The years before World War I were spent in patent litigation for aviation pioneers Glenn Curtiss and Orville and Wilbur Wright. The Wright brothers claimed wing warping patents and sought to prevent Curtiss and others from manufacturing and selling aircraft and products based on these patents. During World War I, the aircraft manufacturing industry set up the Manufacturer's Aircraft Association, a patent pool in which all participants were allowed to use any patents to build aircraft for the war effort. After the war, Wright Aeronautical Corporation and the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company continued to be major players in the aircraft industry, long after Curtiss and the Wrights ended association with their namesakes.
In 1929, the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company merged with the Wright Aeronautical Corporation to form the Curtiss-Wright Corporation. After the merger, responsibility for engine and propeller manufacture was consolidated under the Wright name while Curtiss concentrated on airplanes. Although the two companies were merged by name and under the direction of a corporate headquarters located in New York City, the separation and specialization of the two divisions continued to cause problems for the company. The election of former Wright personnel to key corporate positions soon led to Wright becoming the dominant division. The Great Depression and the collapse of the market for commercial aviation revealed how reliant the aviation industry was on military production. Sales dropped and Curtiss-Wright was forced to close certain satellite plants and transfer some of their product lines to the St. Louis facility.
During the U.S. military build-up prior to World War II, existing Curtiss-Wright plants were expanded and new aircraft factories were built to meet the growing production demand. The company failed, however, to plan for the future after the war. In 1946, Curtiss-Wright had only two experimental military models at hand for postwar delivery and no assurance of production orders. Wright Aeronautical continued to build engines, but was no longer at the forefront of development. The eventual sale of the Airplane Division to North American included design rights to the former Curtiss-Wright airplanes. The Curtiss-Wright Airplane Division, which manufactured airframes, finally closed down in 1951.
The Curtiss-Wright Corporation still exists in the 21st century, but has become a diversified technology corporation in various markets, including aviation and defense.