the newly reformed Glenn L. Martin Company, where he designed the Martin MB-1.

In 1920, he started his first aircraft company, Davis-Douglas Company, with partner David Davis. Together, they built the Douglas Cloudster. In 1921, Davis left and Douglas started the Douglas Aircraft Company when he ran until his retirement in 1957, when his son, Donald Jr. took over as President. In 1967, Douglas Aircraft Company merged with McDonnell Aircraft to form McDonnell Douglas. Douglas served as honorary chairman on the McDonnell Douglas board until his death.

In 1916, Douglas married Charlotte Marguerite Ogg (1892-1976). The couple had four sons and one daughter. Donald W. Douglas, Sr. died on February 1, 1981.

Found in 4 Collections and/or Records:

William E. Boeing Sr. Papers

Identifier: 2005-10-06-B
Abstract William E. Boeing, Sr. (1881-1956) was an aviation pioneer and founded The Boeing Company in 1916. The collection holds textual materials, such as correspondence, philately, business-related materials, clippings, and ephemera, as well as photographs and illustrations related to his personal and business life, circa 1783-2008. Major areas of interest include family photographs and extensive personal and business-related correspondence.

The Douglas Aircraft Company Records

Identifier: 1995-06-23-15
Abstract The Douglas Aircraft Company was a pioneer in early aviation and is best known for its DC-3 transport aircraft. The Douglas Aircraft Company Records contain administrative, financial, and legal records relating to the Douglas Aircraft Company from 1921-1945.

Founders of American Aerospace Exhibit Collection

Identifier: 2022-00-00-16
Content Description The Founders of American Aerospace Exhibit Collection consists of archival items dating from 1910-1965 that were acquired by the Museum of Flight for use in the "Founders of American Aerospace" exhibit, formerly on display in the Museum's Red Barn from about 2005-2022. The collection is organized by theme following the layout of the exhibit. Materials include printed ephemera, postcards, correspondence, and sheet music. The items represents early American aircraft manufacturing...

James D. Griffin Photograph Collection

Identifier: 2015-08-25
Abstract James D. Griffin was an engineer for McDonnell Douglas Corporation. The collection contains five hundred and ninety-six (596) photographs, likely collected and notated by Griffin, featuring primarily Douglas Aircraft Company airplanes manufactured during the 1910s-1970s but also, to a lesser extent, other manufacturer models; including Aero Spacelines, Boeing, Consolidated, and Northrop. There is also a small amount of clippings, newsletters, and articles.

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