This Week in Business History- Episode 21

“It’s widely acknowledged that despite the folly that many have coined the Spruce Goose – – the aircraft project led to breakthroughs in design & technology that had a big ripple effect throughout the aviation industry in the decades that followed. Some of the technologies pioneered by Hughes & his team would be leveraged in the 747 Jumbo Jet and the C-5 Galaxy aircraft – – amongst others”

-Scott Luton, Host, This Week in Business History


On this episode, host Scott W. Luton details some of the background info on the story of the H-4 Hercules, also known as the “Spruce Goose” and the “Flying Lumberyard”, a project led by the legendary Howard Hughes. Scott also touches on other historical items related to Air Cargo, Chemistry (Scott’s worst subject in school), the relationship between Adidas and Puma & much more.

Scott Luton (00:12):

Good morning, Scott Luton here with you on this edition of this week in business history. Welcome to today’s show on this program, which is part of the supply chain. Now family of programming. We’ll take a look back at the upcoming week, and then we share some of the most relevant events and milestones from years past, of course, mostly business focused with a little dab of global supply chain. And occasionally we might just throw in a good story outside of our primary realm. So I invite you to join me on this. Look back in history to identify some of the most significant leaders, companies, innovations, and perhaps lessons learned in our collective business journey. Now let’s dive in to this week in business history.

Scott Luton (01:12):


Scott Luton (01:13):

Thanks for joining us. I’m your host Scott Luton. And today on this edition of this week in business history, we’re focused on the week of November 2nd. Hey, thanks so much for listening to the show. Hey, before we get started, I wanted to share a special experience. I had this past week, just a few days ago, I had the good fortune of interviewing Steve Sterling, president and CEO of map international. The interview was part of our logistics with purpose series on supply chain now, and Steve offered a fascinating story of his journey from being afflicted with polio as a child to successfully overcoming his disabilities, to go own, to do big things in life. Currently he’s leading map international, a non-profit, which has been helping to deliver medicines and health supplies to those in need around the world. For 65 years, it’s been estimated that 2 billion people, internationally, many of them children do not have access to basic healthcare supplies.

Scott Luton (02:05):

Steve story was incredibly inspiring and stay tuned to the end of today’s show. And I’m going to be giving a few of our listeners the opportunity to receive a free copy of Steve Sterling’s book, the crutch of success. You can learn more about map international and get involved in their mission to help those in need globally by visiting that’s back to today’s episode of this week in business history, we’re focusing on the story of one of the largest aircraft in world history, and we’ll also be sharing historical tidbits on a variety of other businesses, including touching on a special moment to remember in air freight history. One that was even new to one of the world’s foremost airfreight experts, Cathy Robertson, great friend of the show. Be sure to follow her on Twitter for a variety of business insights. You can find her at cm Roberson six we’ll include in the show notes either way.

Scott Luton (03:01):

Thank you for joining us here today. On this week in business history, powered by our team here at supply chain. Now on November 2nd, 1947, the massive Hughes H four Hercules performed it’s maiden and only flight you’ve made better know it as spruce goose. The nickname comes from the fact that it was built of all wood Birch wood, not spruce though. And it was painted a white gray color. The spruce goose test flight was brief with thousands of people watching it long beach Harbor in California. The aircraft was piloted by Howard Hughes, the one and only infamous Howard Hughes. And it would fly. And now at an altitude of 70 feet, yep. You heard me right. 70 feet for about a mile before landing and never being flown again. So let’s dive into the history of that project though. Back in 1942, the U S was looking for better ways of sending war supplies to Britain.

Scott Luton (03:57):

German U-boats were devastating ocean shipping lanes in the Atlantic ocean. So aircraft projects were being considered one big problem though, aluminum and other metals couldn’t be utilized due to wartime priorities and the need for those materials in weapons platforms. This was also doing part because the Pentagon didn’t want any wild goose chase projects. You surp its materials for other proven projects, a development contract will be awarded distilled magnet and ship builder, Henry J Kaiser. And the one only before mentioned Howard Hughes in 1942 to develop a massive aircraft project. Kaiser had already developed an impressive reputation in the wartime production industry. As he had designed the Liberty ship, which was a large 14,000 ton cargo ship that could be built and deployed quickly. About six weeks time, amazingly three Liberty ships were being churned out every day by the U S manufacturing machine by 1943.

Scott Luton (04:57):

Now about Howard Hughes. He had made a fortune in Hollywood back in the 1920s and thirties where he produced big budget films, such as the racket hell’s angels and Scarface. But along with golf and technology in general, aviation was a lifelong passion of Howard Hughes. He’d go on to set a wide variety of aviation world records and Hughes would also survive for airplane crashes while pursuing his passion. So Husing Kaiser would begin to design and develop the appropriately named H K one. The government contract called for three aircraft. We built in two years time, but construction wouldn’t even begin until 16 months after the contract was awarded. The delay was largely due to passionate debate about aircraft design. Ultimately Kaiser would leave the project very frustrated, Howard Hughes wouldn’t miss a beat and would take the reins himself, probably welcoming the, to get things his exact way.

Scott Luton (06:00):

The project was thusly named the age for Hercules Hugh’s pursuit of complete perfection would greatly delay final development and construction. Thus, the contract was revised with Hughes now on the hook for only one prototype. In fact, world war II would end before the spruce goose would be complete. As construction was finished, the aircraft was transported to pier E in long beach, California. A house moving company was caught on to move components through the streets. First, the fuselage, then the massive wings, then the tail and a few other items, but keep in mind the sheer scale of this flying behemoth, which was about six times larger than any other aircraft of its day to tail alone was eight stories tall, the wing span longer than a football field. Can you imagine how difficult it’d be to transport? Even the broken down components through the streets, once it’s arrival up pier II, a huge hangar would be built around the aircraft after it was assembled complete with a ramp that would provide access into long beach Harbor.

Scott Luton (07:07):

By 1947, the us government had spent $22 million on the project, but Hughes had also sunk $18 million of his own money into the Hercules before it’s all said and done some in the U S Congress had grown frustrated with the project and Hughes was called before the Senate war investigating committee on August six, 1947. When questioned about the use of government funds for the dubious and delayed project Hughes would say, quote, the Hercules was a monumental undertaking. It is the largest aircraft ever built. It is over five stories, tall with a wingspan longer than a football field. That’s more than a city block. Now I put the sweat of my life into this thing. I have my reputation all roll up in it. And I’ve stated several times that if it’s a failure, I’ll probably leave this country and never come back. And I mean, it in quote about three months later, Hughes would lead that brief test flight on November 2nd, 1947, always hoping for a second flight and for a real mission for the aircraft Hughes would fund and retain a full flight crew to maintain the Hercules and also pay for a climate controlled hanger for the next 29 years.

Scott Luton (08:22):

But the call would never come a few years after Howard Hughes death. In 1976, the age four Hercules would be donated by the Hughes summer corporation to the Aero club of California after brief ownership and operators through the years, including the Walt Disney company and storage and a massive dome. The age four Hercules would ultimately be purchased by the evergreen aviation museum in 1993. It was disassembled and transported by barge to McMinnville, Oregon. It is now considered to be the centerpiece exhibit of the evergreen aviation and space museum there in McMinnville, a city in Oregon, which was named after the city of McMinnville, Tennessee. It is Oregon’s 16th largest city as of the 2010 census and has a population of about 33,000 people. It’s widely acknowledged that despite the falling that many have coined the spruce goose a name that Howard Hughes would always hate the aircraft project led to breakthroughs and design and technology that had a big ripple effect throughout aviation industry in the decades that followed some of the technologies pioneered by Hughes and his team would be leveraged in the seven 47 jumbo jet project and the C5 galaxy aircraft amongst others.

Scott Luton (09:40):

Undoubtedly, one other big business lesson learned would be the immense disadvantage of micromanagement and its impact on a project team. I wonder how the project would have evolved if others’ ideas and vision could have been utilized more in the design and construction of the Hercules as Michael J. Fox once said, quote, I’m careful not to confuse excellence with perfection excellence I can reach for perfection is God’s business and quote. And as dear friend, Greg white pointed out to me last week in a quote widely attributed to Voltaire. Perfect is the enemy of good. Before we tackle a few other items to note here on this week in business history, to invite you to check out a few of our other podcasts, these that make up the supply chain. Now family of programming, Greg white, who had just mentioned is offering up exceptional insights on supply chain tech and the entrepreneurial journey at tequila sunrise and that’s T E C H Q U R L a tequila sunrise.

Scott Luton (10:45):

Chris Barnes is challenging his guests to challenge his assertion. That supply chain is boring on the aptly titled podcast series. Supply chain is boring. Kerryn bursa is diving into the world of the digital supply chain and digital transformation in our tech talk, digital supply chain podcasts that’s T E K T O K digital supply chain podcast. And finally, as part of our back programming here at supply chain, now I interviewed veterans and veterans advocate several times a month to gain their stories and insights via veteran voices. You can find these and others tequila. Sunrise supply chain is boring. Tech talk, veteran voices, all wherever you get your podcasts. Now back to the show, a few other items to note on this week in business history for the week of November 2nd on November 7th, 1867, Marie Curry was born in Warsaw, Poland, a legendary chemist and scientific mind Curry would discover radioactivity in the element radium.

Scott Luton (11:49):

She was also the first woman to win a Nobel prize and the first person overall to claim Nobel honors twice on November 4th, 1879, famed black dentist pharmacist, abolitionist, avid inventor and innovator. Dr. Thomas Elkins would patent a refrigeration apparatus. The patent was issued for an insulated cabinet into which ice would be placed to cool. The interior of the chamber, dr. Elkins would also be issued a patent in 1874, a combined dining ironing table and quilting frame combined device always moving us forward was one dr. Thomas Elkins on November 3rd, 1900 at off Dassler was born in Germany. The youngest of four children. His nickname Addie would serve him well as Dassler would use it to name the company he’d found almost 50 years later, Adidas, his brother Rudolph would found his company named Puma around the same time. Talk about your sibling rivalry as Adidas and Puma have competed for consumers globally in the roughly 70 years, since on November 7th, 1910, the first air freight shipment would take place.

Scott Luton (13:07):

As the Wright brothers would transport freight from Dayton to Columbus, Ohio for department store owner, max Morehouse, who is the one that came up with the idea. What was the air cargo? You ask 10 bolts of fabric. Hey, talk about a game changer on November 8th, 1910, the state of Washington would pass a constitutional amendment, gearing teen female suffrage being amongst the first state to do so. You want to know the first territory or state in the U S to do just that? Well, that would be the territory of Wyoming who would grant women the right to vote in 1869 on November 4th, 1916, Ruth handler was born in Denver, Colorado after watching her daughter Barbara play with cutout dolls handler would have the idea to produce a plastic doll, a toy named after her daughter, Barbara would become a global icon as Barbie would hit the store shelves and spring 1959.

Scott Luton (14:09):

Eventually the handlers would introduce a companion for Barbie. Kin would take his name from their son while serving as president of Mattel in the early 1970s, Ruth handler would beat breast cancer and form a company that produced breast prosthetics for other victims. Ruth handler would lose a subsequent battle colon cancer in 2002 on November six, 1968, Jerry Yang was born in top pay Taiwan in 1978. His family would move to San Jose, California while a student at Stanford, Jerry Yang and David filo would create an internet website named Jerry and David’s God to the worldwide web, which was essentially a directory of other websites. They would rename the site Yahoo in 1994 and the rest is largely history. And finally, on November 5th, 2007, Google introduces the world to the Android mobile operating system, which has grown to be the largest used MOS in the world, claiming a whopping 74.6% global market share as of September, 2020.

Scott Luton (15:19):

That wraps up this edition of this week in business history. Those were some of the stories that stood out to us, but what do you think, what stands out to you? Tell us, shoot us a note to or find us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, share your comments there. We’re here to listen. Also. I had mentioned an opportunity for our listeners to get a free copy of Steve Sterling’s popular book, the crutch of success. If you leave us a review and send a copy of it to, we’re going to send you a free book to the first five listeners that respond first five folks. You’re going to love and be inspired by Steve story satisfaction, guaranteed, or your money back. Thanks so much for listening to our podcast. Hope you’ve enjoyed our latest edition of this week in business history. Be sure to check out a wide variety of industry thought for in the reminder, you can find this week in business history, wherever you get your podcasts from and be sure to tell us what you think we’d love to earn your review on behalf of the entire team here this week in business history and supply chain.

Scott Luton (16:30):

Now this is Scott Luton wishing all of our listeners, nothing but the best. Thank you so much. We’re grateful for your support. Hey, do good give forward and be the change that’s needed. Be like Steve Sterling on that note. We’ll see. Next time here on this week in business history. Thanks everybody.


Would you rather watch the show in action?  Watch as Scott introduces you to This Week in Business History through our YouTube channel.

Scott W. Luton is the founder & CEO of Supply Chain Now. He has worked extensively in the end-to-end Supply Chain industry for more than 15 years, appearing in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Dice and Quality Progress Magazine. Scott was named a 2019 Pro to Know in Supply Chain by Supply & Demand Executive and a 2019 “Top 15 Supply Chain & Logistics Experts to Follow” by RateLinx. He founded the 2019 Atlanta Supply Chain Awards and also served on the 2018 Georgia Logistics Summit Executive Committee. He is a certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and holds the APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) credential. A Veteran of the United States Air Force, Scott volunteers on the Business Pillar for VETLANTA and has served on the boards for APICS Atlanta and the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance. Follow Scott Luton on Twitter at @ScottWLuton and learn more about Supply Chain Now here:


Resources, Links, and Events Mentioned in This Episode:

Subscribe to This Week in Business History and all Supply Chain Now Programming Here:
Check out TEK TOK Digital Supply Chain Podcast:
Check out TECHquila Sunrise:
Check out Supply Chain is Boring:
Check out Logistics & Beyond:
Check out Veteran Voices:
Leave a review for Supply Chain Now:
Connect with Scott on LinkedIn:
AIAG Virtual 2020 Supply Chain Conference:
Download the Q3 2020 U.S. Bank Freight Payment Index:
AME Toronto 2020 Virtual Conference:
Link to Cathy Roberson’s Twitter: