In the aftermath of the First World War, the stream of government money dried up and the manufacturing of aircraft declined drastically. In this period, when the market for new aircraft was almost nonexistent, it hardly seemed time for a new enterprise to start manufacturing aircraft. But there were those with the desire to design and build airplanes.
One such person to form a new company during this period was Donald Douglas. The establishment of Douglas Co. (later Douglas Aircraft Co.) in southern California was historically important, as it had a long-term impact on the industry.
Also important was the company’s role in producing future leaders of the aircraft industry. They were designers who would achieve fame while with Douglas or form their own companies after working with Douglas.
The first Douglas aircraft was the “Cloudster,” designed as a long-range plane for a trans-continental non-stop flight. It was the first aircraft to carry a load greater than its empty weight. The Cloudster became the basis for Douglas’s first Navy contract, the DT-1 Torpedo Bomber. That order was what really got Douglas established in the aircraft manufacturing business, as 90 of the DT series would be built.
When the Army was looking for a design to fly around the world in 1923, the DT series was chosen as the basis for what became the DWC — Douglas World Cruiser.
Among the famous designers working for Douglas at that time were Jack Northrop, later of flying wing fame, and Donald Hall, later the designer of Lindbergh’s “Spirit of St. Louis.”