- Collection ID:
Keys, Clement Melville, 1876-1952
- Physical Description:
National Air and Space Museum Archives Division
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 note
Scope and Contents note
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.
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
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.
Processing Information note
Arranged and described by Paul Silbermann, September 1994.
Encoded by Amanda Buel, 2014.
Finding aid prepared by Paul Silbermann
Immediate Source of Acquisition note
Donated by Elizabeth Keys Stoney.
Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Use note
Conditions Governing Access note
No restrictions on access.
Preferred Citation note
Clement Melville Keys Papers, Accession XXXX-0091, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.
National Air and Space Museum Archives Division
14390 Air & Space Museum Parkway
Chantilly, VA, 20151