- Collection ID:
Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company
- Physical Description:
9 cubic feet
18 document boxes
The years before World War I were spent in patent litigation for aviation pioneers Glenn Curtiss and Orville and Wilbur Wright.
Scope and Contents
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.
Researchers may wish to consult other collections in the NASM Archives:
Curtiss-Wright Corporation Records, Acc. XXXX-0067. This collection includes reports and technical reports from various Curtiss-Wright divisions, legal documents, corporate and financial records, drawings and blueprints. There are additional patent certificates and related materials.
Clement Melville Keys Papers, Acc. XXXX- 0091. Clement Melville Keys (1876-1952) was a financier and corporate organizer who headed the Curtiss group of companies during the merger that formed Curtiss-Wright.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Curtiss-Wright Corporation, gift, 1987.
Using the Collection
Curtiss-Wright Corporation Archives - Patent Files, Acc. 1987-0029, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.
Conditions Governing Access
No restrictions on access.
Conditions Governing Use
National Air and Space Museum Archives
14390 Air & Space Museum Parkway
Chantilly, VA 20151