Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company

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 Aeroplane & Motor Company, Ltd
FoundedJanuary 1916
HeadquartersBuffalo, New York
Number of locations
Key people
Glenn H. Curtiss
founder & president
RevenueUS$1.566 billion
Number of employees
21,000 (1916)


Curtiss-Herring Flying Machine
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

Curtis Biplane
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]

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.[8] 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.[9]

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.[10][11] [12]

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").[13][14]

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.[15] 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.[16] 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 plane - College Park
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.[17] He continued as a director of the company but served only as an advisor on design. Clement M. Keys gained control of the company and it later became the nucleus of a large group of aviation companies.[18]

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).[19] 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.[20]

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.[21]

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.



Other types of aircraft

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. ^ "Cultural Resource Information System (CRIS)" (Searchable database). New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. 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
  9. ^ Molson and Taylor 1982, p. 23.
  10. ^ "Patent thickets and the Wright Brothers". 2006-07-01. 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.
  11. ^ "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.
  12. ^ "The Cross-Licensing Agreement". Retrieved 2009-03-07.
  13. ^ Casey 1981, pp. 103, 123–124, 134–136, 174–175.
  14. ^ Casey 1981, pp. 176–179.
  15. ^ Casey 1981, p. 196.
  16. ^ "The Humble WWI Biplane That Helped Launch Commercial Flight". Wired. 2014-08-14. Retrieved 2015-09-01.
  17. ^ Rosenberry 1972, p. 429.
  18. ^ Studer 1937 p. 352
  19. ^ "Curtiss R3C-2." Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Retrieved: February 10, 2010.
  20. ^ "New Plane May Fly Straight Up In The Air." Popular Science, September 1930.
  21. ^ 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
C-class blimp

The C-class blimp was a patrol airship developed by the US Navy shortly after World War I, a systematic improvement upon the B-type which was very suitable for training, but of limited value for patrol work. Larger than the B-class, these blimps had two motors and a longer endurance. Once again, the envelope production was split between Goodyear and Goodrich, with control cars being built by the Burgess division of Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company. Originally the Navy ordered 30 but reduced the number to 10 after the armistice in November 1918. All ten of the "C" type airships were delivered in late 1918, and examples served at all of the Navy's airship stations from 1918 to 1922. In 1921 the C-7 was the first airship ever to be inflated with helium. The Navy decommissioned its last two remaining C-type blimps, the C-7 and C-9 in 1922.

Curtiss A-2 (engine)

The Curtiss A-2 was a small 2 cylinder V-type engine built by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company around 1909. It was developed from an earlier Curtiss motorcycle engine.

Curtiss A-8

The Curtiss A-8 was a low-wing monoplane ground-attack aircraft built by the United States company Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company, designed in response to a 1929 United States Army Air Corps requirement for an attack aircraft to replace the A-3 Falcon. The Model 59 "Shrike" was designated XA-8 (the "Shrike" nickname was not officially adopted).

Curtiss B-2 Condor

The Curtiss B-2 Condor was a 1920s United States bomber aircraft. It was a descendant of the Martin NBS-1, which was built by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company for the Glenn L. Martin Company. There were a few differences, such as stronger materials and different engines, but they were relatively minor.

Curtiss Cox Racer

The Curtiss Model 22 Cox Racers were two specialised racing aircraft built by the American Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company. The type was flown as a monoplane, biplane and triplane.

Curtiss F6C Hawk

The Curtiss F6C Hawk was a late 1920s American naval biplane fighter aircraft. It was part of the long line of Curtiss Hawk airplanes built by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company for the American military.

Originally designed for land-based use, the Model 34C was virtually identical to the P-1 Hawk in United States Army Air Corps service. The United States Navy ordered nine, but starting with the sixth example, they were strengthened for carrier-borne operations and redesignated Model 34D. Flown from the carriers Langley and Lexington from 1927–30, most of the later variants passed to Marine fighter-bomber units, while a few were flown for a time as twin-float seaplanes.

Curtiss GS

The Curtiss GS aircraft were two types of similar scout aircraft designed and built by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company for the United States Navy.

Curtiss H-1640

The Curtiss H-1640 Chieftain was an unusual American 12-cylinder radial aero engine designed and built by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company in the mid-1920s.

Curtiss HA

The Curtiss HA (sometimes Dunkirk Fighter) was an American biplane seaplane designed by Captain B.L. Smith of the United States Marine Corps, and built by Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company.

Curtiss Model 41 Lark

The Curtiss Model 41 Lark was a commercial biplane manufactured by Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company that was used by pioneering airmail, airline and bush pilots in the 1920s.

Curtiss PN-1

The Curtiss PN-1 was an American single-seat night fighter biplane built by Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company using blueprints from the Engineering Division of the United States Army Air Service.

Curtiss R3C

The Curtiss R3C was an American racing aircraft built in landplane and floatplane form. It was a single-seat biplane built by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company.

The R3C-1 was the landplane version and Cyrus Bettis won the Pulitzer Trophy Race in one on 12 October 1925 with a speed of 248.9 mph (406.5 km/h).

The R3C-2 was a twin float seaplane built for the Schneider Trophy race. In 1925, it took place at Chesapeake Bay in Baltimore, Maryland. With 232.57 mph (374.274 km/h), pilot Jimmy Doolittle won the trophy with a Curtiss R3C-2. The other two R3C-2s, piloted by George Cuddihy and Ralph Oftsie, did not reach the finish line. The next day, with the same plane on a straight course, Doolittle reached 245.7 mph (395.4 km/h), a new world record. For the next Schneider Trophy, which took place on 13 November 1926, the R3C-2's engine was further improved, and pilot Christian Franck Schilt took second place with 231.364 mph (372.34 km/h).

Curtiss Teal

The Curtiss Model 57 Teal was an American monoplane amphibian designed and built by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company. Two versions were built, a three-seater and four-seater but only one of each was built.The Teal was a monoplane amphibian with the pusher engine pod-mounted above the wing center section. It was designed for the private user, but due to the economic pressures of 1930s America only one three-seater (Teal A-1 registered N969V ) and one four-seater (Teal B-1 registered N970V) were built.

Curtiss XF13C

The Curtis XF13C (Model 70) was a carrier-based fighter aircraft built by Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company.

Curtiss XNBS-4

The Curtiss Model 36 XNBS-4 was a 1920s prototype biplane night bomber built by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company for the United States Army Air Corps.

Curtiss XO-30

The Curtiss XO-30 was a projected 1920s American twin-engined observation monoplane designed by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company for the United States Army Air Service, a prototype was cancelled and not built.

Curtiss YA-10 Shrike

The Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company Model 59B YA-10 was a 1930s United States test and development version of the A-8 Shrike ground-attack aircraft using various radial engines in place of the inline Vee.

Orenco (aircraft manufacturer)

Orenco was an American aircraft manufacturer founded in 1916 in New York as Ordnance Engineering Corporation. Confusion with the Ordnance Branch of the US Army led to the shortening of the name in 1919. The company's first project was the Orenco A in 1917, but they received no orders for it. The Orenco B and C received small orders, but the Orenco D was the most successful of their aircraft. The USAAS bought four prototypes, but the order for 50 production aircraft was given to the lowest bidder, in this case Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company.Orenco's projects in civil aviation failed as well, due to the number of aircraft available after the end of World War I. The company consequently went out of business.

Orenco D

The Orenco D was an American biplane fighter aircraft, designed by Orenco and built by Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company. It was the first fighter type of completely indigenous design (as opposed to foreign types or American-built versions of foreign types) to enter US military service.

Curtiss and Curtiss-Wright aircraft
Operator and role
Piston engines


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