Boeing was born in Detroit, Michigan to a wealthy German mining engineer named Wilhelm Böing who had made a fortune developing large low-grade taconite iron ore deposits and who had a sideline as a timber merchant. Americanizing his name to "William" after returning from being educated in Switzerland in 1900 to attend Yale University, William Boeing left Yale in 1903 to go into the lumber side of the business. He bought extensive timberlands around Grays Harbor on the Pacific side of the Olympic Peninsula. He also bought into lumber operations.
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