Lehman Brothers Collection - Contemporary Business Archives

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Lehman Brothers Collection

Twentieth-Century Business Archives

Braniff Airways, Inc. - Lehman Brothers Collection

Braniff Airways, Inc.

List of Deals

Braniff Airways' history can be traced back to 1928, when Oklahoma City insurance man and financier Thomas Elmer Braniff and four friends founded the Oklahoma City-Tulsa Airline, beginning with partial payment on a five-seat Stinson Detroiter airplane. On June 20, 1928, this aircraft made its maiden voyage between the two cities, piloted by the founder's brother Paul Revere Braniff. Three months later a group of Oklahoma businessmen invested in the company and changed its name to Paul R. Braniff, Incorporated, despite the fact that Thomas Braniff was in charge of the fledgling carrier.

Universal Air Lines, a St. Louis conglomerate seeking to develop an air-rail network in the center of the country to compete with Transcontinental Air Transport, a forerunner of Trans World Airlines, bought the company in 1929 and renamed it Braniff Air Lines. In 1930 Braniff Airways was incorporated and went public as a subsidiary of the Universal Air Lines System, with Paul Braniff as secretary-treasurer and Thomas Braniff as president. Universal sold its Braniff division to Aviation Corporation, the holding company that became American Airlines in 1934. Within two years Braniff adopted the advertising slogan "The World's Fastest Airlines" and began using Lockheed Vega aircraft to add routes to Chicago, Kansas City, St. Louis, and Wichita Falls, Texas.

The U. S. Post Office awarded Braniff an airmail route between Dallas and Chicago in 1934. Airmail routes were the lifeblood of many small airlines at that time, as they offered a guaranteed source of revenue in an otherwise unpredictable business climate.

The same year, Braniff moved company operations and maintenance facilities to Love Field, Dallas, from Oklahoma City. In 1935 the company bought Long and Harmon Air Service and gave it mail contracts connecting Dallas-Fort Worth and the Panhandle with Mexico through connections in Brownsville and adopted the advertising slogan "From the Great Lakes to the Gulf." New standards of luxury and comfort were introduced with the acquisition of the Douglas DC-2 aircraft in 1937 followed by the larger 21-passenger DC-3. Air hostesses and new creature comforts such as heated and soundproof cabins were also introduced.

Braniff focused its attention on the war effort during the early 1940s. During World War II Braniff surrendered over half of its fleet to the U. S. military and trained military pilots, radio operators, and mechanics. The Civil Aeronautics Board granted approval to serve South America in 1943, and the company was renamed Braniff International Airways. Braniff acquired Bowen Airlines and operated it in 1935 and 1936 and owned and operated Aerovias Braniff in Mexico from 1943 to 1946.

The 1950s saw domestic route expansion, and in 1952 Braniff International merged with Mid-Continent Airlines. At the time of the merger, Braniff was the only major airline in the United States to maintain its original management throughout its history and to still bear its founders name. Tragically, Thomas E. Braniff died in a private plane crash in January 1954 near Shreveport, LA, seven months after Braniff celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary. Paul Braniff died the same year of bone cancer. Charles E. Beard, the general traffic manager at Braniff, was appointed president of the company and went on to guide Braniff through twelve years of steady growth, particularly in South America.

By 1957 Braniff's annual payroll had increased to over $22 million. Revenue passenger miles increased from 550 million in 1953 to 1.5 billion in 1964; during that time the company's one-cent per share earnings increased to $2.03. In 1959 Braniff entered the jet age with the introduction of the Boeing 707.

In 1964 Greatamerica Corporation, an insurance company, acquired 57.5 percent of Braniff stock. At that time, in a study of poorly managed companies, Braniff was considered one of the worst. Harding L. Lawrence, a former executive vice president of Continental Airlines, was recruited to lead Braniff. Lawrence brought a flamboyant style to the airline and oversaw Braniff's greatest period of growth. He announced an "end to the plain plane" campaign by painting the aircraft in seven bright solid colors, hiring an interior decorator to redesign cabins and terminals, and hiring world-renowned Italian fashion designer Emilio Pucci to design revealing uniforms for flight attendants. In 1967, Alexander Calder was commissioned to paint a DC-8, "to focus international attention on South America as a vacation destination," when South American competitor Panagra Airways was acquired.

In 1967, Greatamerica and a controlling interest in Braniff stock were sold to Ling-Temco-Vought, Incorporated (LTV). Braniff executives went on to blame LTV for bleeding the airline of cash to finance other acquisitions during the late 1960s. LTV was forced to divest itself of Braniff to purchase a steel company in 1971, by order of the U.S. Department of Justice. By 1969 the company had become an exclusively jet airline using the advertising slogan, "If You've Got It, Flaunt It!" In 1971 Braniff introduced its first 747 "Braniff Place" N602BN. It was used initially for Hawaii service. It also held the distinction of being the one-hundredth Boeing to roll off the Seattle/Renton assembly line in Washington State.

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