Clement Melville Keys founded North American Aviation on December 6, 1928, as a holding company that bought and sold interests in various airlines (including Eastern Air Lines) and aviation-related companies.
North American Aviation inaugurated its first air mail route between Newark, New Jersey and Atlanta, Georgia in 1928.
However, the Air Mail Act of 1934 forced the breakup of such holding companies. North American became a manufacturing company, run by James H. "Dutch" Kindelberger, who had been recruited from Douglas Aircraft Company. NAA did retain ownership of Eastern Air Lines until 1938.
General Motors Corporation took a controlling interest in NAA and merged it with its general aviation division in 1933, but retained the name North American Aviation.
Kindelberger moved the company's operations from Dundalk, Maryland to Los Angeles, California, which allowed flying year-round, and decided to focus on training aircraft, on the theory that it would be easier than trying to compete with established companies on larger projects. Its first planes were the GA-15 observation plane and the GA-16 trainer, followed by the O-47 and BT-9, also called the GA-16.
In March of 1967, the company merged with Rockwell-Standard, and the merged company became known as North American Rockwell. Within two years the new company was studying concepts for the Space Shuttle, and won the orbiter contract in 1972. In 1973, the company changed its name again to Rockwell International and named its aircraft division North American Aircraft Operations.
Rockwell International's defense and space divisions (including the North American Aviation divisions Autonetics and Rocketdyne) were sold to Boeing in December 1996. Initially called Boeing North American, these groups were integrated with Boeing's Defense division. Rocketdyne was eventually sold by Boeing to UTC Pratt & Whitney in 2005. UTC later sold Rocketdyne to Aerojet (GenCorp) in 2013.