The company was funded by Émile Salmson (born 1858) as Salmson, Ing. workshop in Paris in 1890 creating steam-powered compressors and centrifugal pumps destined for the railway industry before turning to the military. Engineers George Canton and George Unné joined in for engines, and from 1896, the company became Emile Salmson & Cie, creating petrol-powered lifts and motors for various uses. Soon, the company turned to purpose-built aircraft engines, being probably the first to do so. Salmson produced entire planes and then turned after the war, converting to automotive, producing cars at the same time powerful and of luxury standard, with renowned coach-builders, before turning into Grand Tourism, until 1957, but it went back to pump production in Mayenne in 1961 but was absorbed later by Thomson in 1976.
Aircraft production moved at Billancourt (near Renault Factories), starting work on the Salmson 9 series air and water cooled radial engines. The Salmson 2A2 becam the first complete aircraft of the Company during the war, a reconnaissance and heavy fighter plane used by both the French and the American Expeditionary force. A single seat scout/fighter prototype called the Salmson 3 was also built, followed by a reduced production. After a while, the production was moved to Villeurbanne, Lyon. It's on a Salmson that Maryse Bastié flew Le Bourget to Moscow, establishing a new record in 1931.
Model kit of the 1 A.2 from myzone59.com
The S.M.1 A3 was created from 1915 for the French military A3 specification, asking for a three seats, long range reconnaissance aircraft well armed. This model was named after Salmson and Moineau and became the first mass-production of the company. It was unconventional and powered by a single Salmson 9A liquid-cooled radial engine. This powerplant was located in the fuselage, but powered two propellers mounted between the wings thanks to a system of gears and drive shafts. The absence of external engine allowed to reduced drag and at the same time the engine was easy to access a manage in case of a problem. This twin-screw also gave a wide field of fire for the two gunner-observers. One was located in the nose and the other behind the pilot. They operated ring-mounted flexible 37 mm APX (Puteaux) cannons, quite a heavy proposition for defence indeed. A boxy fuselage was mounted through a struts structure between equal span wings. The undercarriage comprised a nose wheel in case of a nose over when landing and a classic rear tail skid.
The S.M.1 passed its trials in early 1916, receiving an order for 100 despite performances below to the Sopwith 1½ Strutter also already in service in the French aviation. This plane was quite problematic in service, with collapsing undercarriage if misused while the complicated external transmission system (also used by German bombers) proved difficult to maintain and subjected to reliability issues in the field, with degraded performance. Despite of this, production passed the initial order and run for another 55 S.M.1s, withdrawn from service in 1917, while a few survived in second line until late 1918. The Imperial Russian Air Service was the only other known user of the type, but they were not happy with it either.
A single prototype was fitted with a Canton-Unne P.9 engine while the S.M.2 S2 prototype showcased an additional Salmson 9A engine in the nose, tested but not kept because of poor engine cooling in 1918. It was conceived in the ground attack role, with extended upper wings with additional bracing and a reinforced undercarriage.