During the 1920's, several U.S. aviation giants rose to prominence. Among them were William Boeing, with his aircraft manufacturing and airline operations in the West, and Clement Keys and his National Air Transport associates in the East. There also was Vern Gorst, the venturesome entrepreneur whose Pacific Air Transport traversed the skies between Los Angeles and Seattle; and Walter Varney founder of the United predecessor company that launched the first U.S. commercial air transport company to survive and evolve as today's global airline United.
The "Air Mail Scandal" of 1930 was, in a sense, a blessing for the pioneering companies that were part of the vast United conglomerate. At that time, it included airlines, aircraft and engine manufacturing companies, and several airports.
The word "scandal" was hurled by an overzealous media who accused then-Postmaster General Walter Folger Brown of master-minding a "spoils conference" in May 1930, to dispense favors to his airline cronies. Actually, Brown was a visionary who simply wanted a network of air mail contract routes served only by financially healthy airlines.
Bowing to media and political pressure, President Franklin Roosevelt in 1934 ordered Postmaster General James Farley to cancel all air mail contracts - - even while Congress was still investigating media charges of "collusion."
When the smoke cleared, United regained all of its air mail routes, but was forced to divest itself of its non-airline affiliates. The company also lost its president, Philip G. Johnson, who was barred from holding an airline position because of his participation in the Brown conference.
As an independent air transport corporation, United found itself with a new president named William Allan Patterson and a new freedom to make equipment decisions independent of the Boeing Airplane Company in Seattle, and the engine and parts manufacturers in the East.
United was free to establish its own course in commercial aviation.
United filed for bankruptcy protection on December 9, 2002, which at the time was the largest airline bankruptcy in history. The company emerged from bankruptcy in 2006 and in 2010 merged with Continental Air Lines. The combined carrier used the United Airlines name, but keep Continental's logo and livery.