Clement Melville Keys

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Clement Melville Keys (1876–1952) who as a financier was involved with founding of aviation companies Curtiss-Wright, China National Aviation Corporation, North American Aviation and TWA. He has been called "the father of commercial aviation in America."[1]

Keys was born in the small town of Chatsworth, Ontario, Canada and attended the University of Toronto and taught classics there before becoming a reporter for the Wall Street Journal in 1901 where he became railroad editor, then moving on to become the financial editor of the monthly journal World's Work. He formed an investment counseling firm C.M. Keys & Co. in 1911.

In 1916 he became an unpaid vice president for Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company and assumed controlling interest of the financially troubled company in 1920. The company merged with Wright Aeronautical in 1929 to form Curtiss-Wright and he was the new company's president.

In 1924 Keys invested $10,000,000 in capital to fund National Air Transport with Paul Henderson, the former Assistant Postmaster General.[2]

In June 1929, Keys personally bought all shares of Pitcairn Aviation for 2.5 million dollars, and resold them two weeks later to North American Aviation, which was renamed to Eastern Air Transport, and finally Eastern Airlines.[3]

In addition Keys was head of 26 other aviation companies including North American Aviation, China National Aviation Corporation, and Transcontinental Air Transport (which was to become TWA).

In 1932 he withdrew from the aviation business citing health reasons but continued to maintain his investment business. In 1942 he went back to the aviation business establishing the C.M. Keys Aircraft Service Company and after World War II helped organize the Peruvian International Airways in 1947.[4]


  1. ^ Harry Bruno (1944) Wings over America, page 322, Halcyon Press
  2. ^ "Maddux Air Lines 1927-1929". AAHS Journal. Summer 1997. 
  3. ^ F. Robert Van der Linden. Airlines and air mail: the post office and the birth of the commercial. 
  4. ^ Aviation History - July '07 article on TAT

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