William E. Boeing was a private person, a visionary, a perfectionist, and a stickler for the facts. The wall of his outer office bore a placard that read: "2329 Hippocrates said: 1. There is no authority except facts. 2. Facts are obtained by accurate observation. 3. Deductions are to be made only from facts. 4. Experience has proved the truth of these rules."
According to his son, William Boeing, Jr., Boeing was a fast and avid reader and remembered everything he read. He was also a perfectionist. While visiting his airplane building shop at the Duwamish shipyard in 1916, Boeing saw a set of improperly sawed spruce ribs. He brushed them to the floor and walked all over them until they were broken. A frayed aileron cable caused him to remark, "I, for one, will close up shop rather than send out work of this kind."
Fortuitous beginnings: finding the "good luck" ore
William E. Boeing was born in Detroit to Wilhelm and Marie Boeing in 1881. His father, who arrived in the United States in 1868, had come from an old and well-to-do family in Hohenlimburg, Germany, and had served a year in the German army. He had a lust for adventure, however, and left his family, emigrating to the United States when he was 20 years old.
Wilhelm started work as a farm laborer but soon joined forces with Karl Ortmann, a lumberman and, ultimately, his father-in-law. Young Wilhelm bought timberland, with its mineral rights, in the Mesabi Range, built a large home, and became the director of Peoples Savings Bank, president of the Galvin Brass and Iron Works, and a shareholder in the Standard Life Insurance Company. He also bought land in Washington State in the area now known as Ocean Shores and timberland in the redwood forest in California.
When Wilhelm was logging in Minnesota he had difficulty running compass lines on his property. He was logging over the iron-ore range. Fortunately, when he purchased timberlands he kept the mineral rights also. There was low-grade iron ore known as taconite near the surface, and below that lay veins of high-quality ore. Though Wilhelm did not live to see the development of those mining rights, his widow received the benefits of the mineral rights, and upon her death she left an estate of approximately $1 million to her son, William E. Boeing.