Clement Melville Keys Papers

Clement Melville Keys (1876-1952) was a financier and corporate organizer who promoted aviation through the post Word War I decade. Canadian-born, Keys graduated from Toronto University (B.A. 1897) and taught classics before coming to the United States in 1901 (naturalized, 1924). He went to work for the Wall Street Journal, first as a reporter (1901-1903), then as railroad editor (1903-1905) before becoming financial editor for World's Work (1905-1911). In 1911 he founded C. M. Keys & Co., an investment counseling firm and bond dealer. In 1916 he came to the aid of the financially-troubled Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Co. and was made an unsalaried Vice President. Keys accompanied the American Aviation Mission to Europe in 1919, returning to purchase a controlling interest in Curtiss in 1920. He remained president of Curtiss until the 1929 merger with Wright Aeronautical Corp. to form Curtiss-Wright Corporation, whereupon he became president of the new company. During his tenure as president of Curtiss (1920-1929) and its successor, Curtiss-Wright Corp. (1929-1933), Keys brought the company from the brink of bankruptcy to a position as one of the leading aircraft manufacturers in the world. Curtiss also became the center of a group of aviation-related companies which served to market and operate Curtiss aircraft. At the same time, Keys expanded his own holdings until he was at the head of twenty-six corporations, including aviation holdings companies, such as North American Aviation and National Aviation Corp., as well as the first American transcontinental air service, Transcontinental Air Transport (later Transcontinental & Western Airline). In January 1932, Keys withdrew from all his aviation interests, citing ill health. He remained connected with C. M. Keys & Co., concentrating mainly on financial and real estate interests. Upon retiring from Keys & Co. in 1942, he started a new company, C. M. Keys Aircraft Service Co. and, after World War II, helped organize Peruvian International Airways, which began operating in South America in 1947.